Postage not paid for federal votes

How much is your vote worth? Try 51 cents. Canadians who have to mail ballots must cover the postage.

How much is your vote worth?

Try 51 cents.

Canadians who have to mail ballots must cover the postage.

So, the right to vote will cost them the price of a stamp.

There are no statistics available on how many special ballots are mailed in, according to Elections Canada elections officer Serge Fleyfel.

However, according to data on the Elections Canada website, 683 Yukoners voted by special ballot in the last election in June 2004.

Special ballots are either sent by mail or delivered in person to an elections office.

While anyone can vote by special ballot, Canadians living outside of their district, either within the country or overseas, often use them.

While there were 20,345 eligible voters in the territory for the last federal election, only 12,578 cast ballots.

So, the 683 special ballots represented five per cent of the vote.

With voter turnout waning nationally — 60.4 per cent of Canadians voted in the last election and 61.8 per cent of Yukoners — it’s important to keep voting simple and cost-free, said one expert.

“I do think there is a lot of merit in making voting as easy as possible,” said Jon Pammett, a political science professor at Carleton University.

And having postage-paid envelopes would certainly make voting easier, he added.

To get a special ballot, a voter first has to register. This can be done in person at the local elections office, by fax or by mail.

The special ballot kit is then mailed to the voter, or can be picked up in person.

Once filled out, the ballot can be returned to an elections office in person or mailed to Ottawa.

But “if you want to do it through the post, you have to pay,” said Fleyfel.

The postage isn’t paid to help keep the cost of federal elections down, said Fleyfel.

The current federal election, which wraps up on January 23, is estimated to cost $277 million.

“Elections Canada tries to control the money it spends,” he said. “So we don’t have a very expensive election.”

Elections Canada doesn’t pay for gas for people to drive to the polling stations either, said Isabelle Bouchard, also an elections officer with Elections Canada.

She said the cost of the stamp offsets the costs people incur to get to polling stations.

Regardless of how Canadians choose to vote — by mail, advanced poll or in person on election day — Pammett is concerned about turnout.

“I’m quite worried about the potential further turnout decline in this election given the time of year it’s being held,” Pammett said.

“It might well be a real struggle to keep the turnout above 50 per cent.”