In general terms, populations and their opinions are comparatively static. From one election to the next, you can predict the outcome plus or minus a few percentage points. External factors usually change the status quo. Economics, scandal and the like can nudge those percentage points around to change a politician's fortunes. Another way to change the election math is to put bigger numbers into the formula. New people get representation. New viewpoints come into the mix. Do you know how a mayor gets elected in Victoria? An outgoing mayor endorses a new contender. For 20 years, one man has been tossing the keys to another man on the way out the door. That's what our election math does give us: the status quo as though the voters don't even need to turn up.
I am part of the Vote Pledge. Vote Pledge was set up at the beginning of this year to create more voter engagement and drive more voters to the polls election day, this November 15th. It was initiated by Lisa Helps city councilor for Victoria and mayoral candidate for this election. Some have seen the idea of launching Vote Pledge as a self-serving tactics by somebody hoping to be elected mayor. I would say all players who have an interest in voter engagement are partisan to some degree. There are plenty of people in the political process who would wish that the election math does not change because the election math serves their ability to stay in office. In some cases, these long time councilors hang on by a few hundred votes. I am willing to admit that I have a partisan goal in Vote Pledge. I want to see the status quo shaken up. That goes top to bottom. I want to see the current mayor out of office. And I want to see veteran players in Council given a chance to be replaced by new voices. The role of mayor in Victoria is that of gatekeeper. It's time that gets changed up.
How do you get new voters to show up? You motivate them. You find some compelling reasons why participation is important and you drive that point home. Also you find the more mundane reasons why people are not voting. Some people simply are not voting because come election day they're busy they're out of town otherwise engaged or they just plain forget. The vote pledge movement plans to get the word out to as many people as possible that the election is coming this November 15th. Many people do not vote because they're not aware of the issues or the candidates but we can change that if we get the word out. You want to get people to become familiar with the issues and familiar with the candidates. The best reason I can think of to get the vote out is that more participants means that we get closer to representing the entirety of the population in the polls. Imagine if 100 percent of the people showed up and voted and what that would look like to represent the will of the people right now. In Victoria, 23 percent of the people show up to vote. The rest of the people mute themselves.
What can you do increase voter engagement? You can join us and take the pledge to show that this movement can grow. If it can grow, the validity can snowball. You can be one of our Twitter followers. You can ask declared candidates what they are doing to improve voter engagement. If the Vote Pledge movement launched by a declared mayoralty candidate rubs you the wrong way, go to the source. The City of Victoria administers the election. Talk to its election officer, Rob Woodland (firstname.lastname@example.org 250.361.0203), and ask what he is doing to drive up voter engagement. Contact the city's head of communication, Katie Hamilton (email@example.com 250.361.0210) and ask how the city intends to better get the word out about the coming election. They really put out a lot of material for the Johnson St. Bridge referendum. With a full election coming can they pledge to go even further? Take on a DIY approach. Blog about the issues and the candidates on your blog. Bernard von Sculman was one of the few people to blog about the candidates in the last election. Shout from your soapbox about issues. Engage with candidates in social media. Ask @lisahelps or @deanfortin about their views.
You can change the election math.
Photos courtesy of Cheryl DeWolfe
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