Canadian Inmates hit the Polls on Oct. 9.

Out of 650 inmates at the Regina Provincial Correctional Centre, 360 voted in the 2019 federal election. Photo by Dawson Thompson.

When Canadian voters enter their poll station they sit down, open their ballot, look at the options available, and mark a big X beside the candidate they want. This is not the same process for those in correctional facilities.

The Regina Provincial Correctional Centre houses about 650 inmates, this year 360 showed up to the polls to exercise their right to vote.

This is the fifth election that inmates in Canada will be able to vote. Inmates gained the right to vote in Canada beginning in 2002.

What is prompting inmates to the polls? In 2015 it was the legalization of marijuana. “When something illegal becomes legal, it is usually a big deal,” said Dave Leslie, teacher at the remand centre.

At the Regina Correctional Centre, recreation coordinator Maurice Miazyk called for an election meeting with the prison units IMC’s (Inmate Coordinators) and staff involved with the election to go over all information necessary to inform inmates of when, where, and how to vote.

On the day of the vote, inmates are given a ballot with no candidates’ names on it.

Every inmate is required to vote in their most previous riding, not the riding of the correctional facility.

Head election officers will put everyone’s riding’s on their registration so they know what riding to vote for when the time comes. In order, inmates are supposed to vote in the riding of their last permanent residence, their last common-law residence, the last place they had court, or the place that they were arrested at.

Because the registration ballots are blank, it is up to the inmate to write out the name of the candidate they are voting for. If assistance is needed in making sure spelling is correct, that must be documented and included in the sealed vote.

Trained staff, such as teachers and recreation coordinators are always available for any questions about the election. Most cells have a TV where inmates have access to cable and radio to follow along with election news, and political proceedings.

The Regina Provincial Correctional Centre got its information packages from Elections Canada about a month before the election.

These packages include party platform pamphlets, information packets about Election Day, and the all-important registration forms.

No sentencing can take away someone’s right to vote in an election. According to Leslie, “It is good for them to vote because they won’t be in jail forever.”

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