POLITICS

Elections Canada's Pilot Project On Campuses Boosts Youth Vote, Students Say

10/07/2015 03:02 EDT | Updated 10/07/2016 05:12 EDT
CP
TORONTO — Opening polling stations on university campuses is a great way to boost the youth vote, several students said Wednesday.

Under the pilot project by Election Canada, people have been casting ballots at more than three dozen campuses across the country.

"It's really great because students are always really busy (and) not everyone has the access to go back to their hometowns that easily," said Andrew Ramsaroob as he waited to vote at a polling station set up at Ryerson University's student campus centre.

"Everyone does want to vote, just not everyone has the chance to vote."

Canadians usually vote at advance and election day polling places, which generally serve only those who live in the riding. The pilot project makes use of what's called a special ballot: Voters vote for a candidate running in their home riding, no matter where that is.

Rajean Hoilett, Ontario chairman of the Canadian Federation of Students, said the organization has long pushed to break down barriers to voting.

"Oftentimes, students see this as a really monumentous process and it's really good to be able to have a polling station on campus that we can just direct students to, so that they can vote here no matter what riding they belong to," Hoilett said.

"People are really excited: It's been really encouraging to see students, given the opportunity, are taking the opportunity to get out to the polling station."

Thousands of young people — and some old timers — will likely have cast ballots at the pop-up booths, which opened across the country on Monday, before they close at the end of day Thursday.

Wait times have run as long as an hour as trained helpers guided students — some voting for the first time — in an effort at making the process as painless as possible.

Stephanie Dizonno, who sat with her registration information outside the Ryerson polling booth, said everyone had been helpful and made voting — something she really wanted to do — easy.

"We're just like coming in between classes and like I get to vote and make our vote count," Dizonno said.

"I'm not going to lie: If it's not convenient for me, I probably wouldn't do it."

While data show young people tend to vote in much lower numbers than older citizens, students were emphatic the low turnout is largely the product of logistics, not apathy.

"This idea that students and youths are apathetic couldn't be further from the truth," Hoilett said. "Students are really engaged and care about issues."

Bilan Arte, national chairwoman of the students federation which has been running a campaign to raise electoral awareness and get the vote out, said lineups have occurred at many of the on-campus polling stations.

In addition to the campus booths, the pilot project also includes polling stations at 13 friendship centres and a few community centres, Elections Canada said.

The agency planned to judge the success of the test program by, among other things, how many people vote and feedback from those involved.

But students who voted were unequivocal.

"It's a great project," said Heather Gordon, also at Ryerson.

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