So when we take a few thousand votes and start dividing them 13 ways, we can expect that there could be slim margins at the ballot box. (The News Bulletin)

Editorial: Byelection one to watch

A few thousand votes divided 13 ways could mean slim margins at the ballot box

A citizens’ group called OurNanaimo is promising to look closely at this summer’s city council byelection. There will be a lot of different places to look.

Thirteen candidates have been declared in the race for one available seat on city council, vacated by Wendy Pratt’s resignation earlier this spring.

The News Bulletin spoke last week to a political science professor at Vancouver Island University, Alexander Netherton, who said he was wowed to see so many candidates put their names forward.

A high number of candidates will mean a lower number of votes is needed for any particular candidate to win, he said. It’s an obvious statement, but it’s still worth pointing out because it does add a different element of competition to the byelection.

Civic elections get lamentable voter turnout and if the last byelection in Nanaimo is any indication, there might not be a lot of ballots cast this time around. In the 2011 city council byelection, only 6,323 votes were cast, representing 10.1 per cent of eligible voters.

So when we take a few thousand votes and start dividing them 13 ways, we can expect that there could be slim margins at the ballot box. There’s a possibility that a candidate doesn’t necessarily need to have widespread appeal if he or she can do enough to motivate a base of support. It will be interesting to see how the candidates attempt to differentiate themselves and their messaging in such a crowded field.

There’s a useful comparison to our coming byelection that took place quite recently in Canadian politics. The Conservative Party held its leadership election a week and a half ago with 14 contenders at the end of the campaign. That vote saw a ranked ballot and there were 13 rounds of runoffs before Andrew Scheer had collected just enough support to win leadership.

He had to coalesce support, whereas our City of Nanaimo byelection could be a little more of a free-for-all. The candidates could pull the campaign in a lot of different ways, and we hope the common theme is that they intend to pull Nanaimo together and forward.