The number of excuses available to Nova Scotians who can’t be bothered to vote in the next provincial election has been reduced.
When the campaigning for the seats in that province’s legislature begins – something that is expected within the next 11 months – residents will have myriad options in choosing when and where to cast their ballots.
Elections Nova Scotia calls it “a dozen ways to vote.”
There will still be a designated election day and two days of advance polls. But voters will be able to mark their X at a returning office at any time during the campaign except Sundays.
And they will be able to vote anywhere in the province and have their vote count in their home riding – an innovation that is expected to be of particular interest to university and college students.
“They can vote here in Halifax if they are attending university here and have their vote counted back in Digby or Sydney or wherever they come from, or choose to vote right on campus in the electoral district where the campus is,” said Dana Doiron, the director of policy and communications for Elections Nova Scotia.
This is the province’s attempt to capture more of the youth vote – a demographic that, in this time of declining voter turnout, has been increasingly tough to attract to the polls.
And it’s an idea that student leaders say other provinces and the federal government should consider. Just 38.8 per cent of Canadians aged 18-24 and 45.1 per cent of 25-34 year olds voted in the 2011 federal election.
Jessica McCormick, the national chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students, said the measures being introduced in Nova Scotia are good, practical steps toward encouraging more youth to vote that would “go along way federally in 2015 but also in other provinces across the country.”
The enhanced flexibility in voting results from a rewriting of the Nova Scotia Elections Act to incorporate reforms suggested by the province’s Chief Electoral Officer after the last election in 2009. They are aimed at a wide range of people who find it difficult to vote in the traditional way.
For instance, those who have mobility issues, like the disabled or the elderly, can call the elections agency to dispatch a two-person team to their home with a ballot.
And there are other options for people who live in shelters or residential care centres, who live out of province, who are in hospital, who are in the military and posted outside Nova Scotia, or who are behind bars.
It’s all about removing excuses, said Mr. Doiron.
“In many ways we are perhaps catching up to what electronics and technology allows us to do,” he said.
But moving forward to online voting is still a way off.
“The registration and voting and the security – maintaining the integrity of the election – is still a very tricky game,” said Mr. Doiron. “And that’s one of the reasons that no provincial or federal authority has online voting yet because it’s just not secure enough for the kind of integrity we have to deliver.”