It might be cliché to suggest that the upcoming federal election is the most important election in our lifetime, but it always seems to be true. In 2019, amid urgent issues like climate change and problematic party leadership (Trudeau in blackface, Scheer on abortion and LGBTQ+ rights, Bernier on everything, etc.), Canadian voters are forced into a complex and difficult decision. As students, we play a particularly significant role; Canadians aged 18-38 make up almost 37% of the voting population this October and we are huge stakeholders in the future that will be carved out by the upcoming government. Yet, in the 2015 federal election, only roughly 57% of eligible voters aged 18-24 showed up to vote to the polls. This was a noticeable increase compared to 38% in 2011, but that still leaves millions of young people staying home on election day.
I would argue that young people aren’t to be blamed for the gap in voter turnout. Beyond the pattern of Canadian political parties leaving us out of the picture, the logistics of voting as a student are extremely inaccessible and laughably difficult to get educated on. With Elections Canada hiding voting nuances in endless links and webpages, it takes a lot more energy than it should in order to get a holistic picture of how to vote. That’s why I’ve scavenged the depths of the Elections Canada website to bring you all the details on how to cast your vote by October 21, 2019.
So, how do I vote if I’m a student who’s studying away from home?
It can be confusing to figure out where and how to vote when you’re living away for school, as is the case with many students. It means you must decide on whether to vote for your home electoral riding or the one you are living in while studying. This is entirely up to you, but it’s worth considering your relationship to both places. Ask yourself where you think home is and vote in whichever riding you feel most comfortable and authentic in impacting. Once you decide, you must register appropriately and vote with the right pieces of ID.
Registering to Vote
Registering to vote only takes a few minutes and shouldn’t be left until the last minute. To register you need a piece of ID that confirms who you are and where you live. Popular options are usually a driver’s license or a government-issued ID card.
If your driver’s license or ID card is from your home riding and you decide that is where you want to vote, then that’s all you need.
If you choose to vote in the riding of your residence for school, you will most likely have to show multiple pieces of ID. First, you need something that confirms your identity, like a passport or a health card. Second, you need something that confirms your address; if you are living on campus, this must be a letter of confirmation of stay from your residence, and if you’re living off-campus, this can be something like a lease or a credit card statement that shows your name and address.
Voting for home riding (I.e. the Special Ballot Process)
The special ballot process is not actually as special or scary as it might seem. You vote by special ballot only if you are living away and planning to vote for your home riding, not in the riding you are staying in for your studies. The ballot can be cast in a few different ways, but in a general sense, it is a write-in ballot. Before voting, you must search for the names of the candidates running in your riding. Upon voting, write in the candidate’s name that you are voting for. You can find the name of your riding and information about the candidates running here.
Voting on Campus in Special Ballot Advanced Polls
2015 was the first year that students could vote on campus; the pilot project from the Canadian government saw only 39 offices open on campuses across the country where over 70,000 students had the opportunity to vote. This year there are stations at over 115 campuses across the country (and there’s one at King’s!). Days and hours vary from campus to campus, but most advanced polling will happen in early October. Voting works through the special ballot process, so you need to be registered to vote beforehand. To find your Campus Vote Station, check here.
If you’re a King’s student, voting will happen in the Wilson Room on the 2nd floor of the NAB from October 5th to 9th. Although hours are shorter on Saturday and Sunday, polling during the last three days will be open from 10 am to 10:30 pm. For more details, look at the link above.
Voting by Mail
This is a good option if you are unable to make it to advanced polling on campus or if there are no stations available at your campus. To vote by mail you must register to vote online here before October 15th. You’ll be mailed your ballot to your place of residence, so be sure to check for mail (especially in residence buildings) in the days leading up to the election.
The ballot must arrive in Ottawa no later than 6 pm on October 21st. That means it’s better to mail it as soon as possible, just to be safe. Once you are registered to vote by mail you CANNOT vote any other way. Don’t try to vote twice and mess with the system.
For more information…
If you’re voting the normal way (no fancy special ballot) and you live in the riding you are voting for, you can find more information on the process here.
Don’t know who you want to vote for?
Start doing your research!
A good place to start is the CBC Vote Compass 2019. The quiz not only shows you how your own political opinions align with the party platforms, but it also directs you to specific candidate information on the riding you’re voting in.
Beyond that, it’s critical to keep up to date with election coverage and debates on a national and local scale. Voting is an active choice. Pay attention, ask questions, and get involved because this is our election to shape.