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Political talk may be cheap

Political talk may be cheap

election is shaping up as the most expensive in history, with the chief electoral officer Keith Archer budgeting an almost 20 per cent jump over the cost of the 2013 provincial vote.

The independent watchdog on voting went before the legislature finance committee earlier this month with an estimate of $44.5 million over three years for staging election 2017, up from $37.8 million last time.

He cited a half dozen reasons large and small for the escalation, from soaring rents for district offices, to a 27 per cent spike in the cost of mailing out some 3.2 million where to vote cards, to the advance printing and warehousing of 150 tonnes of paperwork, to the purchase of 2,000 laptops to manage voter lists at individual polling places. staff several hundred advance voting stations for six full days, up from four in the last campaign.

In the effort to accommodate the growing number who prefer the convenience of casting ballots before election day, Archer noted that advance polls for the provincial election will be open more than twice as long 72 hours versus 32 than in last year’s federal election.

The high numbers do not reflect the all in cost of getting the province through the four year electoral cycle. The chief electoral officer spends a further $9.5 million per year on routine activities.

Archer budgeted $6.9 million over two years on enumeration in adding another 100,000 newcomers to the voters list. spent $1.6 million redrawing the 85 seat electoral map to accommodate population growth and add two more seats to the legislature.

The latter exercise has drawn complaints about the slow progress in delivering the final set of boundaries on a neighbourhood by neighbourhood and street by street basis. Liberals say they have been forced to hold back some nomination contests because they still don’t know in which riding some of their local members are residing.

If it turned out that a member voted for a would be nominee in a riding where he or she no longer lives, the result might have to be thrown out and the contest restaged. maintains that the process is on track with what happened with the last major redistribution before the 2009 election.

Draft boundaries for the then 85 constituencies were published in mid December 2008 and final maps were not out until Feb. 12 of election year, three months before voting day. This time maps for the 87 constituencies are already on the website and the smaller scale boundaries for several thousand individual polling divisions are scheduled to be delivered Dec. 1.

One switch that raised questions from several MLAs on the finance committee was Archer decision to increase the number of eligible voters assigned to individual polling divisions from 400 to as many as 600 in suburban ridings and 700 in the urban centres.

Will that not lead to longer lineups and greater frustration at polling stations?, asked MLAs from both sides on the all party committee.

Archer said it won because the increase was crafted to offset overstaffing in the face of declining turnout on election day. The 400 voters per division standard was established in the days of 75 per cent turnout when almost everyone who voted cast ballots at his or her assigned polling station on election day.

Today, with more advanced and absentee voting and less turnout overall, the actual number of votes being cast per polling division on election day is in the 170 range. By boosting the number of eligible names on the list, Archer is aiming to restore the traffic per polling division to what it was in the days of 75 per cent turnout. is adding to the list, the key consideration is whether they, no less than all too many of their fellow British Columbians, will get out to vote.

The chief electoral officer hopes the boost in advance polling coupled with a major advertising blitz will turn out the vote at better than the 57 per cent recorded in the last election, itself a two point improvement on the previous campaign.

“Our plan is to target our efforts on young people, who have been shown to have much lower levels of voter registration than other British Columbians, and to encourage them to register as soon as possible once they become eligible to vote,” he told the committee.

“We expect to work with a number of partners, such as CIVIX, which is the group that develops and offers the student vote program in the Democracy Bootcamp to strengthen our efforts in this regard.”

He did not mention that the Liberals have yet to act on his now two year old recommendation to begin registering young people at age 16, so they would be on the list and ready to vote when they turn 18.

Perhaps, with an election approaching, he did not want to engage partisan sensitivities on either side of the committee. epaper, Digital Access, Subscriber Rewards), please input your Print Newspaper subscription phone number and postal code.

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