UVSS asks: "who are you voting for in the federal election?"

This election, what are you voting for?

The 2015 federal election is in full swing, and few can miss the blitz of campaign signs, ads, tweets, posts, debates and sound bites. On campuses across the country, however, an election presents some distinct challenges—and opportunities.

For most undergrad students, this election is the first one they have been eligible to vote in, and that raises some key questions. “How do I get registered? Where do I vote? Which is my riding—here, or back home? How do I find out what the candidates’ positions are?” But it’s a new school year, assignments are due and exams are right around the corner, and it’s understandable if they have other things on their minds than their first federal election. For many students, the question becomes: “Why should I bother? Why should I care?”

The UVic Students’ Society (UVSS) intends to help answer those questions by building on a recent Elections Canada announcement of a pilot project to open satellite offices at select campuses, Friendship Centres and community centres across Canada. UVic was selected for one of these satellite offices, the only one on Vancouver Island.

Elections Canada will be operating UVic’s satellite office in the upper lounge of the Student Union Building (SUB) from Oct. 5-8, from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. each day. All eligible voters—Canadian citizens who will be 18 or older on election day—will be able to get information, register and vote on site. 

For Canadian students who come from different parts of the country, this can make all the difference between voting or not. Unlike advance and election-day polling places, which serve only those whose home is nearby, the office will be open to all voters, no matter where in Canada they call home. The voting will be by special ballot: votes will count in the riding where the voter's home address is located, wherever that may be. 

That should answer the question of where to vote—and the UVSS, with support from Student Affairs, plans to address the other questions students have, and inspire as many of them as possible to care, and to vote.

Between Sept. 23 and election day, UVSS board members will be fanning out across campus, engaging with students and talking about the election. They will walk them through the voter registration process, help them find their home ridings and candidates, and explain where and when to vote.

As well, they will be talking to students about why they should vote: why the election matters to their lives and futures.

“Our approach will be strictly non-partisan, but we’ll really be emphasizing how important the youth and student vote is,” says Kenya Rogers, UVSS director of external relations. “We want our members to understand that this year, students are changing the course of the election.

“Through this campaign—UVicVotes—we’ll be encouraging students to think about the federal issues that affect them, like core funding for post-secondary education, climate justice or support for research and science.”

To help focus students on the issues, UVSS will be running a social media campaign throughout the election period. Members will be handing out coffee cup stickers saying “This year we’re voting for education” or ones that say “This year we’re voting for …” and let them finish the statement. Pictures will be posted on Instagram and Facebook, with prizes to be won.

UVicvotes launches Sept. 23 in the quad from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. with a ‘This Year We’re Voting’ photo booth, free coffee, stickers and discussions. Later that evening, Bob McDonald of CBC’s Quirks & Quarks will moderate a forum on science and research (7 p.m. in the Bob Wright building). All parties have been invited to send a representative to speak about the role the federal government has in scientific research and support.

As well, on Oct. 7, UVSS will be sponsoring an all-candidates forum in the Vertigo space in the SUB. Each local candidate has been invited to dialogue with students from 11:30 a.m.–1:30 p.m., followed by an all-candidates debate.

Jim Dunsdon, associate vice president of student affairs, congratulates the UVSS for taking the lead on encouraging student voting. “It’s a great opportunity to have one of Elections Canada’s satellite offices here at UVic,” he said. “And we’re really impressed with the campaign UVSS has planned. Student Affairs will be sponsoring their activities and promoting their events and website wherever we can, but it will be students engaging with students that will really make this election meaningful.”


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Keywords: uvss, student life, community, politics

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