Counting student votes

Lack of campus advertising seen during last week’s municipal election

Hilary Windrem, social issues commissioner, says voting is important because of its impact on every day life.
Hilary Windrem, social issues commissioner, says voting is important because of its impact on every day life.

A lack of information during the recent municipal election may have affected Queen’s students’ motivation to vote.

“I didn’t really know who the candidates were and what their goals were, and I didn’t really want to make a random decision,” Daniel Karp, ArtSci ’13, said. Karp said while the polls were accessible physically speaking, many people didn’t know where they were.

“I think the polls were just as accessible as every other classroom on campus. You always have to walk there, even if you live far away from campus,” he said. “The only reason I found out about where the poll was was because I went to Cogro.”

Karp said he didn’t know a lot of students who voted.

“There weren’t a lot of advertisements for the mayoral election,” he said, adding that he found out where to vote through his politics professor rather than through any City sanctioned information source.

AMS Social Issues Commissioner Hilary Windrem agreed that there was a lack of advertising of the mayoral election on campus.

“There were no City of Kingston posters that were up where students would go on campus. There was
no outreach in that way,” she said. However, despite claims that most students didn’t vote in this election, Windrem observed the opposite.

“I spent all day at the Queen’s Centre and it looked like there was a continued stream of students coming in to vote,” Windrem, ArtSci ’11, said, adding that she also went to the Williamsville poll on Albert St. where she saw a large student turnout.

Having polls located in different buildings this year may have positively impacted the voter turnout, she said.

“In the past they’ve used buildings for voting that weren’t the most physically accessible. For someone who has mobility issues, this is a problem,” she said.

“The brand new Queen’s Centre is arguably one of most accessible buildings on campus, which could have contributed to a higher voter turnout.”

However, only students who live in Sydenham district, which encompasses the area between Johnson and William Streets and Lake Ontario and midpoint of Kingston harbour and Sir John A MacDonald Blvd were able to cast their ballot at the Queen’s Centre. Students living in the King’s Town district, which encompasses the area between Railway St. and Ontario St. and mid-point of the Great Cataraqui River and William and Division Streets had to go to Regiopolis Notre-Dame Catholic High School.

Portsmouth district, which encompasses the area between Bath Road, Lake Ontario, Sir John A MacDonald and Little Cataraqui Creek had Polson Park Public School. These locations range from a five minute to 10 minute drive from the Queen’s Centre.

“Because of how [the] city divides districts and where they put stations there were some people who were upset they had to travel far,” Windrem said.

“Engaging students in municipal politics is hard enough but getting them to walk far to a polling station is harder.”

Online voting is a proposed solution to inaccessible voting polls.

“Certain mayoral candidates are committed to introducing online voting. Online voting is a lot more accessible not only for students but for everyone,” Windrem said. Recently elected Mayor Mark
Gerretson voiced his approval of online voting during his campaign and plans to implement it in the future.

While online voting can help combat voting inaccessibility, in terms of fighting voter apathy there’s a lot more that needs to be done, Windrem said.

“Apathy can’t be entirely eliminated. We’re always going to have that 10 per cent that just won’t vote for whatever reason, maybe they’re not informed or interested. The key is showing students how municipal politics affects their everyday life, and how the agendas of elected officials affect student experience at Queen’s,” she said. “Our votes as a body affect these everyday things.”

With files from Katherine Fernandez-Blance

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