Campus initiatives target low voter turnout

Elections Ontario polling station in Victoria Hall will simplify voting for first-year students

Students pass a sign in the PEC encouraging them to vote. The Ontario general election takes place on Oct. 10.
Students pass a sign in the PEC encouraging them to vote. The Ontario general election takes place on Oct. 10.
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Almost two weeks into the provincial election, the AMS and Elections Ontario’s Kingston and the Islands office are teaming up to raise awareness about the upcoming provincial election on campus.

Elections Ontario had voter registration booths set up in the residence cafeterias—Ban Righ Hall, Leonard Hall, and Jean Royce Hall—on September 12, 13, 17 and 18.

The booths targeted first-year students living in residence who had likely never voted before.

Over four days, 600 to 700 first-year students were registered to vote.

“We got quite a good response,” said Lois Edwards, returning officer for Elections Ontario.

Elections Ontario didn’t have a booth for upper-year students or those living off-campus to register.

“The people that don’t live on campus will be treated basically like everyone else in the community,” Edwards said.

Elections Ontario will set up a polling station in Victoria Hall for first-year students who registered at their booths.

This is to make the transition easier for students who haven’t voted before, Edwards said.

Students not living in residence won’t be able to vote at Victoria Hall, but will find polling stations close to campus, such as one at St. James Anglican Church on Union Street.

“Students live all over the city so there’s absolutely no way we could have every student in the city vote at Victoria Hall,” Edwards said. “It would be a disaster.”

Every registered voter will receive a letter prior to election day telling him or her where to vote.

The AMS is holding several of its own events to raise awareness about campaign issues around campus.

This fall’s election comes with a referendum question asking voters if they want to change Ontario’s electoral system from a first-past-the-post system to a mixed-member proportional system.

“One of the things I think there’s very little discussion about on campus these days about is the referendum question, and that is something the AMS is trying to raise awareness about,” said AMS Academic Affairs Commissioner Alexi White.

These initiatives are meant to generate interest about the provincial election among students. Student voter turnout rate has historically been low, White said.

“It’s incredibly important to vote,” he said. “This is [students’] one chance to raise their voice and speak for themselves.”

Politics professor Margaret Little said provincial elections are important because the province is responsible for issues like education, welfare and health care.

“At least two of those policies have affected [students’] lives already,” she said.

Little said one possible reason for low voter turnout is that first-year students don’t feel connected enough with Kingston to vote in the city.

“I would think by second or third year, they should be able to make an informed decision because they know about Kingston by then and want to be involved,” she said.

Little said many Queen’s students are from privileged backgrounds and may have connections with candidates so they would be more willing to cast a ballot.

“My speculation is that Queen’s students do vote more than average university students,” Little said. “[They are] a highly engaged group of people.”

Andrea Chan, ArtSci ’10, won’t be voting on Oct. 10 because she doesn’t feel informed enough.

“When you actually don’t really agree with what you’re doing and you just vote for the sake of it, it’s just bad,” Chan said.

“I actually think that voting is a very good way of showing fairness ... but it’s just that I’m not bothered and I don’t know anything about it.”

Antonella Rucchetta, ArtSci ’10, plans on voting in this election as she has in previous ones.

“If [non-voters] think it really doesn’t make a difference, that’s the exact attitude they have to conquer,” Rucchetta said. She said otherwise, even fewer students would vote and have less say than now.

“Just vote anyways, because maybe it will matter.”

How to vote

If you haven’t registered to vote yet or don’t know where to vote, don’t panic. There are several options open to student voters in Kingston.

  • Students can vote in the riding for Kingston and the Islands, provided it’s their
    permanent residence.
  • Students can enter their postal codes online at elections.on.ca to find out where they should vote.
  • First-year students who registered at Elections Ontario booths between Sept. 12 and Sept. 18 can vote at a polling station in Victoria Hall on election day, Oct. 10.
  • Students who live off-campus can visit the local returning office at 859 Princess St. to be registered on the voters’ list.
  • If you can’t vote on Oct. 10, advanced polling is offered between Sept. 25 and Oct. 4 at numerous locations in Kingston.
  • Students who don’t want to vote in Kingston can vote in their home ridings either by advance poll or by proxy if they won’t be at home on election day.
  • Voting can be done by proxy—when someone votes on your behalf because you won’t be at home on election day. Application forms are online, and someone in your riding will need to bring them along on election day to vote.

Information about each riding’s advance polling dates is available online at
elections.on.ca. For the first time in Ontario, all voters must bring photo identification and proof of residence to the polling stations—even if they’re already on the list.

Get in the know

The AMS is running events on campus to better inform students about election campaign issues.

  • Oct.1, 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.—informal clubs debate at Alfie’s. All of the politically-affiliated clubs on campus will be present for a debate moderated by politics professor Jonathan Rose.
  • Oct. 2, 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.—all-candidate debate in Grant Hall. The riding’s four major candidates—Liberal incumbent John Gerretsen, Progressive Conservative John Rapin, NDP candidate Rick Downes and Green Party candidate Bridget Doherty—will answer questions posed to them by panellists from the Queen’s and Kingston communities. There will also be time for audience-submitted questions.
  • Oct 3., 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.—referendum panel discussion in MacGillivray-Brown Hall with Professor Kim Nossal, head of the politics department, and former Education Minister Sean Conway. Student groups both for and against the new voting system will be there to answer questions.

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