It has been just over a year since Mt. A students cast their vote during the 2020 provincial election. Before and on September 20, many young voters had made their way back to the polls to participate in the federal election. The Liberal party won a minority government and Justin Trudeau will now be serving a third term as Prime Minister. Many Mt. A students indicated that casting their vote this past week has been easy, a relief for many given the accusations of voter suppression some students faced at last years’ election; numerous students reported being turned away at the polling station, and having their ballots ripped up in front of them and looked at.
Fiona Clancey, a fourth year music student at Mt. A, was pleased with her advanced voting experience. “It was honestly really simple. I was a little scared after the last election that we had in Sackville,” she said. “It was kind of scary last time so it was nice. I just walked in and everybody was just doing their job, and it was really good.”
On the contrary, some students in residence stated that they were denied the right to vote at the polling station on election day. On Monday, the MASU posted on their Instagram page: “Some of you were turned away this morning- we checked with the Civic Centre, and they clarified with us that the Civic Centre is in fact where you vote.” Students had concerns such as why would they think that they were unable to vote at that location. The Instagram post also said: “We know it is discouraging and you may not want to return, but we ask that you do- the student vote is so important.”
Some students indicated that having a negative voting experience has the potential to change one’s attitudes toward participating in politics. “[It] makes you feel like your democratic right doesn’t matter,” said Hannah Ehler, the MASU Vice President External Affairs. Ehler also spoke to the issue of the removal of on-campus voting, an action that was done by The Canadian Alliance of Student Associations. Ehler mentions that she, along with the MASU, forwarded a letter to the Liberal MP of the Beausejour riding, recently re-elected Dominic LeBlanc, to express their concerns with this motion. In the letter, Ehler stated: “This decision would hinder Canada’s democracy and make voting inaccessible for students. We know it’s not a huge problem for students in Sackville because polls are within walking distance.”
As the VP External Affairs, one of Ehler’s responsibilities is to promote the Get Out the Vote Campaign. Ehler described the Get Out the Vote campaign as “a nationwide, nonpartisan campaign to engage students in the voting process.” The MASU promoted the Get Out the Vote Campaign at Mt. A by hosting information sessions in residence, walking with students to advanced polls, hosting a candidates forum in the Sackville town hall, and engaging young voters on social media.
Nel Pedroso, a third year environmental studies student, spoke about figuring out how and where to vote. “I personally did not find a lot of information about it,” he said. “I found out through my friends. In terms of campus-wise, I was not really aware.” Students who are less active on social media or are living off-campus may have had more difficulty accessing parts of this year’s Get Out the Vote Campaign.
Kelsey Ross, a second year history student, describes having an extremely difficult voting experience. On September 14, Ross applied for a mail-in ballot before the deadline and did not receive it by election day. In order for Ross to exercise her right to vote she had to vote in a riding in which she stated was unfamiliar to her. Ross makes a noteworthy point by saying that Elections Canada is aware of the slow mailing system because they urge voters to pay for an express shipping option when applying for mail-in ballots. Ross said: “This combined with the elimination of campus voting programs makes me think there is voter suppression involved.”
Another concern brought to light by students was long wait periods at the polling station. Andrew Rideout, a third year biochemistry student, expressed concerns specifically about the advanced polling station: “Only having a small location on a campus with many students being able to vote led to long lines and people not going because they don’t have time to go wait.” Rideout suggested that if advance polling had taken place in the Civic Centre, a larger building than the Sackville Curling Arena, then the situation could have been improved. He also suggested that having more volunteers at the polling station would be beneficial.
Despite some students encountering barriers to voting, most students did not let obstacles stop them from exercising their right to vote this past week. “It’s our right to vote,” Pedroso stated. “I believe our generation is very strong on that matter and I feel like we hold a lot of power so we better put it to good use.”