An app-t response to low voter turnout

By PHYLICIA TORREVILLAS

27 October 2011 05:01

PHYLICIA TORREVILLAS/METRO

Vancouver’s chief election officer Janice MacKenzie unveils Thursday at city hall the new voter-engagement initiatives, which looks to increase voter turnout for the Nov. 19 civic election.

Need information on how and where to vote in the upcoming civic election? There’s an app for that.

Vancouver’s chief electoral officer Janie MacKenzie launched Thursday an array of voter-engagement initiatives they hope will appeal to younger voters and new Canadians.

Advanced voting days have been doubled from four to eight ahead of the Nov. 19 civic election and voters can download an iPhone app called Vancouver Votes, which features information on voter eligibility, when and where to vote, candidate names, a tool to see if you’re on the voters list and a civic quiz.

“In 2008, voter turnout at the Vancouver civic election was 31 per cent,” MacKenzie said. “This is the lowest it’s been in 50 years.”

“With this app and other social media such as Facebook and Twitter, we are reaching out to our younger voters – those 18 to 35,” she added. “We want to engage them in a conversation about the role and importance of voting and the role of local government.”

She hopes these new initiatives will help boost the downward trend in voter turnout all levels of government have been experiencing in the last 50 years.

The B.C. provincial elections in 2009 saw a 51 per cent voter turnout, down from 70 percent in 1983. MacKenzie added Vancouver civic elections usually stay in the 31-35 per cent range.

“We want to make it as easy as possible for people to vote in the election,” she said, adding people can call 311 to obtain voting information that is available in 180 languages.

They have also translated the Capital Plan borrowing questions to Chinese and Punjabi, she said.

“(In 2008) less than 20 per cent of the eligible voters actually cast their vote on the capital borrowing questions,” she said, adding the vote gives city council the authority to borrow $180 million for capital projects such as bridge maintenance and upgrading affordable housing.

Election results will be posted around 8:30 p.m. on Nov. 19 at vancouver.ca, which will refresh every five minutes. 

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