St. Thomas students won’t have to leave campus to vote in this year’s election. For the first time, Elections New Brunswick will have returning officers on campus and voting stations will be set up in Sir James Dunn Hall from Sept. 16 to 19 at 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday.
Elections NB began providing polling stations to campuses across the province in 2010, but the idea came a few years earlier from a group of students, said Chief Electoral Officer Michael Quinn.
“[The group said] people think students are apathetic towards voting, but that’s not the case,” he said. “They made the point that sometimes it’s difficult for students to get to the polling locations. They don’t have cars and they’re away from home.
“In order to make it easier, we decided that we would put returning officers on the campuses and with those returning officers a student could go get added to the voter’s list and he could be added to the voter’s list to the riding back home where he normally lives or to the voter’s list of the riding to where he’s living for the purpose of attending university.”
In 2010, the pilot project was launched and full service returning officers and polling stations were put on six campuses. This year, Elections NB is expanding the project to 13 campuses.
St. Thomas University’s Students’ Union is collaborating with Elections NB to make voting accessible for students at St. Thomas.
Besides the polling stations on campus, student union president Santiago Chavez said the union is also launching an informational campaign on voting for students, including an information video encouraging students to vote.
“We’ve also been collaborating with residence life to help students get access to their proof of residence,” said Chavez. “Students don’t have to be from this riding to vote.
“We are helping to make it easy for students to vote and bring the opportunity to vote to them and to their campus,” he said. “It also convenient for professors to be able to vote on campus as well.”
Chavez said it is important for students to vote because students have important needs and issues.
“Important issues are addressed when they are voiced. Student issues will then be included in the conversations and the ballot and in the candidates’ platforms,” said Chavez.
“We need to get students to show interest, engagement and initiative. If we are not going to voice our reality or our needs and wants, then nobody will get what they want,” he said.
Quinn said he realizes some students have never voted before. He said Elections NB is here to help.
First-time voters are asked to bring one or more pieces of identification that between them display the voter’s name, current address and signature to Sir James Dunn Hall during the four days
Students are also invited to go online to electionsnb.ca/campus to find out more information about qualifications and eligibility to become a voter. From there, students can also print off the forms they need to speed up to process of being added to the voter’s list.
To help students decide which party they want to vote for, there will be a few events on campus before the Sept. 22 provincial election.
On Sept. 8, representatives from each party will be on campus to talk about their post-secondary education policies. The event, which is hosted by the New Brunswick Student Alliance, will take place in the Kinsella Auditorium at 7 p.m.
St. Thomas and UNB’s Student Unions will also be hosting a debate at the Student Union Building Atrium on Sept. 11 at 1:30 p.m. with candidates of the Fredericton South riding.
On Sept. 18 at 5:30 p.m. in the Kinsella Auditorium, St. Thomas will be hosting the party leaders in a live-streamed debate mediated by CTV’s Steve Murphy.