Civic Election – Voting Strategy

Tri-Cities Civic Election 2011 Voting Strategy

The slates are set, the candidates are holding fundraisers and knocking on doors, all-candidates meetings are being held, and things are heating up as we head into civic elections on November 19. Over on we’re working hard to get candidates’ info entered, and we’re hoping to launch our voter cheat sheet early next week. The idea behind the cheat sheet is that you can easily select and print out a list of the candidates you’d like to vote for.

Civic elections can be pretty confusing. Depending on the municipality voters will be electing one mayor, between four and eight councillors, and between one and four school trustees. On top of that, there may be referendum questions to consider. Compared to a federal or provincial election, that’s a lot of voting. That’s why I, personally, have found that writing out my choices on a sheet of paper that I can carry with me is helpful, and it’s why we decided to create the cheat sheet tool (which does not, in any way, record your selections – your privacy and anonymity are guaranteed!).

There’s something important that I wanted to touch on, though, and it’s this: you do not need to vote for the maximum number of candidates in any race. Let’s say, for example, that you live in Coquitlam. You may vote for up to four school trustees and up to eight councillors. This means that you can actually decide to vote for only one candidate, if only one person really has your support. Just because you can vote for eight people, doesn’t necessarily mean that you should vote for eight people.

Many people – myself included – find that there are a few candidates that really resonate with them. What ends up happening is we confidently vote for the three or four people that we really like, and then we fill up the rest of our ballot with candidates that we think are probably okay. I’ve done this in the past, for sure. Or else we end up not voting, because we feel like trying to find eight people to vote for is just too hard. You don’t need me to tell you why not voting isn’t the best idea. But why wouldn’t you cast the maximum number of votes that you can?

In civic elections, what happens is the total number of votes for each council candidate are counted, and then the top four, six or eight are elected to council. Your vote for your seventh or eighth choice candidate carries just as much weight as your vote for your first or second choice. In effect, every vote that you cast for candidates that you don’t have full confidence in acts as a vote against those candidates that you do have full confidence in. And in civic elections, margins are razor thin. In Coquitlam in 2008, Doug MacDonnell beat Neal Nicholson for the final seat on council by less than 300 votes. In Port Coquitlam in the same year Glenn Pollock beat Darin Nielsen by less than 200 votes for the final seat on council.

If a candidate is everyone’s sixth choice, that candidate ends up with a lot of votes in an election. Name recognition ends up playing a big role, because when you’re looking for someone to vote for you’re most likely to choose someone whose name you recognize. But name recognition does not necessarily equal good governance. This is how certain candidates end up being elected time and time again, in spite of the fact that very few people actually agree with their actions on council. Because people recognize their name they get a lot of votes, in spite of their poor performance.

If you find that you have enough confidence in enough candidates to cast the maximum number of votes, that’s great. But if you don’t have that confidence, there is no reason that you need to vote for every possible councillor or school trustee that you can. Choose the ones who resonate with you, and who you trust will represent your views well on council. Not only will it make voting day easier on you, it will help to ensure that we have local government we can be truly proud of.

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  1. Although I knew that its a tough call for me in terms of winning but yesterday it was solidified, I was told that only those who are endorsed by special interest groups wins and my challenge is basically with endorsement. All 4 incumbent Trustees are endorsed so where do I stand? nowhere. There are only 4 seats for Trustees in Coquitlam, so I am the only lone challenger.

    Why endorsement matters and why it is the deciding factor as to who comes and who don’t in the office? Because general public do not exercise their rights to vote. Voters do not go out and vote. Special interest groups therefore gets the upper hand because of their innumerable number of members. So those candidates or elected public servants who serve the purpose of such groups instead of the community, and once in office, votes for their issues instead of whats best for the community remains in the office and those who don’t, are not elected or re-elected.

    So I have only a slim chance to win. Shall I then give up? It hurts but NO I will not give up. There has to be a definitive purpose for my all these drills of election, I must win or else democracy is there only by name. It has already crumbled in the third world countries, imagine if it really crumbles here too what will we be left with in this world?…. Humera Ahsanullah

    • Thank you so much, Humera, for sharing your thoughts.

      This underscores why we all need to get out and vote. Even if there’s only one candidate that you truly believe in, casting your vote for that candidate can make a world of difference. We all need to make our voices heard!