As part of VoteLocal’s most recent survey of Metro Vancouver civic election candidates, we asked if local residents have been engaged and interested in talking about the election, and what that might tell us about potential voter turnout on October 20th. While some candidates report a high degree of public engagement in the campaign,others express concern about voter confusion and apathy.
Among the 121 candidates who responded to VoteLocal’s latest survey, when asked “How engaged is your community in discussions about issues in the civic election,”74 percent said residents were “very” or “somewhat” engaged, while 31 percent said “not very” or “not at all” engaged. We’ll take that as a reason to be optimistic about voter turnout.
Here are some opinions on what’s driving voter interest, from candidates who say their local community is either somewhat engaged or very engaged in the campaign:
- “Ours is a close-knit smaller and older community.”
- “All 4 of Coquitlam's all-candidates forums have been at or near capacity. I have received daily enquiries from voters since the debates began.”
- “Not with standing the typical low voter turnout, we have had absolute full-house attendance toall of our all-candidate debates.”
- “The sheer number of candidates is bringing in more voters.”
- “There is very much a kick out the bums sort of mood.”
- “Some people are super interested, but many feel they don't have time to get involved and really read up. They are pretty happy when people come to the door though.”
- “Not all demographics are engaged. Seems to be mostly those from an older generation that are turning out for the all candidate meetings.”
- “Lots of activity with large numbers of people on social media, sign locations, responses to door knocking and telephone calls.”
- “People seem to be more involved this time around. They are beginning to care more about the issues. The homeless issue has touched a lot of people in Maple Ridge and they would like to see this attended to.”
And on the flip side, some candidates told us there’s a low level of engagement in their communities, and offered reasons to be concerned about voter turnout:
- “A lot of people I spoke with weren't aware of an election and some were confused because of the upcoming vote on proportional representation.”
- “There are far too many candidates for the voters to really get to know the candidate they want to vote for.”
- “The voters do not seem to think it matters who they vote for. All are promising the same basic things. Heck... I do not know who to vote for (other than me).”
- “It is difficult for people without the financial resources to have fair access to the process. As a result, voters are not aware of all the issues that are being put forward.”
- “People are too busy living their daily lives. There is little coverage of elections in suburbs outside Vancouver by Lower Mainland media outlets.”
- “Most people don’t believe they can make a change so they cannot be bothered to participate.”
- “There are too few to no venues or forums in which the public can engage with potential candidates, at least here in Richmond.”
- “Many people do not understand the various levels of government or the role of municipal councillors. There is little to no public service announcements about the election, and how to complete the ballot. People with literacy and language issues feel intimidated to vote. Some people are complacent about the election.”
- “Too many candidates to choose from. It may be the year of the independent.”
Many observers doubt that we’ll see voter turnout exceed the numbers seen in the last civic election, however early indications suggest advance voting turnout has been higher than in 2014.
At every level of government, voter apathy and lack of engagement in our democratic processes is a real concern. It’s heartening,though, that so many of our local citizens have stepped up to run for public office in this civic election. Campaigning is hard work at the best of times…never mind the big job that’s in store for the winning candidates who become Mayors and Councillors for the next four-year term.
To everyone running for civic office in Metro Vancouver and throughout B.C., we salute you!