Campaign aims to get voters out

NANAIMO – Elections B.C. provides information on how and when to vote in the May 14 election.

Elections B.C. is leaving no stone unturned when it comes to making sure eligible voters in the province are advised of their opportunities to participate in the May 14 general election.

In the 2009 election, 51 per cent of eligible voters went to the polls, and Don Main, communications manager for Elections B.C., said along with being  responsible for administering the Election Act among other things, the non-partisan office of the legislature is running a public awareness campaign on voting.

“One of the things we recognize, is yes, voter participation has been on the decline since the 1980s,” he said. “That’s not unique to B.C. or unique to Canada. That’s something that’s happening in Western democracies.”

To combat declining numbers, Elections B.C. has developed a multi-layered approach to its public awareness campaign, using the traditional newspaper, radio and television ads, but also online and through social media such as Twitter.

Close to two million notices were sent to residents around the province asking them to register or update their information, door-to-door campaigns hit areas with new subdivisions or new complexes, temporary voter registrations took place in shopping malls, community centres, post-secondary campuses and First Nation offices, and staff contacted long-term care facilities, homeless shelters and correctional facilities to advise people what their opportunities are to vote and what’s required of them to vote in the provincial election.

“We try to appeal to all British Columbians. We have a very diverse province,” said Main.

Another activity this year was a pilot project with Emily Carr University in Vancouver and a course called Designing for Democracy.

“We made more of a concerted effort in our registration activities and some of our advertising to do a more youthful focus,” said Main.

“Students would get together and try to come up with creative material that would appeal to youth.

“In 2009, there were 380,000 eligible voters between the ages of 18 and 24, and about 27 per cent of them showed up to vote.”

Main said it’s important to cut through the noise, as voting information isn’t the most exciting information.

“Each medium is different,” he said. “Our online banner is traditional, the newspaper ads are pretty straight forward with information people need to have and the radio ads have some humour. We’re trying to appeal to all ears and eyes to hear and see things differently.”

In a nutshell, Elections B.C. is removing the administrative barriers to voting.

“B.C. has the most accessible electoral process in Canada and that’s something we’re letting people know is available to them,” said Main. “We’re letting people know in this campaign they have four weeks to vote. We know through surveys before and after the 2009 general election people said they were too busy to vote, but general voting day is not the only day people can vote.

“They can vote at advanced voting, they can vote by mail, and they can vote at any advanced or general voting location in the province.”

For more information, please go to www.elections.bc.ca or call 1-800-661-8693.

How you can vote

Vote by mail – You can ask for a vote by mail package from your district electoral office or through the Elections B.C. website, www.elections.bc.ca.

Vote at advance voting – Voters can vote at any advance voting location in the province from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, (May 8-11). All advance voting locations are wheelchair accessible.

Vote on general voting day – Voters can vote at any general voting location in the province from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. May 14. 2013.

All voters must prove their identity and residential address in order to receive a ballot or to register when they go to vote.