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Municipal politicians look to take polls to the people

May 06 2012

The idea of setting up polling stations in shopping malls to boost voter turnout in the next municipal election is gaining traction with some local politicians.

After a successful trial of a polling station in a Kelowna mall last November, Kamloops staff have asked municipal politicians to consider taking voting stations "closer to the people" - including at shopping malls and at Thompson Rivers University - for the next civic election in 2014.

With an average turnout of about 30 per cent in B.C. municipal elections, it's an idea that might be worth trying here, say several Capital Regional municipal politicians.

"I like it," said Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard.

"I've even thought about [putting polling stations in] the rec centres because so many people are taking their kids to swimming lessons or diving lessons or judo," Leonard said. "I like the idea of bringing the polls to where the people are already going."

Generally, municipal polling stations are set up at municipal halls, schools and churches. "They're not places people would normally be going on a Saturday," Leonard said.

Leonard posted a newspaper article about the idea of mall polling stations on his Facebook page and said he got a lot of positive feedback.

Sooke councillor and former NDP MLA Rick Kasper also supported the idea.

"What's wrong with storefront polling? All you do is designate a polling station and have a rule: no [election] signs. What's wrong with that?" Kasper said.

"With the voting rate going down, you've got to find a way to get it up. Society is changing so maybe the processes should change to. It's time for government to catch up with the people," he said.

Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin is keen on getting more post-secondary students voting.

"But I'm not sure shopping malls is the answer," said Fortin, adding he'd like to see advance polling stations at Camosun College or at UVic - an idea discussed before, though none of the municipalities have followed through on it yet.

"It would be a great opportunity to try to encourage young people to vote. We know if they vote in their first or second opportunity then they'll establish a lifetime of voting and voter participation is really important to us," Fortin said.


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