Despite Elections Manitoba’s efforts, the drive to increase voter turnout in this year’s provincial election was not enough to raise voter turnout much more that a percentage point.
The voter turnout in 2007’s general election was 56.75 per cent, or 420,540 votes out of 740,991 registered voters. This year, it increased slightly to 57.55 per cent, or 432,072 votes out of 750,775 registered voters.
Elections Manitoba attempted to create more accessibility and convenience for voters during the 2011 elections through a variety of initiatives. They included opening polling stations an hour longer and the addition of 100 more advanced polling stations than in 2007 election.
An advanced polling station at University of Manitoba gave students a chance to vote ahead of time, in addition to polling stations open on campus on election day.
The University of Manitoba Students’ Union (UMSU) also worked hard to encourage students and staff to vote.
Camilla Tapp, UMSU president, said this year Elections Manitoba was excellent in working with the students’ union.
“We have had meetings with Elections Manitoba throughout the summer to know what posters we can get and what else could be done,” said Tapp.
“We also distributed pamphlets with information and a magnet to the students living in residence so that they remember when to vote,” she said.
She noted UMSU also ran a campaign with the Canadian Federation of Students-Manitoba (CFS) to raise awareness about issues affecting students in the province, such as housing and tuition fees. Posters outlining these issues were distributed throughout the campus, asking students to make their mark on Oct. 4.
Tapp also mentioned that UMSU held classroom talks to raise awareness and to encourage people to vote.
“We wanted to make sure that our students know the importance of voting,” she said.
In addition, a video entitled “Can You Handle It?” was made by UMSU “to raise awareness that elections are here and it’s time to vote and get engaged,” said Tapp.
Zana Alai, a faculty of science student, said he voted at the polling stations on campus and felt they were helpful to students.
“It was a very good reminder [to vote] because many students, like myself, forget to vote due to heavy school work,” he said.
Harleen Dhaliwal, a U of M alumnus and daughter of Sunny Dhaliwal, the NDP candidate who ran for Fort Whyte riding, said she felt it is important to participate in electing a leader for our province.
“If everyone came out and exercised their right to vote we could bring change to our country and ensure that it is the government of people,” she said. “If you don’t vote, don’t complain about how things are done.”