Friday October 09, 2015

Hey Elections Canada, you can still register at the polls!

Young Canadians posted the highest increase in voter turnout in the 2015 federal elections, Statistics Canada.

Young Canadians posted the highest increase in voter turnout in the 2015 federal elections, Statistics Canada. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

Listen 6:03

It's the message that Elections Canada has been pushing since the start of the campaign: Register to vote before heading to the polls. But that message has caused confusion among some voters who have experienced the 'cumbersome' online registration process. Compounding the problem, the voting advocacy group Be The Vote says Elections Canada isn't telling the whole picture. That is, you don't have to register in advance. You can also do it at the polls.

For weeks, Be the Vote has been pushing Elections Canada to modify its message. On Thursday, the agency appears to have changed its tune.

"Elections Canada communicated the very positive news that they are going to be changing their communications surrounding how to register to vote and they are going to be including information that you can in fact register at the polls during advance polls or on election day," Grace Kennedy tells As It Happens co-host Carol Off.

Kennedy is the executive director of Be the Vote. The primary focus of the non-profit, non-partisan, volunteer organization is the youth vote. But Kennedy explains she felt compelled to try and address the misconception that advance registration is mandatory.

"To be honest I wish I would have made much more noise about it at the beginning."

Grace Kennedy

Grace Kennedy, Executive Director of Be the Vote (Grace Kennedy)


Kennedy understands the argument that advance registration improves efficiency at the polls.

"They also communicated to me this week that registering in person on election day increases the chance of errors," Kennedy explains. "I respect those processes that they have but at the same time I think that can't be at the detriment of the public knowing what their options are for voting, especially when it might be perceived as an unnecessary process."

With the growing number of reports about voter cards being sent to wrong addresses, Kennedy also hopes the updated information will help clarify the process and put people at ease.

"The voter cards, they really shouldn't be treated as a ticket to voting which is what I think sometimes people are getting in a little bit of a frenzy about."


Kennedy explains adjusting the website is crucial to ensuring voter turnout, especially among some of the reluctant youth voters her group targets.

"It was not made prominent that you could just go on election day to your polling station. Plug in your postal code online and go to the polling station and make sure you have the right ID -- those are the two main things you need to know and that's what we want to get across to Canadians now, while there's still some time."

Kennedy adds, "I mean for people who really know how voting works in Canada and have been voting for years it doesn't sound like a big deal. But, for people new to the process, new voters, new Canadians, it doesn't sound easy."

On Thursday, Elections Canada confirmed with Kennedy that they have now updated their communications.