Candidate’s vote-reward idea would require change in law

A city council candidate wants to incentivize voters to show up to the polls.

Gerald Watson points to “dramatic improvements” in voter turnout in countries with compulsory voting. Voter turnout in Australia, for example, often exceeds 90 per cent. Turnout in the last general civic election in Kamloops, in 2014, was 33 per cent.

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“If we can take a small step to get more people to vote, it’s going to be beneficial for all concerned,” Watson said.

Compulsory voting comes with fines or even imprisonment for those who do not cast a ballot, but Watson would prefer incentives in the way of a $20 credit for city utilities or recreational services. That would prevent people from turning up to the polls and marking down a name on a ballot for the sake of not having to pay a fee or go to jail, Watson said.

“It strikes me as a much lighter touch,” he said.

It would, however, cost the City of Kamloops nearly $2 million if all eligible voters cast ballots in the Oct. 20 election — something that may not be financially, or politically, viable.

It appears there could be legal hurdles, as well.

City of Kamloops chief elections officer Scott Redgrove pointed to section 161 of the Local Government Act — provincial legislation that defines municipal authorities and guides civic decision-making — that restricts vote-buying via “benefit of any kind.”

Watson said he he would not break any laws and suggested lobbying the provincial government to change the legislation.

“My question to the provincial government would be — why?” Watson said.

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