A snap election call means there will be no on-campus polling stations when New Brunswickers head to the polls on Sept. 14.
Student unions across the province say the centrally located polls simplified the voting process and allowed them to cast a ballot in any riding.
“Voter turnout because of these (on-campus) polling stations continues to rise. Between the 2014 and 2018 provincial elections there was a six per cent increase in young voter turnout ages 18 to 24,” said Jonathan Ferguson, the president of the Mount Allison Students’ Union.
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Student unions across the province requested campus polling stations be set up before election day.
“The answer that we got was a ‘no,’ there was no room for discussion or negotiation,” said Wasiimah Joomun, the executive director of the New Brunswick Student Alliance.
Elections NB chief electoral officer Kim Poffenroth says on-campus polling takes months of planning and co-ordinating with universities, and there were concerns about how many students would be on campus and getting permission to set up during a pandemic.
“It’s definitely not a possibility. Logistically it’s not enough time to organize and co-ordinate those polls under the snap election and with just a 28-day election day period,” said Poffenroth.
It’s left student leaders across the province frustrated.
“There’s always ways to rush certain things. I think they could have rushed something like this. We would have tried to work as much as we could with student services, who runs the student union building, to see this come to fruition,” said UNB Student Union president Sean Mackenzie.
To ensure students are well versed on how to cast their vote, the New Brunswick Student Alliance launched the Get Out the Vote campaign.
“We highly encourage young folks to start voting by mail and to vote in their home riding before they move to campuses because that will really facilitate the process,” said Joomun.
Without campus polling, Ferguson is concerned students won’t have a voice.
“To not be able to vote on campus means that we might see a lower student turnout simply because students don’t even know a) potentially where to go, or b) how to get there,” said Ferguson.