Errington/Coombs had the lowest voter turnout in the mid-Island area where a meager 12.7 per cent of the electorate took advantage of their democratic right to vote.
Out of 5,343 eligible voters, only 675 made it to the polls earlier this month for municipal elections.
Meanwhile, Qualicum Beach had one of the highest voter turn-outs in the province with 60 per cent of their 7,562 eligible voters taking to the polls (4,552). Parksville’s voter turn out was 35.2 per cent, Nanoose Bay came in at 28.4 per cent and Deep Bay/Bowser managed 26.5 per cent.
This means Errington/Coombs had less than half the voter turn out of neighbouring communities — and one-fifth the results of Qualicum Beach.
Civic Information B.C. executive director Todd Pugh said Fort St. John was the municipality with the lowest voter turn out in the province at 15.2 per cent, with official results for regional districts (like Errington/Coombs) not available by press time Monday. Pugh could not confirm if Errington/Coombs had the lowest voter turnout for a regional district in the province.
Regional District of Nanaimo legislative co-ordinator Matt O’Halloran said “what is on the ballot” makes the biggest difference in an election — citing candidates and referendums as factors predicting voter turn out numbers.
“The number of candidates (running in an election) can have an impact on voter turn out,” explained O’Halloran, RDN deputy chief election officer for the 2014 municipal election.
O’Halloran said in 2011 Coombs/Errington had four candidates running for office and saw an 18 per cent voter turn out, however, in the recent election just two candidates put their name forward and the turn out number dropped five per cent.
“I would point to that as being a factor that has made a difference consistently in the past especially in RDN elections,” he said.
Moreover, O’Halloran said whether or not a referendum question is on the ballot has an impact on voter turn out.
He pointed to Nanoose Bay and Deep Bay/Bowser, both of whom had referendums and much higher turn outs.
“With referendums more people are talking about more things that are happening in the election, on the ballot and by the same token you have more special interest groups going out to the public,” he said. “You see a lot more dialog.”
A 2010 study called Who Heads to the Polls? conducted by B.C. Stats found key characteristics predicting a higher voter turn out include neighborhoods with: a higher median income, a larger proportion of older individuals and a greater proportion of university educated citizens.
The study found neighborhoods with lower voter turn outs had higher proportions of individuals moving into the neighborhood from other parts of B.C. or Canada, a higher unemployment rate and a larger fraction of the population not in the workforce with children at home.
Additionally, the research suggests “the more competitive the campaign race in an electoral district, the higher the voter turnout for the neighborhoods falling within that electoral district.”
Qualicum Beach election officer Heather Svenson said the 60 per cent voter turnout was nothing out of the ordinary based on the town’s history of political engagement.
“I think it’s because of our (the town’s) community involvement,” Svenson offered. “We’re an engaged community given our demographic, we have lots of retired professionals who tend to be more eager to be involved, even our council meetings have anywhere from 20 to 40 people attending where most municipalities only have one or two — that shows community involvement.”