Rossland wins federal voter challenge

Voter turnouts in participating communities were higher than the national average.

From left: Rossland city councillor Andy Morel

The results are finally in. Remember the Community Voter Challenge from the federal election in October? The winner is Rossland, which increased its voter turnout by 12.7 per cent over the 2011 election, beating out eight other competing Kootenay communities.

Rossland Mayor Kathy Moore received the award from organizers Mike Chapman and Kiara Lynch, and Nelson mayor Deb Kozak, at a Nelson city council meeting on Monday. Nelson city council sponsored the competition.

“This was a terrific made-in-the-Kootenays enterprise,” Moore said. “It should be done in the whole country. It was fun, I had no inkling that Rossland would win because I knew we had high turnout before, so this is wonderful. Yay civic activity!”

Why has it taken so long to get the results? Because Elections Canada did not release community-by-community voter numbers until last week, according to Chapman.

“I have been phoning them every two weeks since the election,” he told the Star. “It was frustrating. I really don’t understand, in this in the age of computerization, why this was not available sooner.”

The runner-up voter increase percentages were Nakusp, 12.2 per cent; New Denver, 11.6 per cent; Castlegar and rural areas I and J, 11.5 per cent; Fernie, 11.1 per cent; Nelson and rural areas E and F, 10.9 per cent; Slocan, 10.8 per cent; Grand Forks, 9.2 per cent; and Kaslo and rural area D, 7.2 per cent.

Lynch and Chapman emphasized the award was not for the highest voter turnout, but rather the greatest increase in voter turnout over the 2011 election. They pointed out that some areas may not have shown well in the rankings because if they already had a high turnout in 2011, the increase was smaller.

But they noticed one very high overall voter turnout number that they could not ignore.

“We decided to give a runner-up award to Slocan because of its extraordinarily high voter turnout of 84 per cent.”

Slocan Mayor Jessica Lunn was at the council meeting to receive the award.

“Thank you for bringing the people out,” she said to the organizers. “We had a pretty high turnout at the last election, 76 per cent, so were not sure we could increase that.”

From left: voter challenge organizer Kiara Lynch, Nelson mayor Deb Kozak, Slocan mayor Jessica Lunn, and voter challenge organizer Mike Chapman. Mayor Lunn accepted an award for Slocan’s 84 per cent voter turnout.

The overall voter turnout in the competing communities was higher than the national, provincial, or local riding averages.

Nationally, the 2015 voter turnout was 68 per cent, in BC it was 70 per cent, and in the Kootenay Columbia and South Okanagan-West Kootenay ridings, 73 per cent.

Chapman pointed out that eight of the nine competing Kootenay communities had voter turnouts higher than any of those. Following Slocan’s 84 per cent were Rossland, 81 per cent; New Denver, 78 per cent; Kaslo and rural area D, 77 per cent; Nelson and rural areas E and F, 75 per cent; Fernie, 75 per cent; Nakusp, 74 per cent; Castlegar and rural areas I and J, 73 per cent; and Grant Forks, 71 per cent.

Despite their frustration at having to wait so long for Elections Canada to supply them with the required information. Chapman and Lynch seemed pleased and proud.

“If there is a word for it, it is ‘celebratory,’” Chapman said. “We took it as an opportunity to engage people in the election and it worked. We set out to instill some enthusiasm and excitement and it worked. We are delighted.”

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