Hand of a person casting a vote into the ballot box during elections. (File photo)

City seeks to boost municipal elections turnout

Terrace facing decline in voter participation

Faced with a decline in voter participation the City of Terrace hopes a ballot location on the Southside and a special ballot targeted at young people will boost participation in next month’s municipal elections.

That second location, at Cassie Hall Elementary on general voting day, Oct. 15, is in addition to what has been the only previous location at the Sportsplex.

In discussing declining voter turnout council decided that a Southside location would increase voting opportunities for residents from that section of the city.

Council hopes that a question on a ballot just for people under the voting age will encourage them to participate and, as a result, bring their parents or guardians with them to the ballot locations to vote.

That ballot will only be available at the two voting places on general election day of Oct. 15 and asks this youth this multiple choice question: In Terrace, what do you like the best?

It then provides the following choices:

Ferry Island

Splash Park

Pump Track

Aquatic Centre

Neighbourhood playgrounds

Advanced voting on Oct. 5 and Oct. 12, however, will only take place at the Sportsplex.

Voter turnout in the city sank to a historic low last spring when with just nine percent of eligible voters selected Dave Gordon to sit on council in a byelection to replace Jessica McCallum-Miller, who resigned earlier in 2021.

Even before that, voter turnout ranked far below provincial averages.

In the last full council election in 2018 just 17.8 per cent of the eligible electorate turned out — roughly half of the provincial average of 35.6 per cent.

Carol Leclerc was returned as mayor that year by acclamation leading to speculation that without a mayor’s race voters are less inclined to make a trip to the polls.

That may have been the situation in 2014 when there was a mayor’s race and Leclerc defeated contender Bruce Bidgood. In that election, the turnout was 30 per cent, just shy of the provincial turnout average of 34.5 per cent.

And 28.4 per cent voted in the 2011 mayoral contest, coming close to the provincial average of 30.6 per cent.

The one time in recent history that voter turnout in Terrace beat the B.C. average was for the 2008 mayoral race.

Incumbent councillors may also take some comfort in that in each election, the percentage of incumbents returned to office was higher than the provincial average.

Published voter turnout information for the Kitimat-Stikine regional district does not break out areas such as Thornhill and the rural area surrounding Terrace separately.

But overall voter turnout throughout the regional district in 2018, for example, was 14 per cent. The Thornhill and rural Terrace seats in 2014 were filled by acclamation.

Municipal electionmunicipal politics