Voter Turnout for B.C. Election Remains Disappointing

At 57 per cent, we have to ask ourselves what’s going wrong
Alyssa Laube, Associate Editor

(bahai.us/flickr)

This year’s provincial election was a hot one. Some citizens called for the ousting of Premier Christy Clark while others fought to keep her at the head of the B.C. government. The Green Party enjoyed its biggest following yet, and the New Democratic Party found itself neck-and-neck with the Liberals at the polls.

But it’s not just the people in power that drew interest in 2017—it’s the issues we’re facing. Each of the three major parties used their platforms to address health care, education, environmental sustainability, and how to improve the economy. Many of these subjects evoke a sense of urgency in those looking for solutions.

Despite this, voter turnout on May 9 was a disappointing 57.24 per cent. This number, however, is larger than the 55.32 per cent that the province saw in 2013 and sits rather comfortably between the highest and lowest estimates for turnout: 56.94 and 57.46 per cent.

Oddly, advance voter turnout—the number of voters who cast their ballots before May 9—was almost double what it was in 2013. While a staggering number of registered voters in B.C. voted in advance, generally speaking it didn’t significantly raise the total number of British Columbians who made it to the polls.

These numbers could be distorted. Absentee ballots have not been counted, and recounts are likely in several swing ridings. A more likely culprit behind the low turnout is what’s hindered political action for as long as I can remember: frustration and apathy.

There was a simmering sense of hopelessness in voting against the Liberals. While I always knew I would vote either Green or NDP, I also understood that many others in my province don’t share with me the fear of environmental destruction and growing income inequality. Keeping the economy safe for the middle-upper and elite class is what makes the Liberals strong, and people afraid of losing their jobs and livelihoods will vote them in to maintain their quality of life. Certainly people of all ages, identities, and mindsets could vote for any of the three parties for their own reasons. However, as a young voter petrified by the notion of continuing to travel the path we’re on in B.C., the possibility of losing a progressive House of Commons is disheartening, as is the thought that my voting demographic will likely be overwhelmed by the demographic that almost always votes Liberal.

I hardly made it out to cast my ballot on May 9. It took over an hour of convincing myself that my vote really would matter, and that I could make change rather than having my voice swallowed up by Liberal support base. Figuring out whether or not to vote strategically or from the heart was exhausting, and the amount of research I had to do to feel comfortable with my decision was enormous. Fortunately for me, I was a 10 minute walk from a voting place, but I’m sure there were many others who didn’t couldn’t afford to spend considerable time or resources to cast a ballot.

From that perspective, I can see why people stay home on voting day, but I cannot support it. Apathy is always an excuse. It’s just not a good one.

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