Did you vote in the last municipal election? If not, does the following sound familiar?
"Demographically the non-voter is more transient, more likely to have a low income, more likely to speak a first language other than English, more likely to lack higher education, more likely to be young, and less likely to be connected to social networks in his or her community."
Or, how about this?
"Some non-voters choose not to vote in municipal elections because, rationally, the cost (or amount of work it takes to be informed and to vote) is too high and does not make sense. To these people, the benefits (let alone the ramifications) of voting or not voting are often unknown."
Both passages are how a new report by the Vancouver-based Columbia Institute attempts to describe people who don't exercise their right to vote in "complicated" municipal elections.
After all, voter turnout is less than 30 percent in most B.C. municipalities, as the April report, authored by Norman Gludovatz, notes. In 2011, voter turnout was 34.6 percent in Vancouver and 25.2 percent in Surrey.
How to change this? Well, the report is titled Getting the Majority to Vote: Practical Solutions to Re-engage Citizens in Local Elections, so it offers several ideas.
One of these suggested solutions is pre-registration of high school students.
Another solution is to create incentives to vote, such as automatically entering voters in a lottery. (In Evenes, Norway, the prize was a travel voucher, and it resulted in an almost 10 percent increase in turnout.)
"While a lottery may seem to some like an attention grab, it is a real-world solution that has been proven to work. There are no prohibitions against municipal governments’ advertising and encouraging citizens to vote; many municipalities already do so come election time. But people are more likely to get excited and to cast their first ballot if advertising and promotion inspire the imagination and go beyond simply providing information," the report says.
The report also recommends municipalities increase "positive cues" about elections by "recruiting local celebrities and the media to speak positively about voting".
Secure electronic voting and more advanced voting opportunities, and more research on non-voters are other ideas floated by the report.
"There are many reasons why fewer and fewer are voting in municipal elections, but we do not need to accept that this decline is inevitable and permanent. There are beacons of light and practical solutions that have re-inspired and re-engaged people, and can continue to do so," the report concludes.