It's that time again: election season! Yes, the school year's just started, but it's almost election day across Canada, which means you have more than just your courses to worry about! If you're 18 or older, you're able to vote — and you absolutely should, since the choices governments make will affect you, your family, and your future.
Of course, with the school year just beginning, ongoing pandemic restrictions, and many students living away from home for the first time, knowing how and where to vote can be tough.
But don't fear. Whether you want to vote in your home riding, or you'd prefer to cast your ballot where you attend school, Elections Canada has got you covered. Voting in the 2021 Canadian federal election is simple, quick, and easy.
Before we get started, a few quick answers to some frequently asked questions!
Who can vote in a Canadian election?
Any Canadian citizen who is 18 years or older on Election Day, September 20, can vote in the federal election. You have to be registered to vote. Chances are good you're already registered, but visit Elections Canada's website to confirm your registration.
What is a "riding," anyway?
Canada is divided into 338 "ridings," and each riding is represented by an elected Member of Parliament (MP). When an MP is elected in a riding, we say they have won that riding's "seat." Think of a riding like a big neighbourhood, or even a small town all its own!
How is power divided at the federal level?
In broad terms, the political party with the most seats will form the government. If a single party wins more than half of all available seats, they're said to have won a "majority" government — which means lots of power for that party! If no party wins a majority, the party with the most seats typically forms a "minority" government. Minority governments often require lots of co-operation among political parties to get anything done!
There's much more to it, of course. Check out OurCommons.ca to learn about our parliamentary system.
I'm a Canadian citizen abroad. Can I still vote?
If you're a Canadian citizen, but you're outside of the country for the election, you can still vote! You'll likely vote by mail, and so you'll need to fill out a form before September 14. Read more about voting as a Canadian living abroad.
Voting in your home riding
If you want to vote in your home riding, but you won't actually be there on Election Day, you can request a special ballot. You can make your request until September 14 — which is about a week before Election Day — at an Elections Canada office, or by mail.
Your special ballot's a little different than usual. You won't get a list of all candidates and their parties. Instead, you'll have a space to write in the candidate you're voting for. This means you need to know who your local candidates are!
Luckily, it's easy to find your local candidates. The final list is available on Elections Canada's website, so take a quick look beforehand if you're going to request a special ballot.
Remember, the deadline to request a special ballot is September 14. The deadline to submit your ballot is Election Day, September 20!
Voting in your campus riding
You can vote in your campus riding on September 20, which is Election Day, or on any of the advance voting days, which run from September 10 through 13.
You'll get a regular ballot, which has a list of all candidates and their political parties. Just mark your preferred candidate and you're done!
To be eligible to vote in your campus riding, you'll need proof you live there. If you're renting an apartment, you'll need a copy of your lease, showing your address. If you're living on-campus in a residence building, get in touch with your school to get a confirmation of residence. Not sure which pieces of ID will count when you vote? You have plenty of options. Visit Elections Canada to learn about which pieces of ID to bring to the voting booth.
Can I vote on campus?
Unfortunately, due to ongoing COVID restrictions, Elections Canada has said there will be no on-campus polling stations this year. The Vote on Campus initiative is sure to return in future elections, but for now, you'll need to vote by mail, or in-person at your local Elections Canada office or polling station.
Well, what's next?
If you're requesting a special ballot, or want to vote by mail, make sure you reach out to Elections Canada before September 14. Advance polling runs on September 10, 11, 12, and 13. Election Day is September 20!
Not sure which candidates and parties best align with your personal values? Check out this non-partisan platform comparison from Shake Up the Establishment, or this platform guide from Maclean's magazine. And if you really want to know which parties best align with you, try out the Vote Compass. Vote Compass is a fun way to get to know Canada's political parties, as well as your own thinking.
Want to review the party platforms from a student perspective? We've gathered the most important platform planks from each party to help you compare the platforms!
Want to get more involved in the campaign, and learn how elections are run? Student Vote Canada has a ton of resources, tools, and events on anything election-related. You can check out the materials on your own, or get your teacher involved, and bring the election into your classroom!
Voting is a privilege, and we're lucky to be able to do it! Your vote is valuable, so make it count this upcoming Election Day.
Don't wait — vote!