(File Photo)

(File Photo)

LOUIS: Why was voter participation so low in 2022?

Imagine you invited 100 people over for dinner. Now, it’s really hard to know what everyone’s going to want to eat with only five people, let alone 100. So you get this brilliant idea to invite them all to a meeting ahead of time to decide what to eat; everyone gets their say.

Only 12 people step up. That means 88 people threw caution to the wind and would eat whatever these 12 said they would eat. It doesn’t seem fair, but everyone had an equal say. They just decided not to bother, so it was, indeed, fair.

Roughly 12 per cent of voters showed up to vote in the District of Kent election. Nearly 50 per cent voted in the Harrison election. Maybe without a mayoral race, less people were motivated to vote in Kent. But does that ring true with other communities?

RELATED: 37 B.C. mayors win by acclamation after standing unopposed

Spallumcheen – a district in the Okanagan and home to more than 5,000 people – saw Christine Fraser re-elected in the same way our own Sylvia Pranger was: unopposed and acclaimed. There are approximately 4,200 eligible voters in Spallumcheen and 515 ballots cast this year – a 12 per cent turnout.

Let’s check in on our neighbours in Hope. There was a two-way mayoral race between Victor Smith and Wilfried Vicktor (Victor was the victor, in case you wondered). There are 5,523 eligible voters in Hope, exactly 500 more eligible voters than in the District of Kent. Hope counted a total of 1,623 ballots, a 29 per cent turnout.

In Port Coquitlam, Brad West was elected by acclamation, yet the council race was robust with 18 candidates competing for six seats; their voter turnout was roughly 18 per cent. In New Westminster, Patrick Johnstone won a three-way race for mayor, and there were 12 candidates for the six-seat council. The voter turnout was about 27 per cent.

Let’s look back at past local elections. For the past four elections, there was at least a two-way mayoral race and at least four people running for council. Turnout did not fall below 50 per cent in the past four elections. Meanwhile, in the District of Kent, participation took a slight dip in 2018 when Pranger was elected mayor by acclamation, dropping to 25.1 per cent. The results of three of the past four elections prior to the 2022 election show similar low numbers when a mayor ran unopposed, hitting a then-low participation rate of 23.4 per cent voter turnout, when John Van Laerhoven was elected unopposed. Further confirming the potential voter draw of a mayoral race, when Ken Schwaerzle challenged Laerhoven in the 2014 election, voter turnout hit its highest in recent elections at 34.4 per cent.

While it looks like the mayoral race might play a factor in whether or not people choose to cast their ballot, it may not fully explain why there was such a difference between Harrison’s numbers and those of the District of Kent this past year. I would argue that while both elections should have been equally important to the people, could it simply be that Harrison’s was more “interesting” to watch and therefore compelled more participation?

Either way, it is interesting to see how different electoral scenarios factor in to voter participation. Any way you slice it, though, there’s room for more people to have their say in the community’s future.

We don’t get to vote very often and being human and mortal, we only get to use this tool for change so many times in our limited lives. Why not make the most of it for our future and the future of those who would come after us?

Let’s see if we can get that voter turnout up for next time. Thank you to all those who made their voices heard during this election and congratulations to the candidates.


@adamEditor18
adam.louis@ ahobserver.com

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agassizHarrison Hot Springs

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