Student voters head to the polls

For the first time during a provincial election, Mount Allison hosted advance polling stations. Located in Tweedie Hall, the stations provided an avenue for Mt. A students to vote in the provincial election. The polls ran for three days from Sept. 15 to Sept. 17, opening at 10 a.m. and closing at 7 p.m.

Across the province, 13 on-campus polling stations collected 2833 votes over the week leading up to the election. The number shows a slight increase over the 2665 votes collected in a similar effort during the 2010 provincial election that ran over the course of a month. Advanced polling stations allowed out-of-province students to cast their ballot in this week’s election. Students with a permanent residence in another one of New Brunswick’s 49 ridings also had the opportunity to vote either in their home riding or in Memramcook-Tantramar. But some first-year students did not get to reap the same benefits. Strict residence rules combined with the September election date prevented most out of province first years from voting. Canadians are eligible to vote in New Brunswick if they are eighteen years or older and have lived in the province forty days. Students that have voted in another provincial election in the last one hundred days were also restricted from voting in New Brunswick’s election. Mount Allison’s Student Union held a widespread campaign to stress the importance of students casting their ballot. As a part of this strategy, the student’s union organized an all-candidates debate on Sept. 14.

“I think there’s this misconception that voting is a lot more difficult than it really is. […] [Campus polling stations] were a really smart way to go about it from Elections NB’s point of view, to be able to work with the universities in order to get people excited about voting. People are realizing how accessible voting is. […] They don’t have to go out of their way,” said Annie Sherry, MASU’s VP of External Affairs. Elections New Brunswick hired Mount Allison students to work at the polls. “Getting students engaged in the process of helping their peers vote is really important. […] That should help students identify that is a ‘safe zone’ so that the process is not so intimidating,” said Sherry.

Anthony Doiron, Université de Moncton’s officer for Elections New Brunswick, noted the positive impact.

“It really facilitates the access to vote for students. […] The fact that we have a polling station on campus really forces students to acknowledge that they have to fulfill their duty as a citizen,” said Doiron. “Since the beginning of the week, [U de M] has seen approximately one hundred individuals casting their ballot daily. These are not only students; U de M employees and community members have taken advantage of the stations to cast their ballot.”

Université de Moncton was among the select post-secondary institutions that hosted polling stations on their campus in 2010’s provincial election. This year, U de M’s station was open for five days from Sept. 15 to Sept. 19.

Polling stations appeared on 13 different campuses, including satellite campuses and community colleges across New Brunswick. This was the first election in which the province has seen such widespread efforts to increase youth voter turnout. “I am under the impression that having polling stations directly on campus [increases interest towards the election]. There are advertisements everywhere. We have been on-air at CKUM – U de M’s student broadcasting station – […]. For someone to be unaware that elections are ongoing, they simply would’ve had to be away from campus during the last two weeks. I hope that such initiatives will incite students to vote,” said Doiron.

Jean-Sébastien Comeau