Voter turnout in Lillooet in the Oct. 20 election was 47.5 per cent.
In nearby communities, the turnout was better (Cache Creek at 60 per cent, Ashcroft at 56 per cent) or the same (Merritt at 47 per cent) or worse (Whistler at 32.4 per cent and Kamloops at an embarrassing 30 per cent).
Overall turnout in B.C. shows a measly 36 per cent of eligible voters bothered to cast a ballot.
So what excuse do Lillooet’s non-voters have this time? Bad weather? Absolutely not. It was a gorgeous autumn day. Long lineups? Didn’t see any of those. People didn’t know there was an election? You would have to be willfully ignorant not to see the coverage in this paper or read the online chatter or find a brochure in your post office box or spot all those hillsides and parking lots suddenly sprouting colourful election signs.
Some people – more than half of Lillooet’s eligible voters – apparently just don’t give a damn. Even though municipal government is the level of government that will have the greatest effect on how we go about our daily lives.
We find this apathy particularly disturbing since Remembrance Day is only days away; we will be remembering men and women who sacrificed their lives on foreign soil so that citizens today and in the future have the right to vote.
What’s the solution? Compulsory voting? In Australian federal elections, even a modest fine of $20 for non-compliance is enough to boost voter turnout to more than 90 per cent. How about online voting that might at least bring out a younger demographic? Maybe it’s time for the provincial government to take a serious look at these and other options.
One thing we know for sure – those 52.5 per cent of eligible voters who couldn’t be bothered to go to the polls have no right to complain when municipal council or the board of education makes a decision they don’t like.