In our previous episode (2014) of “Cranbrook’s incredible shrinking voter-turn-out,” (a hit TV series brought to you by democracy): 39.64 per cent.
In our latest episode (2018): 26.62 per cent.
That’s right — Cranbrook celebrated it’s lowest municipal election voter turnout of the modern era on Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018. By modern era, I mean since 2008.
Ten years ago, 4,423 Cranbrookians voted, 9,240 did not (32.37 per cent). We had been squeaking upwards since then, with a gratifying (for Cranbrook) spike in 2014 (see above). Then Saturday’s plummet — 4,012 voted, 11,055 did not.
Considering Cranbrook’s estimated eligible voters increased by almost 500 in the past four years (to 15,067), I have to ask myself if there is something dark and disturbing about voting in an election that repels vast numbers of people.
Is there something Satanic about voting — are we putting our immortal souls in jeopardy by filling in little dots on a piece of paper and sliding it into a tabulating machine?
Is there a widespread fear that squads of Brownshirts are hanging around Cranbrook’s lone polling station, tapping saps in the palms of their hands, writing down names in their little books?
Is there a mistaken belief that one still needs to own property and be worth at least £100 per annum to vote, as in the 18th century?
Perhaps there is a belief that by voting, we are exposing too much of ourselves, that our embarrassing secrets will be revealed. Well, my secrets are all still safe — I think.
Now granted, municipal elections usually see lower turnouts than provincial or federal. In the latter cases, one is voting for a party more than anything — in which it is easier to place one’s democratic commitment, rather than, in small towns like ours, choosing between individuals and their various platforms.
Federal and provincial politics also dominate national media. Seems it’s easier for people to get stirred up when they hear the Prime Minister’s name than when they hear Candidate X’s.
And true, municipal politics tend to be on the drier side — bylaws, zoning issues, economic development, variances, infrastructure, as opposed to Declarations of War, or motions to make Vancouver Island an 11th province.
But civic elections are those that have the most immediate effect on us. Am I more invested in the City fixing the sidewalk in front of my house (They did last year! Thanks, and thanks again, City of Cranbrook)? Or am I more likely to lie awake at night brooding over reform of the Canadian Constitution?
Perhaps the fact we didn’t have an actual contest for mayor this election created even more apathy than usual.
Still, even at the municipal level, voting is crazy easy to do. Laurie Middle School is the most accessible, easy-to-get-to facility in the whole town. Saturday was a bright, sunny autumn day. The candidates were colorful, well-known, good-looking people, who’ve been wandering around town for weeks sharing interesting opinions and ideas — and all committed to working to making all our lives better.
As it turns out, we in Cranbrook are at the very bottom of the scale provincewide. The provincial average came in at 36 per cent voter turnout. As of the current state of my research, only Langley is lower than Cranbrook, at 24 per cent.
Meanwhile, our Kootenay neighbors are eating up the local issues and casting ballots with an almost violent fervor. Kimberley, 50 per cent (that’s actually low, for Kimberley); Invermere, 45 per cent (we can only dream); Creston, 49.2; Nelson, 55 per cent; Fernie had 63.7 per cent voter turnout for Pete’s sake.
Just imagine the difference that may have been made, if 1,000 voted of those 11,055 who did not on Saturday. Fewer than 300 votes separated seventh place (Jordan Fiorentino, with 1,480) from the sixth and final council seat (Graham, with 1,772). What if we get pace with our Kootenay neighbours — say, 45 per cent turnout. That would have been 6,750 voters, 2,000 more than voted in reality on Saturday. Can you imagine the excitement that would add to Election Night?
Let us make it a Cranbrook goal to hit 45 per cent in 2022. We’ll talk more about this then, if not before.
The Townsman wishes to congratulate all candidates who put themselves on the line in Saturday’s municipal election, and thank them for running.