British Columbia

Long election ballot prompts concerns about low voter turnout in Vancouver

Voters casting ballots in advance polls in Vancouver over the weekend say they're working hard to make sense of the 158 candidates, and one experts warns that the long list may prompt some to just stay home.

Some parties fare better than others when voter turnout is low, says political scientist Patrick Smith

Vancouver voters have a long list of candidates to choose from this election. (Doug Kerr/CBC)

Voters casting ballots in advance polls in Vancouver over the weekend say they're working hard to make sense of all the candidates, and one expert warns that the long list may prompt some to just stay home.

"The amount of candidates is overwhelming — 158 — 23 for mayor, 71 for council, and we've also done it non-alphabetically so it is a really confusing ballot," said Green council candidate Michael Wiebe on Saturday.

Voter turnout is usually fairly low in municipal elections. In 2014, voter turnout in Vancouver reached a 10-year high of 44 per cent. That was up from 34 per cent in the previous election in 2011. 

Advanced voting is now in place for elections throughout Metro Vancouver. (Doug Kerr/CBC)

Those who did come out for advanced voting over the weekend said it took them time to research all the candidates on the City of Vancouver's website, which shows all the candidates' biographies and platforms so people can plan their vote.

"It's almost like writing an exam," said one voter coming out of the advanced polling station at the Roundhouse Community Centre on Saturday.

SFU political science professor Patrick Smith says this election's long list of candidates, coupled with allegations of voter fraud, may keep even more voters at home.

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"It's not easy for voters to figure out who these people are, so the sensible thing to do is perhaps not to vote," Smith said. 

But low voter turnout doesn't affect all parties equally, Smith warns. 

The voting ballot for Vancouver's municipal election has a total of 158 candidates. (Doug Kerr/CBC)

"I would say in Vancouver the NPA historically have benefited from lower voter turnout," he said about the centre-right party that was established in the city in 1937.

Mayoral candidate Kennedy Stewart says, regardless, all parties should be working toward getting people to vote.

"Low voter turnout is always a concern," Stewart said. 

Wiebe acknowledged that the Green Party tends to do best when the electorate comes up in greater numbers. 

"For us this will be difficult," he said. 

Advance voting in Vancouver runs from Oct. 10 to 17. General voting day is Oct. 20, 2018.

With files from Zahra Premji