A huge push is underway this federal election to ensure that Calgary's homeless population will have a chance to vote on Oct. 19.
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The Calgary Homeless Foundation held a mock election on Monday at four different shelters to allow their clients to experience the voting process.
With the help of Elections Canada, the foundation set up a voter registration booth at the Drop-In Centre to allow people with proper identification to use the centre as their place of residence.
A polling station will also be set up at the Drop-In Centre on election day.
Believed to be 1st time
"It's the first time its been done, to my knowledge, in Canada," said Darcy Halber, a spokesperson for the Calgary Homeless Foundation. "We are very excited that they have agreed to put a test site there."
Elections Canada says the returning officer for the Calgary Centre riding requested the mobile polling station because a lot of the people staying at the Drop-In Centre have trouble getting around.
"They found there was a number of people within that homeless shelter ... that did have mobility issues," said Elections Canada spokesperson Leanne Nyirfa. "So in an effort to make sure that those people were able to vote, and because there's other people who are going to be right there, they will open it up to others."
Nyirfa says mobile polling stations are often set up in hospitals or seniors' residences.
Removing barriers to vote
Shannon Forrest was one of the first in line to become a registered voter.
The 49-year-old is partially blind, and has been staying at the Drop-In Centre since she arrived from Ontario last November. She says a mobile polling station makes sense given the shelter's older and fragile population.
"They have breathing problems, they can't walk, so this makes it very convenient for the people," said Forrest.
Halber says it was the Homeless Foundation's Client Action Committee that initially approached Elections Canada to request a polling station. She says mobility was just one of the reasons why.
Hundreds took part
"There are so many barriers that exist in this population actually being able to vote. The more of those that we can remove, the easier its going to for them to be able to make their voice count or to be heard in this election."
Roughly 500 people took part in the mock election.
Instead of selecting a party or a candidate, voters were asked to choose their biggest concern out of four choices: minimum income, affordable housing, harm reduction and mental health.
The results of the vote will be released later this week.