Between Tuesday morning and Thursday evening, 42,000 students voted on campuses across the nation, with approximately 4,000 at three special polls at Dalhousie and Saint Mary’s universities. Two thirds of the Halifax special poll turnout voters came from out-of-province.
Of 39 campus and YMCA advance polls set up nationally, there were three on Halifax campuses: one in the Dalhousie Student Union Building, one in the university’s LeMarchant Street Residence, and one at the Patrick Power Library at Saint Mary’s.
The numbers were released by Elections Canada, following the conclusion of their pilot project that allowed citizens to register for voting at the polls. It allowed them to do this and to cast their ballots early, in any riding in Canada.
In the last federal election, only 38.8 per cent of Canadians ages 18-24 voted. The aim of the initiative was to increase the number of student voters through simple and accessible systems.
Carolyn Silver, a commerce student at Dalhousie, said the voting process was simple and quick: “I got here at 5:22, I had a meeting at 5:30, and I was out and at my meeting in time. It was really great to be a part of this whole experience.”
“We’ve seen hundreds of people. Folks are really excited. It’s really positive,” said Sarah Trower, communications and outreach manager with the Dalhousie Student Union.
John MacManus, Halifax’s returning officer, is thrilled by the outcome of the special polls.
“This was a pilot program … created to make it easier for youth to vote and to be engaged in the process,” he said. “It’s huge and it’s growing every day. It’s really unbelievable,” said MacManus, “what we’re seeing doesn’t indicate anything resembling apathy.”
Students present at the poles testify to this.
“There have been problems with young people voting before. But we need change,” said Cody Kennedy, a fourth-year student at Dal, immediately after casting his ballot.
“I think we’re all coming together now to get that change,” he said.
Michaela Sam, Chairperson for the Nova Scotia chapter of the Canadian Federation of Students was moved by the success of the special polls.
“The work that our federation has done has really been a widespread victory for the student movement,” she said, speaking of the student voter turnout.
“Congratulating every student after they have voted has been so inspiring.”