Students and Democracy

November 20, 2012

The Government of Alberta tabled the Elections Accountability Amendment Act in the Legislature and among the many changes is one that aims to make it easier for Alberta’s post-secondary students to vote. If passed, the new law will allow students to vote either in the electoral district where they lived prior to their studies or where they live while going to school.

CAUS has been advocating for changes to how ordinary residency is determined for post-secondary students since the 2008 election, which saw record low numbers for voter turnout, especially among youth. Alberta Justice and Elections Alberta have been actively working with CAUS in modernizing the language in the Elections Act through the summer and fall to reflect the realities of today’s students.

In 2012 Alberta saw one of our most exciting elections in a generation, one where several local races were decided by only a few hundred votes and where the provincial result itself was a surprise to many political pundits. We also saw a dramatic increase in voter turnout – thousands of more Albertans came out to exercise their right to vote and our turnout went from a record low in 2008 of 40% to 58% in 2012.

CAUS focused on voter turnout among our students in the recent election, running our largest campaign ever focused on getting students to pledge to vote and then reminding them to get out and vote on April 23. We signed up over 10,000 university students and then called, emailed, and texted every single student who signed up to remind them of the election and their pledge to get out and be heard.

In 2009 CAUS noted that Alberta’s Elections Act and general practices were the most onerous in Canada in allowing post-secondary students to vote including, most importantly, allowing students to have the choice of voting where they live while going to school or where their family lives. In the last election this problem affected many and needs to be fixed before the next election in 2016. Students should be allowed to choose between their home during studies and their family home to be their ordinary residence.

It’s time for Alberta to modernize its election laws, and make it easier for post-secondary students to vote.

CAUS is calling on Alberta to:

  • Allow students to choose between their home during studies and their family home to be their ordinary residence;
  • Establish advance voting stations for multiple constituencies on post-secondary campuses;
  • Permit advance voting for all electoral divisions at any returning office as well as at any advance voting station;
  • Select returning officers earlier in the electoral process; and
  • Have Elections Alberta and individual returning officers work with students’ unions to increase communications with students and encourage voter turnout among students.

New act makes it easier for students to vote – November 2012

The Realities of Alberta Student Residency – August 2012

Students and Democracy – September 2009