(Sarah Simpson/Citizen)

(Sarah Simpson/Citizen)

Editorial: Dismal voter turnout for municipal elections

We get the opportunity to shape our own future

Decisions are made by those who show up.

In the democracy we are very privileged to have, we just wish more people would show up when it comes to voting.

Municipal election turnout is almost always low, so it wasn’t exactly a surprise, but it was nevertheless still disappointing to see the numbers for elections held in the Cowichan Valley this month.

On the ballot was choosing our mayors, councils, regional district board directors, school board and a referendum on recreation funding.

One would think that people would care about at least one of those things. These are the institutions that affect our daily lives, after all. Large numbers of candidates in many areas cared enough to put themselves forward to serve their communities, for which they deserve praise.

But the stats paint a dismal picture of non-participation.

In the City of Duncan, where there was no mayoral race, but nine running for a council of six, turnout was just 22.4 per cent of registered voters.

In the Town of Lake Cowichan, where residents were electing a mayor and four councillors, turnout was 33.8 per cent of estimated eligible voters.

In the Municipality of North Cowichan where there were a whopping 15 candidates for council and three for mayor, and a number of contentious issues, turnout was still only 32.5 per cent of registered voters.

In the Cowichan Valley Regional District as a whole, 34.8 per cent of estimated eligible voters cast a ballot in seven races.

Adjusted totals for the regional recreation funding referendum show 9,345 votes for and 8,009 against — a close call that could have gone differently if more people had voted.

We get it, it can be a bit mind-boggling to vote municipally. How do you find out about 15 candidates and who has the time? (Though in this, we are lucky. In larger centres there can be upwards of 50 candidates running for councils.)

That’s our responsibility as voters in a democracy. We get the opportunity to shape our own future, which is a pretty amazing freedom that many around the world can only dream of. It’s a cornerstone of our society, and it’s not too much to ask every few years that we stretch ourselves and put some of our precious time into finding out about the people who want to lead us and then get out and vote.

To those who were voted in: congratulations. But remember as you make decisions that you must strive to serve the whole community, most of whom didn’t vote. That’s the responsibility of power.


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