Early voter engagement strong, Elections Canada chief says

Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand says there are signs voters are tuned in to the federal election. A large number of students and Canadians living abroad are casting early ballots, he told CBC News Network's Power & Politics.

Marc Mayrand says pilot 'pop-up' campus polling stations drew 42,000 voters in 3 days

Elections Canada set up pop-up polling stations for four days at select university campuses as part of a pilot program. (Chris Glover/CBC)

Canada's chief electoral officer sees positive signs that voters are keenly engaged in the election, including students and citizens living abroad.

Speaking on CBC News Network's Power & Politics, Marc Mayrand said voters do not appear to be dissuaded from the democratic process after the robocalls scandal and other dirty tricks in the 2011 election campaign. Instead, he said, there are positive signs that even more people are participating in the democratic process.

"We see more people voting by mail, more people voting from abroad, more people having a vote on campus," he told host Rosemary Barton. "This week in the first three days we had 42,000 students who voted," he said. "So all across we see Canadians quite engaged, and that's good as far as I'm concerned."

Mayrand could not say whether these strong early signs forecast a higher overall turnout for the election.

Elections Canada is running a Canada-wide pilot project to make voting more accessible for young people, with polling stations set up for four days at select university and college campuses to make voting more accessible for young people. Similar stations were at youth and aboriginal friendship centres.

Evaluate pilot programs

Elections Canada will evaluate the pilot after the election, then decide if it warrants a wider program across the country.

Students who don't have a pilot polling station on their campus can still vote by special ballot at Elections Canada offices until Oct. 13. That process allows a student to vote in their home riding, even if it isn't in the constituency that the office is located.

Almost three million Canadians under the age of 24 are eligible to vote in the Oct. 19 election, but only 39 per cent of those eligible in the 18- to 24-year-old age group voted in the 2011 federal election, according to Statistics Canada.