The leader of the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) says the establishment of pop-up polling stations on campuses, an Elections Canada pilot project, helped to drive up student voter turnout at recent advanced polls.

CFS National Chairperson Bilan Arte told CTV’s Race to the Hill that the pilot project, which for the first time allowed students to cast a ballot for a candidate running in their home riding, no matter where that is, at one of 70 special campus polling stations was “victory” for students. 

“A lot of young people are coming from away from home in order to be able to pursue post-secondary education. And so a lot of us probably want to be able to vote in our home riding. This wasn’t always possible unless you were able to travel back home to vote,” said Arte. 

“With on-campus voting stations, students were able to vote for any candidate anywhere in Canada and they certainly took advantage of that opportunity.”

Over a span of four advanced polling days leading up to Monday, more than 70,000 students voted at on-campus voting booths. Arte said that while some students found themselves in line for an hour or longer, they were “happy” to wait for their chance to vote. 

“I think that really speaks to the testament that young people are very interested in participating in the democratic process and they’re motivated because they want to make sure a government is elected in this country that best reflects their issues,” she said. 

According to Arte, some of those issues include youth unemployment, access to post-secondary education, student debt and a “precarious job market.” 

While Arte was careful not to endorse a particular party, she pointed to the Green Party’s platform commitment of free tuition for post-secondary students by 2020. 

Arte also rejected the idea that young voters are “apathetic,” saying that they’ve rather been “disenfranchised” in past elections. And she had a message for all the party leaders.

“Give us a reason to get to the poll on October 19th.”