In BC, voter turnout in municipal elections is always low. How can this be changed?

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In British Columbia, turnout in municipal elections has lagged far behind federal and provincial votes — even in pandemic-hit general elections.

In 2018Almost 42 per cent of eligible voters in BC voted in their local elections.

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This is a far cry from federal voting 2019 And 2021More than three-quarters of eligible voters turned out to vote.

Even in 2020 Provincial Electionin the middle Epidemic controlsMore than half of BC’s eligible voters turned out to vote.

The issue of low voter turnout in municipal elections is primarily related to low citizen engagement, leaders and experts say, and the issue has been growing in B.C.

“We’re a stable democracy, and you know, sometimes when things go well, we take what we have for granted,” he said. Outgoing New Westminster Mayor Jonathan Cote.

“But I think from my point of view, [that’s] All the more reason for us to be engaged and participate in our democratic elections.”

New Westminster had one of the lowest voter turnouts in Metro Vancouver last election, at just 27 percent, compared to the regional average of 39 percent.

But within low turnout demographics, Cote says, one demographic group tends to vote more than others. Rich, old people.

“We also see that renters actually vote much less than owners,” he added. “In many ways, [municipal] Services are equally – if not more – important for younger members of the community or renters.

“I think more work needs to be done to connect and engage those demographics [with] Importance of Local Governments.”

Would a different voting system help?

Stewart Brest, a political scientist at Quest University in Squamish, B.C., says municipal issues often don’t get the same sustained attention as politics in Victoria or Ottawa.

“[Low turnout] “At least in part because of the lack of day-to-day awareness of what’s going on in city politics,” he said.

“There’s some irony in that. When you think about the things that affect us in our daily lives, it’s primarily municipal government.”

For example, Municipalities in BC are responsible zoning and deciding what housing should be built, funding schools and managing parks and facilities; other things.

Across the province, councilors and mayors are often elected using Big voting systemInstead of residents of specific wards, candidates try to appeal to their entire community.

Perst said the ward system could lead to better representation and higher turnout for some voters because their neighborhood would have more local representatives.

But he cautions that the system will have trade-offs.

“It will make the choice easier, but when all is said and done people won’t be very happy with the choice,” he said.

“It really shifts the focus — from candidates putting together arguments for what the city needs and why [their] Needed in this particular corner of town.”

Too many candidates?

says Mario Canseco, president of polling firm Research A large number of people Running for office at the municipal level in places like Vancouver and Surrey turns off some voters.

“I think [municipal] “Parties also get confused because in some municipalities you don’t have parties and in some you do, but they don’t align with parties elsewhere,” he said.

Canseco says – except for the currently impossible idea Consolidation in the great cities of BC – One way to reduce the number of candidates and make it easier to scan the ballot paper is to raise the eligibility bar.

Mario Canseco says the record number of candidates running in places like Vancouver and Surrey will reduce voter turnout. (Peter Scobie/CBC)

“If you want to contest for the assembly [in Vancouver]You just need it 25 signatures and $100,” he said.

“It’s ridiculous to have a body of 25 friends who sign your papers every four years and then you become a candidate.”

Both Canseco and Perst argue that municipalities should remain well-engaged after election cycles. They should especially try to reach young voters and teenagers, as research shows that voting in one’s first election is a good predictor of future voting.

A ballot and a barbecue

Perst also spoke The idea of ​​compulsory voting, one in Australia. He says it will improve turnout, but voters won’t take it seriously if they’re simply forced to vote.

“Compulsory voting is based on the idea of ​​constraints. You can also talk about incentives,” he said. “It could be funding. If you go to a vote, you might see a small tax break or something like that.

“But that aside, you can say we’re going to try to make the experience more meaningful and enjoyable.”

Perst again points to Australia, where there are elections Often accompanied by barbecue and a social context.

“It’s like a civic holiday,” he said. “You can be very creative about ways to encourage people to vote.”

In BC, voter turnout in municipal elections is always low. How can this be changed?

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