Less than 40% of eligible voters in Calgary voted in the last municipal election in 2013. Previous to that in 2010, voter turnout was 53%, due mostly to no incumbent mayor. In 2004, Calgary set a western Canada municipal record for low voter turnout at 19%. Calgary’s average voter turnout is about 36%.
This means that the mayor of Calgary has never had the votes of more than 28% of eligible voters since 1995, and in the last election only 20% of eligible voters voted for him.
I support the City of Calgary’s initiative to increase voter turnout, which among other things waives city transit fees on election day (October 16, 2017) and increases access to candidate information. However, I don’t think this goes far enough.
I believe the City of Calgary should implement, among other steps, Multi-Constituency Voting Booths for certain specific areas, such as post secondary schools, drop-in centres, major shopping malls, and the downtown core.
Normally, in order to vote, one must go to the designated voting area in your ward. This is great if you happen to be in your ward at the time, but not very helpful if you attend university or work downtown. Due to the high volume of riders on election day (especially with free city transit!) it’s expected that many people will either not have the time to, or not bother to, vote. For 2017, the City of Calgary allows multi-constituency voting booths only at advance polls, and will have an advanced poll at each of the three major post secondary institutions. This is an improvement, but I would like to see a full implementation. There are 166 voting subdivisions and you can currently only vote for the one assigned to your residence on election day. That’s way more complicated than it needs to be.
I support the concept of online voting in principle, but I think we should perfect physical multi-constituency voting areas first. Since online voting is multi-constituency, this will allow us to “work out the bugs” first. As someone with a strong internet technology and software development background, I’m well aware of how much can go wrong if online voting is not rolled out carefully. I’d recommend rolling out computerized voting for advance polls first, so we have the ability to carefully monitor them.
How does it work?
Simple. You go to a nearby voting area, identify yourself and your ward, then go vote. From a voter perspective, it’s exactly the same as all other voting areas.
From the returning officer perspective, instead of just having the voter ballots for one ward, they just need to have the voting ballots and voter lists for all the wards instead of one. However, they won’t need as many ballots for each ward. I think a print on demand option would be perfect for these ballots.