(Dis)counting the votes of marginalized citizens

polling station signWe now know that ElectionsNL is suspending further in-person voting for the provincial election in favour of a mail-in ballot option, requiring online registration. Voters must visit the ElectionsNL website, scan appropriate ID and submit the online form. Notification of this approach was provided late night on Friday, February 12. The deadline to register is Feb. 15 at 8 pm.

Much of our work at Stella’s Circle as a social justice organization operating from a recovery model involves supporting people who are experiencing poverty and marginalization to become more engaged in society. In addition to our core programming in counselling, housing and employment, we support participants in all kinds of ways, from maintaining a bank account to filing a tax return to participating in an election. Failing to recognize the many barriers of people – whether it be poverty, technology, literacy, geography or infrastructure – will lead to voter suppression for many individuals.

With more time, organizations like Stella’s Circle could better help people work around barriers that will stop them from voting. Many people we work with do not have identification. The only options available to them are to get signed affidavits or to recruit a Guarantor to attest for them. Many do not have access to technology or the Internet. Many don’t have the literacy or familiarity to navigate this process.

These election changes assume a level of privilege that we know thousands of people live without. With issues like minimum wage and mental health at the forefront, this election will discount the voices of those with the most to lose. Or the most to gain.