The City of Nelson is putting forward a friendly challenge to other municipalities in hopes of seeing increased voter turnout in the upcoming federal election.
The Kootenay Community Voter Challenge will see which municipality can increase the percentage of their voter turnout compared to the last election in 2011.
Nelson joins Cranbrook and Kimberley in the Kootenay-Columbia riding in this upcoming election.
While the City of Nelson hasn’t endorsed the challenge formally, Mayor Deb Kozak said the momentum of council was enthusiastically behind the initiative.
“There was great support at the Committee of the Whole meeting and we’ll be endorsing it formally at our next business meeting,” Kozak said. “The indication from council was very, very positive and strong.”
Nelson city council next meets on August 10.
“When staff come back with the recommendation, the way it was presented, the challenge could happen in a variety of ways. It certainly opened up a discussion. People said well, should it just be municipalities, or should we look to area regional directors? Maybe regional districts want to have their own challenge as well. At this point we were thinking that municipalities would be the way to go. We’ll issue that challenge regionally, I think it will be regional, and we’ll see what happens.”
The initiative was brought forward by a non-partisan group. Kozak said it is not about one party or one point of view, but rather inclusion and the democratic process.
Hopefully Cranbrook and Kimberley can get behind the initiative, as Kozak stated the goal is to increase voter turnout.
“And especially to inspire sectors of the population that don’t necessarily come out to vote. We’re going to be targeting, especially, young people I think — get them inspired to be part of the democratic process,” She said. “We need that, we need young people. And we need people to feel inspired and feel that they have a voice in our democratic process.”
Kimberley Mayor Don McCormick said anything that gets more people out to vote is a good thing.
“In every election there are a number of people — a fairly large number of people — who intend to vote, but at the last minute don’t bother going, because they think they are aware of what the outcome is going to be,” McCormick said. “Quite often, elections are very close and the fact is if they’d gone and voted they could have had an effect on the outcome.”
When asked if he thinks the challenge will soon come up in Kimberley city council, McCormick said he ill be waiting for the official word to come from the City of Nelson.
“It’s a challenge from Nelson,” he said. “So we’ll wait for the challenge.”
Kozak said she is looking forward to the opportunity for people to discuss issues in the upcoming federal election such as: “What’s most important to you about our country? What are the things that you want to see the government move forward with at the federal level?”
Kozak said she was also impressed by a comment at the end of the meeting: when you go out to vote, take the hand of somebody else and lead them to vote as well.
She added that Nelson will give Cranbrook, Kimberley and other municipalities a run for their money.
“I’m going to say that we’re going to win,” she laughed. “That should lay the gauntlet down, shouldn’t it?”
Mayor Lee Pratt was not available for comment as of press time.