Elections Canada making it easier for homeless to vote
A new initiative aims to make voting for individuals with no fixed address or mobility issues much easier. Thought to be the first program of its kind in Canada, Elections Canada is setting up a polling station at the Calgary Drop-In & Rehab Centre on election day. However, the polling station will limit voting to the Drop-In Centre’s past and present clients.
The Drop-In Centre has an estimated 1,200 clients, 75 to 85 per cent of whom have mobility issues.
“In this situation, it just made sense to provide those electors in that area with the most accessible means to cast a ballot possible,” said Leanne Nyirfa, an Elections Canada representative.
Randy Pages, an outreach worker and past client of the Drop-In Centre, was prevented from voting during the last provincial election due to mobility issues. He says he thinks it’s great that there is an accessible place for clients who have never experienced voting before because it removes barriers.
“I was so happy to hear it was there,” said Pages.
Darcy Halber of the Calgary Homeless Foundation said the organization doesn’t know what to expect in terms of turnout on election day but anticipates the polling station will make a big difference.
“The impact could be huge. Can you imagine if you could mobilize 3,200 people to vote?” Halber asked, adding that homeless people are largely under-represented in voter turnout during elections.
Jordan Hamilton, a representative from the Drop-In Centre, says he is thrilled that Elections Canada has made this exception to place the polling station in the facility, but added it should be open to the rest of the community. He said he believes the main reason it isn’t is because not all voters in the riding are comfortable going into a shelter.
“I can argue that there’s a lot of Muslims or people with other denominations that don’t feel comfortable going to Christian churches [to vote],” said Hamilton.
Despite this, Hamilton says they have high hopes for turnout on election day.
“We have great expectations and I’m thrilled that our clients have this opportunity to share their voice,” said Hamilton.