CUP Ontario Bureau Chief
WATERLOO, Ont. (CUP) — Students at the University of Guelph lined up for hours on April 13, some even studying while they waited in line, to vote on campus by special ballot in this year’s federal election.
However, it was uncertain until this afternoon whether their votes would be counted, as the Conservative Party of Canada challenged the ballots, stating that Elections Canada rules had been broken during the special polling.
Tories challenged the special poll by saying it was not sanctioned by Elections Canada, that scrutineers from various parties were not present and that partisan election material was in display near the ballot box.
Despite these allegations, Elections Canada stated, “The votes were cast in a manner that respects the Canada Elections Act and are valid.”
Special ballots are typically used for voters who are hospitalized, or for members of the Canadian Forces serving abroad and the rules that govern this type of voting differ from standard voting methods. As a result, Elections Canada has instructed that no special polls like that in Guelph are to be re-created.
“Once Elections Canada officials were made aware of the local initiative in Guelph, the returning officer was instructed not to engage in any further activities of a similar nature. All returning officers have received this instruction,” said the Elections Canada statement issued today.
A subsequent release sent out by the Conservative party said they “welcome” the statement by Elections Canada.
“While the Elections Canada statement confirms that what happened in Guelph lacked proper authorization, we applaud the decision not to disenfranchise University of Guelph students because of errors by the local returning officer,” read the statement. “These student voters should not suffer because of mistakes by the local election officials.”
Co-organizer of the University of Guelph’s vote mobs and current student Yvonne Su, who was present for most of the day at the polling station, said students would have been “outraged” if their votes were not counted.
If there was an issue with the special ballot it should have been dealt with when they first found out about it,” said Su, who explained that students were able to register to vote by special ballot on Monday and Tuesday of this week. “Why did you wait until there was a lot of people to make a big scene and scare students into thinking that their votes aren’t valid?”
The scene Su mentioned pertains to witnesses who reported that a Conservative volunteer reached for the ballot box in an attempt to put an end to voting.
The incident has called further attention to the youth vote, which was highlighted in both the Elections Canada and Conservative party statements.
“I think it goes hand in hand with some of the events that have happened with students in London [being kicked out of rallies] and at Guelph on April 4,” said Guelph student Alison Forde. “It’s almost like scare tactics. Either they don’t want to hear us or they want to silence us.”
Though the negativity surrounding the stifling of the youth vote has dominated much of the media, Forde explained that she’s glad that “people are finally paying attention,” and that the momentum of the youth vote may make a difference during this election.
“Young people are still going to vote and this is not going to stop us,” said Su. “We were rejected from Harper’s meetings and now they’re trying to reject our votes? We’re not going to let that happen.”