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Vancouver voters wooed with new polling rules

Municipal voters will be able to cast their ballots at the Vancouver Art Gallery this November.

Andy Clark/Reuters

The City of Vancouver is trying to increase turnout in this November's municipal election by offering voting in malls and at the Vancouver Art Gallery, and making the vote nine days long.

At a news conference Wednesday, the city's chief election officer said the 35-per-cent turnout for the 2011 election falls short of a reasonable level of voter participation even though it was a four-percentage-point increase from 2008.

"That's about a third of the eligible voting population that are selecting the decision makers," Janice MacKenzie told reporters, noting that decisions made by those elected affect services such as drinking water, garbage pickup, fire and police protection.

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Across the province, the average municipal election turnout in 2011 was 29.55 per cent

"Ideally, you would want to see a majority of the people out to vote," said Ms. MacKenzie.

But at the least, the city is aiming for a four-percentage-point increase with this looming election.

Voters will be able to cast ballots at any of the 120 voting locations on Nov. 15 instead of one designated location. Advance voting will be an option for the eight days ahead of the election at eight locations in the city.

For the first time, voting will be allowed in malls – notably the Oakridge Centre and the downtown International Village Mall. Voting will also be allowed at the Vancouver Art Gallery.

"We want to give people flexibility around voting," said Ms. MacKenzie.

During advance voting, staff will be testing several aids for the disabled including sip-and-puff devices for those with mobility issues, and an audio system with headphones to provide ballot information.

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Over all, the city is spending $300,000 on the new measures out of a $2.1-million budget to elect a mayor, 10 city councillors, seven park-board commissioners and nine school-board trustees for four-year terms.

Mary Clare Zak, managing social-policy director for the city, said the goal is a minimum 60-per-cent turnout within the next decade – something she said could be achieved this year if everyone who voted last time brought a new voter to cast a ballot.

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About the Author
B.C. reporter

Ian Bailey is a Vancouver-based reporter for The Globe and Mail.  He covers politics and general news. Prior to arriving at The Globe and Mail, he reported from Toronto and St. John’s for The Canadian Press.  He has also covered British Columbia for CP, The National Post and The Province. More

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