VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – With just six weeks before British Columbians vote in civic elections, a slew of new faces, parties and issues may be intimidating some people away from the polls, according to a political expert.
Despite having a direct impact on our lives, local elections routinely draw the worst voter turn out across the country, and UBC political analyst Gerald Baier says with around half of Lower Mainland mayors not seeking re-election, several independent candidates and a host of new parties, turn out may get smaller.
“Confusion can make it a lot harder to feel motivated to get to the ballot box because if you don’t know who to support, you certainly have lots of feelings about local issues but it’s hard to know where those map on the candidates, that may keep people home,” Baier said, adding the Lower Mainland is undergoing a period of transition.
In Vancouver alone, 158 candidates are vying for 27 positions, including 21 mayoral candidates.
Now is prime time for new candidates to make a splash in the political scene, according to Baier, however he says tighter restrictions on election spending can also make advertising harder for candidates.
Baier says the way in which voters consume their media may also play a role in their knowledge of candidates and willingness to vote. Unlike newspapers and road signs, our social media feeds are filled with catered content, which may shelter us from other, potentially viable, candidates.
“I think motivated voters are going to be able to find stuff. Once you know their name, you can usually find out a whole lot more than you could in the past. There’s also pressure to have substantive websites,” Baier said. “There’s an expectation that if I want to learn about you, I should be able to, Once peopled decide to engage, there’s usually a lot of information available to them. It’s just a matter of making that choice.”
In addition, he says the learning curve for civic elections can be enough to dissuade voters.
He says if voters willing to make an effort for federal and provincial elections, they should make time to do the same for local candidates.
Election day is Oct. 20.