Why do the New West Progressives seem so obsessed with voter turnout?

Chris Campbell

The New West Progressives released another platform this morning about “tackling low voter turnout” with “new ideas and a fresh approach.”

Some of the ideas are interesting (distributing a printed voter card with details in various languages) while others, well, not so much (“setting a target of increasing voter turnout by at least5 per cent” – that’s so obvious it hardly warrants being labelled an idea), but I agree with the overall point of increasing the amount of people who will vote.

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Who wouldn’t want more citizens to engage in the political process?

But that’s what’s so weird about the Progressives releasing an entire platform about this – everyone wants the same thing so seeing a platform announcement feels like, “well, duh.”

The platform follows weeks of the Progressives and their main spokesperson, city council candidate Daniel Fontaine, endlessly tweeting about how worried he is about the voter turnout. And yes, I understand the Record did a story a few weeks back after Fontaine brought up an interesting issue about how the election was being held a month earlier than normal, leaving less time after Labour Day when people are back from vacation.

I thought it was worth a story then based on how the different timeline might impact the election. But Fontaine continues to tweet about it and now the party’s released an entire platform on the subject.

Like, OK, we get it – you think it’s a problem, but at some point you have to stop complaining about it and move on to other issues in the campaign. I don’t see voter turnout as being a major issue on the minds of voters.

It brings up the issue of why the Progressives keep beating this drum? I want more people to vote and it’s a laudable goal, but now it feels like there’s something more behind it.

Some people have speculated that the Progressives are setting up an excuse in case its candidate don’t do well in the election. It’s not exactly a newsflash that, traditionally, low turnouts bode well for incumbent candidates so if the turnout drops below 2014 levels, and the Progressives get shut out, are we going to hear this used as an excuse? Because that would just be sad.

Now exactly what the turnout was in 2014 is up for debate. According to a Record story from Nov. 17, 2014, the city’s practice has always been to calculate voter turnout on the total number of registered voters. With city figures showing 44,768 registered voters, the turnout would be 32.5 per cent.

Civic Info B.C., however, used census figures to calculate turnout. With census data showing 51,166 eligible voters, the turnout would be 28.46 per cent,

I mean, let’s be honest, both numbers suck, it’s just a matter of which sucky numbers you choose to look at so I expect plenty of arguments about the numbers after Oct. 20.

I think the Progressives need to move on and focus on coming up with ideas that will get people to vote for them and ensure their voters come out to cast their ballots.

I would also like to add that the Progressives did suggest in its platform extending the time period that candidates can put up their election signs. I think that’s a terrible idea. It’s bad enough people have to look at these ugly signs for as long as we do now – why prolong the pain? And if you’re relying on election signs to spur more people to vote in general then you have run out of ideas. Seeing signs on lawns doesn’t inspire people to vote so having them out longer won’t increase the number of voters.

While I’m on this subject, I’ve seen a few people suggest on Twitter that we allow New West candidates to post election signs on public property like at the sides of roads and at the edges of intersections. Again, another horrible idea. Just take a drive through Maple Ridge right now and you’ll see its “Welcome to Maple Ridge” sign has been buried by giant election signs – I lost count at 50 – littered across the community’s entrance.

I received some comments from Mayor Jonathan Cote on the issue of the current election sign rules: “"I support the sign bylaws we have in place in New Westminster. Candidates have a full month to put out their lawns signs, which is a fair amount of time to engage residents with this kind of advertising. Some communities allow signs for longer periods and allow signs on public property. I personally disagree with that approach as it leads to an unsightly community littered with lawn signs for months on end and in my option wouldn't add to the democratic discussion."

I couldn’t agree more.

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