Oct. 20 civic election: Central Saanich trying to boost turnout

A Greater Victoria municipality is pulling out the stops in an effort to improve its low voter turnout numbers from the last election.

After just 36 per cent of its eligible voters cast ballots in 2014, Central Saanich is using social media and its own website to stir interest and make voting as easy as possible.

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The additional promotion could prove crucial with no mayor’s race in Central Saanich this time around.

Mayor Ryan Windsor was acclaimed when nominations closed last month, leaving just nine candidates — including five incumbents — vying for six council seats.

Windsor said that could have an impact on the amount of attention the election receives. “Typically, where there’s no mayor’s race, we have seen declining voter turnout,” he said. “[So] I’m thrilled that we’re doing these other things in the absence of a mayor’s race.”

For the first time, the district has compiled profiles of all the candidates in an 11-page voter guide available at municipal hall and posted on the Central Saanich website.

Every candidate was given a chance to submit biographical material, a photograph, contact information, policy positions and past accomplishments.

The guide includes dates and times for advance voting, which began Wednesday. Similar information is provided about general voting day on Oct. 20.

In another first, polling stations are handing out “I Voted” stickers for adults and “Future Voter” stickers for children.

People can also download images from the Central Saanich website to share on social media using the hashtag #CSaanVotes. One of the images features the slogan “Your Vote Matters” and encourages people to bring their children to the polls to “show the next generation their vote will matter, too.”

The district notes that municipal elections are the most direct way to influence governments that deliver core services and shape communities.

“We want to see new voters in 2018,” said Patrick Robins, chief administrative officer. “We know if someone votes as soon as they are eligible, they are more likely to be a lifelong voter.”

Windsor said something as simple as providing mail-in ballots can have an impact by allowing people who are out of town to vote in the election.

“Considering how low voter turnout is in the municipal election, I think everything that we do matters,” he said. “Even if it’s only one more voter that we get, it’s worth doing.”

Advance voting began Wednesday at the municipal hall, 1903 Mount Newton Cross Rd., and will continue Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Oct. 17 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

More information is available on the district’s website at centralsaanich.ca/election.

lkines@timescolonist.com

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