CBC News Federal Election


Getting out the vote

Low voter turnout has plagued Canada's elections in recent years, despite the addition of procedures to help make it easier for people to vote.

Measures – like advance polling, proxy voting, mail-in ballots, multilingual election information and level access at polling stations, to name a few – are supposed to encourage concerned citizens to express their opinions at election time.

Employers are even required to give you enough time off to vote (with only a few exceptions), you can check out Elections Canada's Frequently Asked Questions Section for the details.

But what are the big parties doing to help get Canadians to vote?

Most have a national strategy, but they do have to be careful. Offering a ride or paying for travel expenses is allowed, as long as they are "enabling" and not "inducing" someone to vote. (In other words, if the person would have voted anyway, and the offer can't be contingent on who they're planning to vote for.)

The NDP say it's famous for getting out the vote. In B.C.'s Newton-North Delta riding, hundreds of volunteers working on Nancy Clegg's campaign will be on the phones by 7 a.m. local time and going door-to-door to remind people to get to the polls.

According to communications officer Pat Johnson, they'll be calling every single supporter they identified during the course of the campaign, and making sure people who need rides can get to their local polling station. Johnson says they even "have zone houses, that is families who have donated their homes for the day as satellite campaign offices," so they can get to everyone, and get there quickly.

In St. John, N.B., Liberal incumbent Paul Zed's team will also be scattered across the city, ready to pick up anyone who needs a hand. Your ride is just a phone call to the campaign office away. And campaign co-chair Bob Boyce says they'll be crossing people off their lists at polling stations as they cast their ballots, and calling to make sure latecomers don't miss their chance.

Boyce says one big change this year was the emphasis on making sure people who won't be in their riding on election day cast their ballots early – at advance polls, by mail or at their local Elections Canada office. "We encouraged students to do it while they were here for the Christmas break and those heading away for a winter vacation to vote before they left, something we probably wouldn't have been doing in a summer campaign."

That's a point that Conservative Leader Stephen Harper tried to drive home when he cast his ballot by mail just before New Year's Eve and one the Tory campaign in Lambton-Kent-Middlesex, Ont. is also hoping has worked.

Regardless of their early efforts, Conservative candidate Bev Shipley's campaign co-chair Joshua Workman says they're not done yet. "We're going to certainly be out knocking on doors and making calls this weekend. If all goes well, on Monday we'll be having a celebration."

They'll also be offering rides to anyone who needs it in this widespread rural riding.

According to Salim Laaroussi, the Bloc's campaign assistance director in Quebec's Outremont riding, calling supporters and offering rides is standard procedure during an election. And it's one they hope will build on weeks of campaigning.

In the end, only the results on election day will tell us how effective these attempts to persuade voters out of their homes and into the polling stations have been.

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