14 communities sign up for Kootenay Voter Challenge (with Lucas Myers video)

The regional contest to increase voter turnout percentage has had some interesting side benefits, say organizers, including a great video.

Fourteen communities have joined the Community Voter Challenge. That’s the contest among Kootenay Boundary communities to see who can most raise their voter turnout percentage since the 2011 Federal Election.

“I think it is going amazingly well,” said Mike Chapman of Nelson, one of the organizers. “The whole process of doing this has instilled some enthusiasm and excitement about voting and the democratic process. I am so impressed with people’s response to this. People really get it. It serves us all so well.”

But there is still no response from CBC television performer Rick Mercer. The group has invited him to come and perform one of his rants in the winning community after the election. This was going to be the winner’s prize. The invitation took the form of a mock Mercer rant performed by Nelson actor Lucas Myers.

“It was a bit scary trying to be Rick Mercer,” Myers says. But I found enough graffiti and that got me into character. It is incredible that he does it in one take.”

The Civic Theatre in Nelson is showing the Myers-as-Mercer rant before each its evening movie screenings, and it’s getting lots of YouTube and social media play.

Kiara Lynch, another organizer of the challenge, says even if they don’t snag Mercer, it’s OK.

“Although it is supposed to be a competition, it is actually a massive regional collaboration,” she says. “What we are looking to do is boost voter turnout to number one  in the country.”

Some of the communities that joined the challenge are rural areas in the regional district. But their voter turnout in 2011 could not be calculated separately because of the way advance polls are counted during elections, so they have agreed to enter the challenge in partnership with a near-by town. The number following each participant community in the following list is the 2011 federal election voter turnout percentage that each community is trying to beat.

Slocan, 73

Kaslo and Area D, 70

Rossland, 69

New Denver, 67

Fernie, 64

Nelson and Areas E and F, 64

Nakusp, 62

Grand Forks, 62

Castlegar and Areas I and J, 61

Chapman says he is heartened by this collaboration between some of the communities.

“This spirit of willingness is really big for me,” he said.  “It has helped create a conversation, a public conversation and the voter challenge has had a lot to do with that.”

He said that spirit of conversation has been furthered by several libraries in the region holding voter registration evenings as part of the initiative.

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