Voting 101

Farid Iskandar - Wed Jun 22, 2011

No, this is not going to be a blog about the importance of practicing your democratic right. I will not preach about the people in Libya who are dying for democracy, nor prophesize that students have the ability to change the cosmos if they hit the polls. This post is for students who are already interested in the upcoming provincial election.

If you don’t know already, we are likely going to have one of Alberta’s most exciting elections in 40 years this spring, but it could be as soon as this coming fall. I want to tell you about a sexy process called “Enumeration”. This is when Elections Alberta sends people knocking on every single door in Alberta to ask the following questions:

1) Are you a Canadian Citizen?
2) Are you 18 or older?
3) Are you or will you have been ordinarily resident in Alberta for at least 6 months?
4) Where do you identify your ordinary residence?

This will help count how many eligible voters are out there. Why should this interest you? Well, the first two questions don’t, but the last two have significant outcomes. The term “ordinary residence” is heftier than you might think, because where you ordinarily reside determines where you vote. Here’s the definition from the Election Act:

“… ordinary residence is determined in accordance with the following rules:
(a) a person can have only one place of ordinary residence;
(b) a person’s ordinary residence is the place where the person lives and sleeps and to which, when the person is absent from it, the person intends to return;
(c) a student who
(i) is in attendance at an educational institution within or outside Alberta,
(ii) temporarily rents accommodation for the purpose of attending an educational institution, and
(iii) has family members who are ordinarily resident in Alberta and with whom the student ordinarily resides when not in attendance at an educational institution is deemed to reside with those family members;”

This does not mean that all students living away from their parents during the school year have to vote at home. Students have the option to identify their residency based on point (b) or (c). If you live in Lister for example, and you would like to vote in the Lister riding, you can vote there as long as you register to vote with your Lister address (you just need proof that you live at that address).

The Enumeration process is taking place between August 26th and September 19th. This is not ideal, since many students will not have yet moved in during the beginning of that period. However in a meeting with the Chief Electoral Officer of Elections Alberta, O. Brian Fjeldheim promised that enumerators would not come to student residences until everyone has moved in.

I ran promising to push the Province to create a smarter and more student-friendly Election Act. I plan on lobbying the government to update the Act, meanwhile here’s what you could do to help. If more students living close to campus identify their ordinary residency here, we can get a polling station (or multiple ones) on campus.

  • Farid