Co-op students can vote long distance

By Natalie Sit

When students pay their Students’ Union fee now, they not only get subsidized beer, but also a chance to vote in SU elections.

In the past, University of Calgary students on Co-op terms and internships outside Calgary or taking U of C courses at Red Deer College, were not allowed to vote in SU elections despite fulfilling all eligibility criteria.

"The way election bylaws were written, you physically had to be at the voting booth," said SU President Rob South.

Since the bylaw changes in January, distance voters can fax or e-mail theair ballots in during the election. They can vote on the races, plebiscites and referenda as long as they have paid SU fees and are a registered undergraduate U of C student. As well, distance voters must complete a Distance Voter Form and a Waiver of Rights and Acknowledgment.

"They have to sign [a waiver] to say that they know that their vote will have to be known," explains Chief Returning Officer Patti Teeuwen. "There is no way of us tracking down who is voting, and people who maybe are not students could vote."

Lack of privacy is one issue that worries distance voters. Bachelor of Commerce-Accounting Co-op student Kristi Palmer–on a four-month work term in Hanna, Alberta–expressed another worry.

"I do not plan to vote because I have been unable to stay up on what’s happening and I do not wish to cast an uninformed ballot," said Palmer. "Given the time demands of my work term and the fact that I’m out of town, I really don’t plan to inform myself."

Whether distance voting will be permanent remains to be seen.

"We are going to see how it works out this year," said Teeuwen. "Obviously there will probably be some things that we’ll learn from it that need to change for future years. It’s the first time we’re doing it, so we don’t really know what those changes are going to be."

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