This week's question:
Voter turnout in civic elections in Kamloops is usually about 30 per cent. What would you suggest can be done to increase that percentage?
If you're reading this newspaper, you are likely more engaged in municipal affairs than some in our community. Talking to people face-to-face is not only a great way to encourage others to participate, it's also a healthy way to build community.
Voter turnout is usually issue-driven and, while the city has a major impact on our day-to-day lives, usually things like water and sewer are not top of mind (until we don't have them). Maybe moving voting booths to the malls, sporting events and places people already go could improve turnout.
Some countries like Australia make it law to vote. If you don’t vote, you are fined. I’m sure if something like that happened in Canada, there would be outrage. I think if you want to see change and want to voice any opinions about what’s being done in politics, you need to get out and vote. Every vote matters and counts.
My idea would increase the overall number of voters; however, it may, in the short term, lower the percentage of voter turnout. I have heard and love the idea of lowering the voting age to 16. If this was done in conjunction with adding some curriculum in the schools, I feel we would get a lot of the youngsters out to vote. The long-term benefits would be evident in seven or eight years, when this generation has trained their brains to vote annually and are all consistently voting when they are 24 and 25 years old.
Some of the solutions I feel would help are outside of our jurisdiction as a city and lobbying our provincial and federal government is needed. Lowering the voting age for elections would help. Electronic voting would help and ensure there are enough polling stations. In this election, for instance, there are no polls at the university, at care homes or at social-service providers. Helping busy students, those with mobility issues and the homeless and disenfranchised get to the polls will help to get a better complement on council. Doing all we can to ensure the older population that does vote can vote is very important. We can also all play a part by encouraging friends and family to vote together, encourage everyone to end apathy and engage in the process.
As a young, female, Red Seal electrician, one of the main reasons I am running is to add a new and diverse voice to city council. I am unlike any of the other candidates in that I am young and a part of the working class. I, too, have felt disenfranchised by our elected officials and I want to reach out to other young and working class people who I feel are under-represented in politics. I am using social media to connect with my peers and hopefully inspire them to come out and vote. I am also continuously handing out the voting information leaflets that were provided to me by city hall to help inform people I meet of the election.
Lowering the age to 16 may help as it is the legal age to get a driver’s licence. You may get them engaged more. Also, with the right security in place, voting online would definitely increase voter participation. I totally agree that we need to do something as some people think their vote won't matter as nothing ever changes.
Add some controversy. Maybe set our tax rate by turnout.
I wish I knew. It concerns me deeply when I hear someone say they don't participate in politics because they don't feel their voice matters. It does. When I see people vent frustration online about an issue, I encourage them to contact me directly so I can help, but I almost never get that phone call. Just want to vent or complain? That's fine, but civic engagement takes a little more effort. It also has a net benefit because it puts the power back where it belongs — with you. People getting engaged is how problems actually get solved. Call your local representative. Vote. Things aren't going to change if you don't. Your vote could be the clincher for an important issue that affects our city as a whole and your life in particular. On Oct. 20, vote as you please, but please vote.
This is such an important question. To start, deciding who to vote for in a civic election is an information-gathering challenge. There are a lot of candidates. Voters’ first step, in my view, is the one-minute candidate statement videos done by CFJC. Then, if they want more information, read the Kamloops This Week coverage on candidates they might be interested in. Committed voters can look to see who in their lives might not vote and encourage them and even go with them to vote. If we each take three people — just three people — our voter turnout will skyrocket. Even taking one other person would be awesome.
There are multiple things that can be done to increase voter turnout. Kamloops needs to make voting easier. How do we achieve this? Go to the voters. As our society seeks a more convenience-based lifestyle, we must adapt. More mobile polling stations could be used across the city, including going to all of the seniors homes and inside the TCC and Aberdeen Mall, to name a few locations.
We need to move to online voting opportunities and better engagement with young and first-time voters. Many don’t feel civic government is relevant, but I contend it is the most relevant and impactful form of government there is.
I think those who take the trouble to vote should be given a city credit (say $20) that could be used toward recreation services or to offset their utility bill.
Increased communication and promotion of both the election and the importance of voting is something everyone can do and can be impactful. Creating some type of movement like the #ivoted campaign and stickers is one idea that has been successful in the past. It allows people to challenge others to share photos on social media and challenge others to get out and vote. Moving toward an online voting system or a blended system would also make it easier for many people to cast a ballot without having to go too far out of their way, worry about parking or transportation or making time in their busy schedules.
Voter turnout is far too low and needs to be addressed. I would like to see a focus on teaching civic election politics in local schools much the way we did when I was in high school. It's proven that when children are exposed to political arenas early, they become more involved as adults.
First, city hall needs to smarten up. There is a polling station at TRU (on Oct. 17 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.), but the city isn't advertising it. That seems ridiculous. If non-TRU people use it, so what? At least they are voting. I would like to see the city partner with School District 73 to do sessions with senior secondary students on why they should vote when they are of age. Look to grow the voter turnout by engaging future voters before they can vote. Maybe provide free transit on election day or issue a one-day bus/parking pass to people when they vote. Incentives work.
I believe low voter turn out is the result of dissatisfaction felt by the voters. Candidates need to get out and engage with the voters and listen to their concerns and wishes. Most importantly, they need to address those when they are elected. Growing voter participation begins in a big way with the media. A constant reminder of low voter turnout can create a sense of hopelessness that may keep voters home on election day. By having engaged candidates who truly represent the people of Kamloops and a focused press to communicate their platforms and keep them honest, we can work together to get out the vote and make Kamloops truly shine.
Address apathy through education.
All candidates should be diligent around informing the public about details of the election, wherever and whenever possible. Oct. 20 will arrive before we know it. Experts often say local government elections are the most important ones for voters to participate in. Local elections can affect almost every aspect of your daily life. If you find researching 21 candidates a daunting task, then only vote for the candidates you know, trust and respect. A voter doesn’t need to select eight different candidates. Only vote for the candidates who share your vision of Kamloops.
The problem with local government for most people is that it's boring. We deal with solid waste, water, sewer, streets, etc. These really don't excite our average taxpayer and, as a result, they don't pay that much attention to what is going on. The beauty of local government, though, is that it is likely the most direct form of democracy available to individuals. Each person can make a very real difference by bringing their issues directly to council and having it dealt with in a more timely manner. I think if we can stress the positives that local governments can provide its citizenry, we may see more uptake from them at election time. However, if council really messes up, then I'm certain you would see increased voter turnouts, too.
People need to feel as though they’re a part of the process, not just at election time, but all the time. This means quality, genuine engagement without the political spin. Engaging people early and often is key. Sometimes it’s good to just throw an idea out at the early stages to get people’s feedback, rather than letting everyone know when it’s been pretty much decided. It’s the lack of these types of genuine interactions that discourages people from participating. I think a week-long voting process would help, too. If your friends talk about voting, you’re more likely to vote yourself. And we should make voting as easy as possible for everyone – with better mail-in and online options. Maybe BCLC could get involved and have a lottery about it, like a Sports Action ticket, but call it Vote Action, because everyone wants their team to win (just kidding).
It does not surprise me that voter turnout is low. When citizens feel politicians do not represent them, they do not want to participate. There are some great folks on council, but they are not representative of Kamloops as a whole. A good representative council would be a microcosm of Kamloops. Most of the current council members have not experienced the challenges of many of our community members. Do any council members currently rent? And, if they do, are they a paycheque away from not being able to afford rent? We also need to inform voters on how to vote. And that is where the media can play a role in reaching voters. For example, many First Nations people are unsure if a status card can be used to vote. Yes, it can.