06/08/2012 09:09 EDT | Updated 08/08/2012 05:12 EDT

On-campus voting will boost youth turnout, MNAs say

The Quebec Liberal government's resistance to having on-campus polling stations in the next provincial election isn't fair to students and won't help raise low voter turnout among youth, opposition critics argue.

The province's chief electoral officer has recommended placing polling stations on university and CEGEP campuses after the last provincial election in 2008 saw the turnout rate among electors aged 18 to 24 hit a meager 41 per cent.

The change requires the consent of all parties in the provincial legislature, however. And it emerged Thursday, via documents leaked to Le Devoir from an all-party elections committee, that only the Liberals aren't on board.

The chair of the Liberal caucus, Lawrence Bergman, said polling stations at universities and CEGEPs simply aren't necessary.

"We have a good system now, and I don't know why the system has to be changed," Bergman said Thursday.

But Mathieu Traversy, the Parti Québécois's critic for youth issues, said he wondered whether the Liberals want to ensure voting remains a logistical challenge for students, since many of them are in uproar over the Liberals' planned tuition-fee hikes.

The Coalition Avenir Québec is also in favour of on-campus voting, with MNA Gérard Deltell saying that, in the 21st century, it makes no sense for students to be forced to return to their hometowns to cast a ballot.

"As we open the door to a vote in CHSLDs [long-term care homes] and other places for senior citizens, I think that we have to open the door to the students, where they are and where they live and where they work — I mean, in the universities and CEGEPs," Deltell said.

He said making voting easier is the best way to stop the slide in voter participation.