The New Brunswick snap election saw no on-campus polling stations at any of the province’s four public universities.
“I was really appalled that they didn’t have student polls,” said David Coon, leader of the Green Party of New Brunswick and the MLA for Fredericton South.
“I think that the lack of polls on campus, and in senior homes as well, really lead to perhaps some folks not voting who otherwise would have voted.”
Polling stations on university campuses allow students to vote in a convenient and familiar setting.
Megan Cormier, vice president of education for the St. Thomas University Students’ Union said there were many reasons why eliminating campus polling was harmful to the student vote.
“It’s where you go to school. On your way to class, you can quickly vote without needing to go elsewhere, especially if you live in residence,” Cormier said.
“There’s also the factor of being nervous to leave campus. I know some students don’t know the bus routes or don’t have cars.”
Cormier also said mail-in ballots posed a challenge for students who were out of province for the election because of its short run time. The campaign period was 28 days long and ballots had to be sent to the returning officer by 8 p.m. on the day of the election.
Cormier said some students weren’t receiving the ballots in time enough to send them back to be counted.
The New Brunswick Student Alliance put out a statement on Aug. 24 that said there weren’t polls on campus because Elections NB had “time and financial constraints.”
Universities including University of New Brunswick Fredericton, UNB Saint John, Mount Allison University and STU participated in the Get Out The Vote campaign, which aimed to motivate students to vote.
GOTV takes place on campuses during election cycles, such as the federal election in 2019.
This year, with COVID-19 restrictions, GOTV saw a new way to engage students through online activities.
There was online trivia about voting eligibility which allowed students to win prizes and an online scavenger hunt to educate students about the parties and Fredericton candidates.
“We wanted to engage students in a fun and interactive way where they could also win something if they played,” Cormier said.
Despite the challenges, Cormier said GOTV still achieved its goal of engaging students in the voting process.
“I think the student vote is crucial in elections because sometimes we are the centre of progressive thought, especially liberal arts schools,” Cormier said.
“We learn so much more, we absorb so much information, and we really have a different perspective than the older generations right now.”