Voting at Select Campuses, Friendship Centres and Community Centres, 42nd General Election
In preparing for the 42nd general election, Elections Canada explored a variety of initiatives to increase access to voting for certain targeted groups, including youth and Indigenous electors. These groups had been less likely to vote in previous elections because of life circumstances and barriers to accessing the vote. One of the proposals was to open offices in select institutions across the country to make voting by special ballot more accessible to these groups.
In spring 2013, Elections Canada launched a pilot project to open temporary offices in locations regularly frequented by youth and Indigenous electors, such as campuses, Friendship Centres and community centres across the country. The pilot project had three principal objectives: to improve accessibility of the voting process by physically locating voting services closer to electors; to increase electors' awareness of their voting options; and to measure how well the service format would integrate into the current electoral process.
The agency met with key national stakeholders, including the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, the National Association of Friendship Centres, YMCA Canada and Elections Canada's Advisory Committee of Political Parties (ACPP), at the outset of the project to gather their perspectives. The project received considerable support.
Ultimately, during the 42nd general election, 71 offices were opened at 39 post-secondary institutions, 13 Friendship Centres and 2 community centres from October 5 to 8, 2015, where a total of 70,231 electors voted. This turnout accounted for about 9 percent of the total targeted population.
Nearly all electors (99.4 percent) who completed an exit survey indicated that these offices offered a more convenient way to vote. Many students commented that Elections Canada should make this service available during every general election. Others stated that had it not been for these offices, they might not have voted.
A number of lessons were learned during the pilot project and were compiled to evaluate options and operational design should future initiatives be modeled on this project. The lessons were drawn from issues observed by Elections Canada during the initiative's deployment, as well as feedback received from participants and stakeholders.
Overall, returning officers and other stakeholders considered the pilot project to be worthwhile. They recommended expanding the service to more offices, over more days, in the next election. As a result of this project, Elections Canada will examine various scenarios and present recommendations for future implementation.