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Voter turnout fell in most of Greater Victoria this year. Readers who did not vote tell us why

Busy ballots, lack of information, and limited voting options kept some people from the polls—and permanent residents are not allowed to vote

By Shannon Waters
November 15, 2022
Latest News
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Voter turnout fell in most of Greater Victoria this year. Readers who did not vote tell us why

Busy ballots, lack of information, and limited voting options kept some people from the polls—and permanent residents are not allowed to vote

By Shannon Waters
Nov 15, 2022
A Victoria polling station on election day. Photo: Shannon Waters / Capital Daily
A Victoria polling station on election day. Photo: Shannon Waters / Capital Daily
Latest News
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Voter turnout fell in most of Greater Victoria this year. Readers who did not vote tell us why

Busy ballots, lack of information, and limited voting options kept some people from the polls—and permanent residents are not allowed to vote

By Shannon Waters
November 15, 2022
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Voter turnout fell in most of Greater Victoria this year. Readers who did not vote tell us why
A Victoria polling station on election day. Photo: Shannon Waters / Capital Daily

Voting is a right and a duty for many people: some cast their ballots enthusiastically, while others view a trip to the polls as a semi-annual chore. But every election, thousands of eligible voters in Greater Victoria do not participate in the democratic process.

Voter participation tends to be highest at the federal level: about 75% of eligible Canadians voted in the past two federal elections while 54.5% of eligible BC voters cast a ballot in 2020. Municipal elections, however, draw far fewer voters to the polls. In 2018, overall voter turnout in BC’s municipal elections was 35.6%; this year, turnout dropped to 29.2%.

In Greater Victoria, six municipalities saw voter turnout above 30% while seven had participation levels below the provincial benchmark.

While the region may have seen higher levels of voter participation than the province as a whole this year, turnout was down in most Greater Victoria municipalities compared to 2018. Only View Royal, Langford, and Metchosin saw an increase in the number of eligible voters casting a ballot compared to 2018.

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Langford saw the biggest increase in voter turnout at 5.5% while View Royal’s ballot box bump was only 0.7%. At 47.3%, Metchosin had the highest voter turnout in Greater Victoria, up 3.7% over the district’s 2018 results.

The only other Greater Victoria municipality with turnout over 40% was Highlands where 42.5% of eligible voters voted this year following a fully acclaimed mayor and council in 2018. In 2014, turnout in Highlands was 34.9%.

Highlands Mayor Ken Williams was acclaimed this year as were his counterparts in Oak Bay and Sidney, where voter turnout dropped by a whopping 21% compared to 2018. 

All three municipalities—Highlands, Oak Bay, and Sidney—had fairly sparse council races with only three more candidates than there are council seats.

So why don’t people vote?

When Capital Daily asked our Twitter followers whether they voted in this year’s municipal elections, 92.8% of nearly 300 respondents said they did cast a ballot this year. Many emphasized the importance of municipal elections: local government “has the most influence on our day-to-day lives,” as one Twitter follower put it.

We also asked our newsletter subscribers to tell us if they did not vote this year and to share why they did not cast a ballot. Here is what we heard.

Some of these quotes have been lightly edited for grammar and clarity.

Permanent residents don’t get a vote

Several permanent residents—people who immigrated to Canada but have not been granted citizenship—reminded us that they are not allowed to vote.

“Voted, no, but only because the system here doesn't allow permanent residents (despite owning property?!!) to vote, which is insane,” one Twitter follower said.

While non-resident property owners can vote in municipalities where they do not live, they must be Canadian citizens in order to do so.

“I did not vote as I am a permanent resident…therefore am not allowed, unfortunately, even though I’ve been in Canada 55 years,” wrote Janice James in an email.

Long lines or lack of options

“I went to vote but the line up outside Esquimalt Recreation Centre was so long I didn’t stay. It would have taken an hour or more to get to the front, time I didn’t have in the day.”

—Samantha Hoft 

 

“I was out of town in October and Esquimalt had no mail-in option so I didn’t get the chance."

—Mayana Slobodian

Too many candidates, not enough information

“We moved to the Island four years ago. We are on Bear Mountain in Langford. We have no idea of what the issues are and who is running. We get no info delivered to the house or mailbox.

My question is the opposite of yours…how do so many people have a clue about municipal politics? What is the structure of the many governments in this 13-town city and what are the issues and where do candidates stand on the issues? How does the population educate themselves when there seems to be little source of information?” 

—Bob Marinett

“I just moved here and couldn't well differentiate the candidates so didn't want to just guess. First time not voting.”

—Shelagh Ross

“I did a lot more research this election cycle but failed to come to sufficient conclusions. I had stronger opinions about candidates in neighbouring municipalities but voting doesn’t work that way.”

—Brendan McCullough

“No, local slate was 1000% a shoe-in. [Sidney] Mayor [Cliff McNeill-Smith] won by acclamation. Would have voted in any other district.”

—Arr Lambert

“Going to be honest, I didn’t even know there was an election going on [as] my four month old and I had COVID. Feels like I woke up to a whole new council in Langford! Sad I didn’t get to vote, but happy that everyone else seemed to step up and vote for change.” 

—LH Oravn

“My husband and I did not vote this year for the first time in many years.”

Reasons: 

1. For the first time we disagreed on mayor so vote would be a null.

2. Too many choices for council and other seats and no clear way of knowing who we were to choose.  Word was the far right were trying to bring in 'their people' at these local levels.

We are Victoria land taxpayers. We prefer stability in Canadian governments at all levels. We will, of course, exercise our right to vote in local government, just not this time.”

—An anonymous subscriber

Article Author's Profile Picture
Shannon Waters
Municipal affairs reporter

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