City of Vancouver to expand advance voting for 2014 civic election

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      Vancouver voters will have nine days to cast their ballot in this year’s civic election, including eight full days of advance voting.

      The step was among a series of measures announced today (June 25) by the city’s chief election officer, Janice MacKenzie.

      At a news conference at city hall, MacKenzie said the options for this year’s election are designed to give people flexibility in voting.

      “We want to make the locations as accessible and as convenient as possible,” MacKenzie told reporters. “We want to make casting a ballot as quick and as easy as possible.”

      Some of the other measures for the 2014 election, which will take place on Saturday, November 15, include allowing voters to cast their ballot at any of the 120 voting stations throughout the city on election day.

      Locations for those voting stations will include high-traffic areas such as the Vancouver Art Gallery, the Carnegie Centre, Oakridge Mall, International Village Mall, some post-secondary institutions, and community centres.

      “Election day is on Saturday, so the thinking is that reach out to where people are undertaking activities, whether it be shopping or what have you, but try to remove as many barriers as possible to enable citizens to get out and vote,” said MacKenzie.

      The city will also make new aids available to help people with disabilities vote, including an audio system that can read the ballot to voters, and a magnification device to enlarge the print.

      Vancouver residents can vote in advance polls from November 4 to November 12 (excluding November 11). Eight different locations will be open between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.

      The city hopes that expanding the options for casting a ballot will lead to an increase in voter turnout this year. In the last municipal election in 2011, just 35 percent of eligible voters participated in the election.

      By 2025, the city is aiming to increase voter turnout to “a minimum of 60 percent”, according to Mary Clare Zak, the city’s managing director of social policy.

      “We think this goal of having a 60 percent turnout by 2025 is certainly doable,” she said.

      “If everyone who voted brought someone to the polls with them that didn’t vote the last time, we would meet our 2025 target in November.”

      This year, Vancouver voters will be electing city council, school board and park board to four-year terms, following new provincial legislation introduced this year that extended the terms from three years for B.C. cities.

      Nominations for candidates in the muncipal election will open on September 30 and close on October 10.

      The operating budget of the 2014 election is $2.1 million. The city will be spending an additional $600,000 this year, including the cost of vote tabulating machines, and about $300,000 to enable residents to cast their ballots at any voting station.