Dal students to take to the polls
Oct. 20 will mark the first time students from outside Halifax—the majority of students at Dalhousie—will be able to vote in municipal elections.
Changes to the law in 2011 clarified the eligibility of students. Anyone who is over the age of 18 and has been a resident in Halifax for at least 3 months prior to the election can vote. Crucially, leaving the city for the summer does not disqualify someone from voting.
Dal has over 18,000 undergrad students according to the Dal website. Although 12 per cent of these are international students, and roughly a quarter will be under 18, that still leaves over 10,000 newly eligible voters from Dal alone.
Considering that the Halifax peninsula has a population of around 70,000, and Dal is just one of six post-secondary institutions situated here, students should play an important role in the upcoming elections. Politicians will take note, and according to the Dal Student Union (DSU), students should too.
The DSU, along with the student unions of other post-secondary institutions in the city, have formed a coalition to raise issues that affect the 30,000 students they represent. This Metro Student Community Coalition will be hosting two debates in the McInnis Room of the Student Union Building (SUB) on Oct. 1 and 2 in partnership with Our HRM Alliance, the Right to Know Coalition of Nova Scotia and The Coast. These events will be open for all to attend. DSU president Jamie Arron says this should affect the way municipal politics includes students in the future.
“Hopefully this will set a precedent in the future. We’re a population of 18,000 students, 75 per cent of whom are now eligible voters,” says Arron.
“They traditionally hold registration tables in public libraries; they should have registration tables in our library as well in the future.”
The DSU is looking to get students to the polls, not simply for the sake of the ballot, but to voice the need for change in the community. The union has launched a campaign to “get students involved so they that its not just a one time thing, and platforms become policy,” says Arron. The campaign aims to engage students on issues such as bike lanes and arts and culture, as well as students’ relationship to the community.
“Youth are becoming more and more disenfranchised with the democratic system. We need inspiring ideas,” says Aaron Beale, VP (academic and external) of the DSU.
The election takes place on Oct. 20. There will be registration booths open Oct. 6 to 18 around the HRM for eligible voters who have not yet registered. The DSU has organized one of these voter registrations to be held in the SUB in room 224 on Oct.15 from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Students interested in registering will need to bring ID and proof of their Halifax address. This could be a piece of mail for those who don’t live at the address on their driver’s license, as would be the case with many students from out of province.
The DSU push for community involvement is echoed by Election Nova Scotia’s website: “When you vote, you are telling the politicians what you want life to be like in Nova Scotia. If you don’t tell them, they can’t change things.”
For more information, including candidate profiles visit: Halifax.ca/election/voterregistration.html