British Columbia

Advance polls chance to lock in vote for candidates

Election day is still more than a week away but candidates and advocacy groups in B.C. are working hard now to get as many votes cast now as possible.

Flurry of emails, door-knocks and phone calls intended to also improve voter participation

Battle ground advance polls. (Chris Glover/CBC)

Election day is still more than a week away but candidates and advocacy groups in B.C. are working hard now to get as many votes as possible cast before October 19th.

"Our hypothesis is that if our supporters get out to vote the outcomes will inevitably be better regardless of who is elected," said Celine Trojand, who speaks for the Dogwood Initiative, which advocates for the environment and electoral reform.

For advance polls, it has organized what it describes as "calling parties" where up to 2,000 of its volunteers — some at its headquarters, others over tea and cookies in private homes — will try to contact Dogwood's 284,000 supporters across the province.

"Really simple, we say who we are, tell them we are glad they are supporters, ask them 'are you going to vote?'" said Trojand. "If they say yes, we help them make a plan."

In the last municipal election in Vancouver, voter turn-out was 43 per cent, up from 35 in 2011.

Trojand says among Dogwood supporters, an email reminder to vote bumped their average up to 67 per cent that election, a further phone call gave the initiative an 80 per cent turn-out.

Locks it in

"It just locks it in," said Trojand as another initiative has promised free concerts on buses that will take young voters to advance polls in their ridings.

Candidates are hoping to create some of that magic at advance polls with pushes of their own.

"Obviously we want to activate our supporters and get them to the polls so we ... think that it does improve our chances," said Andrew Radzik who is the campaign manager for Carol Baird Ellan, the NDP candidate for Burnaby North - Seymour.

Radzik says less that 40 per cent of single parents voted in 2011 and it's a demographic that often supports the NDP.

"If your kids gets sick on e-day, you don't care about going to vote in the election," he said about the importance of advance polls. "You obviously need to take care of your family so this is an opportunity to sort of open it up for people."

Getting votes in the bank now obviously helps a candidate win a riding, but also frees up supporters to volunteer on the election as they no longer have to vote.

Advance voting could make a difference for Joyce Murray, second from right. She's seeking to be re-elected in Vancouver Quadra where she won a close race in 2011. (Joyce Murray/Twitter.)

It's a sentiment shared by Don McDonald, who is the campaign manager for Liberal Joyce Murray. Murray is trying to win re-election for Vancouver Quadra.

He says advance polling used to be for people who wouldn't be around on election day or campaign workers themselves.

"Over the years that's changed. We now really work hard at identifying who's going to support us. All parties do that and we try to get them to vote in the advance polls," he said. "It let's you solidify the hard work you've already done."

Advance voting gains

In the 2011 campaign, Elections Canada says the use of advance polls was higher than for each of the three previous elections.

On the first day of 2015 advance polls in B.C., there were several complaints of long lineups in Metro Vancouver and on Vancouver Island.

Advance voting runs from noon to 8 p.m. PT October 9 to 12.

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