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On-campus voting comes back for Calgary municipal election

On-campus voting will be available at four post-secondary institutions for two days during the advance vote period of the October 18 municipal election, according to the student advocacy groups.

Elections Calgary changed their initial decision to not hold on-campus voting after Calgary Student Alliance and University of Calgary Students’ Union advocacy.

“This helps triple the size of the advance vote,” Austin Deck, Director of External Affairs for the Student Association of Bow Valley College and the Vice Chair for Calgary Student Alliance, said.

The ballot stations will cater to all wards.

“This is a big win for students,” Marley Gillies, Vice President External of University of Calgary Students’ Union, said.

“Without advocacy from the SU and the Calgary Student Alliance we know that Elections Calgary would not have offered on-campus voting at all.”

The polls will be on campuses for less time than in 2017.

However, they will help to engage students and make the voting process easier.

“Not only [are] more people becoming engaged, but it also opens up the access,” Deck said.

Access for people with disabilities has been a big conversation during COVID-19, and voting is no exception.

“These stations have been pointed out as a place for [those] people to go to. They’re safe, public [and] easily accessible by transit,” Deck said.

“It really opens it up to people being able to vote, and not having to bend over backwards to be part of our democracy.”

Why the change was made

In July, Elections Calgary told University of Calgary Students’ Union that campuses would not receive ‘Vote Anywhere’ or election day polls.

“There was no singular reason why the ‘Vote Anywhere’ was removed,” Deck said.

Reasons included COVID-19, the 2017 shortage of ballots, funding and logistics of setting up last minute.

“I think the biggest thing that changed is that the Election Calgary and the CRL have seen the importance of these stations and what they mean for accessibility when it comes to democracy,” Deck said.

“I think that they did a good job of integrating some solutions to make it happen for students. I think the importance of these stations may be just too many overlooked.”

University of Calgary Students’ Union said they will continue to advocate for a full return of ‘vote anywhere’ advance voting in the future.

“Students should know that they have elected officials and candidates in their corner when it comes to issues like this,” Gillies said. 

“Advocacy may take time, but it can lead to change and this situation is a prime example.”

The Student Union encourages students to vote and will run a ‘Get Out the Vote’ campaign to encourage students to take advantage of the accessible voting.