Good news, local democracy watchers! Voter turnout in this recent municipal election was way up over 2018 — an election which marked Cranbrook’s lowest ever turnout of the modern era (which I start at Year 2008).
By way up, I mean a 1.1 per cent increase over 2018. That’s one point one.
In 2018, Oct. 20, 4,012 eligible voters cast ballots in Cranbrook’s election. 11,055 did not. That was a 26.62 per cent voter turnout. On Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022, 4,479 eligible voters voted. 11,690 did not. That’s a 27.7 per cent voter turnout.
The number of eligible voters in 2022 was more than 1,000 over 2018.
In 2008, the election year in which Scott Manjak was elected mayor, 4,423 Cranbrookians voted, 9,240 did not (32.37 per cent). Cranbrook’s voter turnout squeaked upward in 2014, then plummeted in 2018. I suppose 2022’s one point one per cent increase is a return to squeaking upward.
The average municipal turnout in B.C. was 29.2 per cent, which is 1.5 per cent higher than Cranbrook’s turnout, at 27.7 per cent.
But after all, these are only numbers. Those who want to vote voted, and our mayor, councillors and school board trustees were thusly elected, openly and honestly and democratically.
By the way, the Cranbrook Townsman congratulates Wayne Price, who was elected mayor on Saturday with 16.8 per cent of the eligible vote. Congratulations also, all irony aside, to all candidates who stepped forward to run for public office, putting their names on the line in the interests of their community.
Though municipal elections generally see the lowest turnout of any sort of election, including federal and provincial, it’s still too bad these candidates’ efforts aren’t rewarded with a greater voter turnout.
Take, for instance, our near neighbour — the City of Fernie — which saw a 54.6 per cent voter turnout, twice that of Cranbrook. Can you imagine what a 54.6 per cent voter turnout in Cranbrook would entail? That would mean 4,500 more votes than were cast on Saturday (8,960 or so). The difference between the votes Lynnette Wray (first place) and Jeremy Youngward (seventh place) got for Cranbrook Council was 1,180 votes or so. The difference between Youngward and Wayne Stetski (sixth place) was only 50 votes. Only a couple of percentage point bumps in voter turnout, and all sorts of things are in play.
I suppose that’s why it’s so important for candidates to “get out their vote.”
With this mass of non-voting eligible voters, it’s almost like there is a parallel universe, just waiting to be tapped.
But like I said, these are just numbers. This is, I suppose, the way our democracy and our elections will function going forward. With all the important issues that were front and centre, and with all the chatter about them on social media, etc, you’d think turnout would be higher. If these pressing issues that are affecting us all can’t draw 11,690 people out to Laurie School for a few minutes on a fine October day, then my new prediction is that Cranbrook’s voter turnout in coming elections will stay at 27.7 per cent. Maybe we’ll hit 30 per cent someday.
Over the weekend, I thought of another election that ran around the same time as B.C.’s local government elections. That’s the recent “referendum” in the Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine, collectively known as the Donbas. The referendum, as it was called, was to see if residents of the Donbas wanted to join Russia, instead of Ukraine. Reportedly, election officials went from door to door in the Donbas, accompanied by armed soldiers. They presented voters with the ballot — yes to becoming part of Russia, or no? The officials and armed soldiers watched the voters as they made their choice, and watched carefully what the choice was. Voter turnout was pretty high, by all accounts.