CFS suspects Elections Ontario up to no good
By Laura Katsirdakis
The Canadian Federation of Students has expressed concern over Elections Ontario literature instructing students to vote where their parents live instead of in their school's riding, something that could potentially influence the outcomes in certain ridings by dilluting the student vote.
"Elections Ontario has been working closely with the [CFS] for at least the past eight months to develop information aimed at encouraging student voter turnout," said Joel Duff, Ontario Chairperson for the CFS. This information was intended to go on the CFS Web site (www.VoteEducation.ca).
The text submitted for the Web site by Elections Ontario said students had the choice of voting in the riding where they go to post-secondary school or in the one where their parents live and explained in great detail how to do so, Duff said. However, the revised version of this document instructed students to vote where their parents live, he said, adding it did not explain how to vote if students choose to do so in the riding they attend school in.
"We were quite alarmed by this," Duff said, explaining this discourages students from voting by failing to clarify how to get to the polls. "In [the CFS's] interpretation there is no reason why a student shouldn't vote at school," he said, noting most students live in the city where they attend school for at least eight months of the year.
"We are concerned that there may be a political motive [for leaving out this information]," Duff said. "If one wanted to suppress the student vote, which would be critical of the government, this would be a good way to do it."
"It's up to students to decide where their permanent residence will be," said Paula Chung, communications officer at Elections Ontario, adding the requirement for citizens to vote in their permanent residence has been law since the 1999 Election Act.
If a student's permanent residence is too far to travel to on voting day, they can always vote by proxy, Chung said. The process is easier than in past years, she explained, because the form authorizing someone to vote on your behalf can be faxed this year whereas it used to be mailed.
Dave Ford, the University Student's Council VP-education, explained that Elections Ontario distributed the same information to all student leaders.
"They have done a bit of an about-face with regards to encouraging students to vote at the riding that their university is in," Ford said. "Fortunately, the returning officer in this riding (London North Centre) has been very reasonable about accommodating student voters."
The SmartVote program has been active on campus trying to inform students about the election and encouraging them to vote, Ford said.