In an effort to encourage voting amongst UVic students, the UVSS have introduced This Year We’re Voting, an initiative running from Oct. 5–8, involving advanced voting booths inside the Student Union Building for students wishing to cast ballots for the upcoming federal election.
The program was created last year for the municipal election, but is now being expanded from just Victoria to any riding across Canada. As well as providing physical booths for advanced voting, the UVSS-sponsored program also aims to inform UVic students about voting, whether it is logistical support (which identification is accepted, or how to register as a voter, and so on) or the issues being discussed by local politicians.
This Year We’re Voting involves the use of advanced polling offices: offices endorsed through an Elections Canada pilot program to allow voters away from their home riding to vote. These advanced booths will be used on 39 different university and college campuses as well as various community centers across Canada. The program’s goal is to get students voting — a cause that UVSS Chairperson Brontë Renwick-Shields is happy to promote.
“With the new Fair Elections Act it’s more difficult to vote than it has been before so we’re really just trying to get information out to students [such as] how they can register to vote, what the ID requirements are like, and all the rest of that,” said Shields, who also added that students “can vote in any riding in the country.”
As well as special polling booths, students have access to additional information available through the This Year We’re Voting website at uvicvotes.ca. However Renwick-Shields believes that even without the UVSS’s support, the student population is informed enough to make their vote worth counting.
“I actually think a lot of people have been informed and they are putting research into what’s going on and they are eager to vote,” said Renwick-Shields. “This is a really important election and it impacts students and young people directly . . . and I think what students really want to see is federal politicians talking more about their issues.”
UVSS Director of External Relations Kenya Rogers believes that encouraging students to vote is a key role of student representatives as a whole.
“I think for so long we’ve had this narrative that students don’t vote, and it kind of manifests itself into this catch-22 where if students don’t vote, then politicians don’t talk about our issues,” said Rogers, “so I think it’s really the role of student representatives and university campuses to shift that narrative because if we keep engaging in elections . . . then leaders are going to talk about our issues.”
The UVSS is also hosting a debate on Oct. 7, inviting as many candidates from the local ridings as possible; although, as was the case for previous Vancouver Island debates, there will be no Conservative candidates attending.
The UVSS All Candidates Fair and Electoral Debate will take place on Oct. 7 from 11:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. in the Vertigo Lounge at the SUB.