British Columbia

Voter turnaround sought in B.C. election trend

Fewer than one-third of voters turned out in Vancouver's 2008 municipal election and the turnout provincewide is the most dismal in the country.
Municipal voter turnout in B.C. has dropped to the lowest in Canada. (CBC)

B.C. pundits and politicians will be watching closely Saturday night, not just to learn the results, but to see if there's any change in voters' increasing apathy with local elections.

The province has the lowest voter turnout in the country for civic elections.

The last big turnout in the city of Vancouver was in 1990, when 52 per cent cast ballots.

There was little change by 2002, at 50 per cent, but it’s been a steep drop in the city from those days.

Turnout was 32 per cent in 2005 and then sank to the lowest in history in 2008, with just 31 per cent of voters bothering to cast a ballot.

"Please go out and vote," said NPA (Non-Partisan Association) mayoral candidate Suzanne Anton. "It's so important to us that everybody cast their ballot."

Vision Vancouver candidate Gregor Robertson said there may be signs of a resurgence in voter interest.

"There's been a great turnout at advanced polls and that's heartening that voters know there's a lot at stake here," Robertson said.

Advanced polling is not a reliable indicator of election interest, however.

Smartphone app

The city has made other efforts, like commissioning a smartphone app, Vancouver Votes,  to try to help turn things around.

The app details a long list of candidates and where to vote.

It cost $10,000 to implement, but only about 1,000 users have taken advantage of the free download.

"It's one way to move forward," social media consultant Matthew Wright told CBC News. "But I do say in order to get people engaged and get people out to vote, that municipalities have to do more to communicate what's going inside city hall in between the election cycles."

Turnout has steadily declined in Vancouver civic balloting over the past 20 years. (CBC)
Get Your Vote On is a youth-oriented social media campaign that seems to have won a better response.

Organizer Andrea Curtis has held information sessions in cafes and bars, with the message democracy is "rad." "We can be a little bit more edgy and we're not the city and I don't hold it against them. But with Get Your Vote On, we can say and do more things that other's aren't able to," said Curtis.

Curtis and her crew will also be pulling rickshaws and pedalling tandem bikes taking voters to polls.

With files from the CBC's Theresa Lalonde