Thursday August 26, 2021 | NATIONAL
COMMENTARY by Mary P Brooke, Editor | Island Social Trends
Elections Canada has rather casually announced in social media that voting services would not be available at Canadian post-secondary campuses during the 44th federal election that is now underway. They are suggesting the special ballot process be used.
Their reasons for failing to fully support this already-challenged age group in society are given — oddly — as the minority government situation, and also — questionably — the pandemic. It’s a faulty decision.
Pulling back their horns on the gains that have been made in reaching the youth vote in the last few elections is a serious blow to the civic process. It might also be seen as a systemic way to undermine the youth vote. Some parties potentially depend more on the youth vote than others.
Elections Canada on social media:
Here is what Elections Canada (which is supposedly operates at arms-length from government) posted on Twitter yesterday:
“ATTENTION STUDENTS! Many of you have asked us about whether you’ll be able to vote on campus for #Elxn44. Due to the challenges brought on by the pandemic and the minority government situation, we are not able to run the Vote-on-campus program this election.”
And they included a graphic with the hashtag #ItsOurVote.
Clawback of voting access:
Well indeed, it is in fact “our vote”, which should include everyone. This is a clawback of civic rights — even if not intended to be, it is in fact.
And the fact that Elections Canada themselves say that “many have asked” is an indication of how important this service is. That Elections Canada would blithely reply with effectively, ‘hey, that would be cool, but we can’t’, is a clear example of the disconnect between the civil service and the people they are expected to serve.
As local federal candidate Alistair MacGregor (a two-term MP) put it in a response on Twitter on Wednesday evening: “I hope you revisit this decision @ElectionsCan_E. Surely you can find a way to make voting safe on campus. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”
Reversing the decision:
Hopefully the leaders of all three major political parties will put the appropriate pressure to bear on how this decision was made.
The ‘caretaker government’ under Justin Trudeau (who is still the prime minister despite this election going on during a pandemic which has also left even the Public Health Agency of Canada without a direct voice to the public) can take care of this and fast.
The longer this messaging by Elections Canada is out there, the more erosion there will be to the enthusiasm among campus youth to vote, let alone not finding time in their busy stressed lives to make alternative voting plans.
Unsuitable voting options:
Other than on-campus, advance voting polls will be available in general community locations (Friday September 10 through Monday September 13) and on general voting day (Monday September 20).
To suggest use of the special ballot process is so out-of-step with the lives that most young adults live, it’s almost laughable. It’s yet another example of systemically hobbling the voting process. Upon hearing that voting won’t be available on campus will just have most overloaded students just dismiss the idea of voting, this time around.
The voting-by-mail option is not likely a go-to option for youth, whose lives dwell primary in the digital realm. Making that suggestion might actually turn off the potential voter. And besides which, a high volume of votes by postal mail will delay final results of the election by several days, or longer; mailed-in ballots are processed by hand. Cases in point, in BC for the Fall 2020 election the final results were not confirmed for about three weeks.
It’s Our Vote:
Indeed, it’s *our* vote (the people’s vote), regardless of age. This direct hit against the youth vote is completely off-side from the direction that most Canadians believe that the country has been heading.
Some other comments from social media in the last few hours (from distinctly opposite sides of the political spectrum):
- Vote on campus initiatives are important. There’s no reason not to do them. We’ll give the space for free, and there’s thousands of voters who live on campus. Plus, what does a minority govt have to do with anything? I’m confused. ~ Trevor Tombe (an economics professor in Calgary)
- Blatant voter suppression. If campuses are safe enough for classes, they’re safe enough to vote! Other polling stns are open, in smaller spaces like churches, no excuses for large campus buildings; tho “minority govt situation” is a weird excuse? ~ Sally & Chuck Davis (Communist Party supporters in Nfld)
No ads in local media:
This is at least the third federal election in a row where Elections Canada has not placed ads in small local media outlets. The same has recently occured in the last few provincial elections as well, with that oversight by Elections BC.
In addition to excluding an important plank of civic society, dissing small local media outlets to spread the word about a civic process is another example of not recognizing where the pulse of society is happening.
===== ELECTIONS CANADA LINKS:
Elections Canada – main page | Elections Canada – Vote by Mail | Elections Canada – Impact of COVID-19 | Where to Vote