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STAHN: Why is voter turnout so low?

November 21, 2014 - 8:40 AM

In Kamloops we saw voter turnout for the 2014 civic election hit just above the provincial average once again, this time with 33 per cent of voters taking to the polls. This was barely a 3.3 per cent increase over the 2011 civic election, which was a small increase over the 2008 election when we hit just under 28.5 per cent voter turnout.

Provincial politics garner a higher voter turnout. In the past eight elections it has ranged from a low of 51 per cent in 2009 to just over 70 per cent in 1983. In recent federal elections we saw a low of 58.8 per cent of voters cast ballots in 2008, the only time since the late-1800s voter turnout dropped below 60 per cent.

So why do people care so little about municipal politics that they can’t even be bothered to vote?

The decisions made at a local level are more likely to impact your every day life, from utilities and road repairs to recreation and taxes. While people like to talk, and yes, even bitch, about these things we are lacking one key component that would switch people from talk to action.

We are missing the drama.

We don’t have political parties mudslinging and we don’t have a mayor doing drugs. What we do have is a bunch of very Canadian men and women who, more often than not, politely sit and listen to each other, politely say they respect each other and politely keep their mouths shut when it comes to the personal affairs of those on council.

Kamloops Vote 50, a group of volunteers looking to increase voter turnout at the municipal level, tried to engage voters. They helped organize more than a dozen 'meet the candidates' events, they organized events to engage and inform voters about the process and they even took to a Blazers game, local restaurants and the university to help get the word out.

Even with that additional engagement we were unable to increase actual interest in voting.

So what is next? How do we actually increase voter turnout at the municipal level to a respectable level?

Maybe heading into the 2018 civic election candidates should think about forming political parties, or taking up drugs, or yelling and screaming that their opponents are rotten, no-good people. Maybe then voters will take action.

Or maybe we will just have a really angry, high city council.

To contact a reporter, email Jennifer Stahn at jstahn@infonews.ca or call 250-819-3723. To contact an editor, email mjones@infonews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014
InfoTel News Ltd

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