City administration is asking council to consider bringing voting stations “closer to the people” — including at shopping malls and TRU — in time for the next civic election in 2014.
The turnout in the 2011 civic election here was slightly less than 30 per cent, about the same as the provincial average.
Community and corporate affairs director Len Hrycan said Friday administration has done a post-mortem on last year’s civic election, including research on other municipalities.
“It always seems to be a challenge to get more people to the polls to participate,” Hyrcan said.
As part of the review, Kelowna’s use of new polling station locations in an attempt to increase voter participation was discovered.
Kelowna saw a 33 per cent voter turnout, in large part due to a highly contested race that saw veteran Walter Gray returned. But Hrycan said election officials in the Okanagan city were also pleased with a large turnout at a local mall, a first-time experience there.
With that in mind, administration is asking council to mull the idea of placing polling stations at Aberdeen and Northills Mall, as well as Thompson Rivers University and Heritage House.
To save costs, it is recommending polling stations be shut at Stuart Wood, Dufferin, Heffley Creek, Marion Schilling, Arthur Hatton and Westsyde elementary schools as well as the Twin Rivers education centre.
Those school locations either present access difficulties, were sparsely attended in last year’s election or have other polling stations nearby.
The information is being presented for information only. Councillors are not being asked to make any decisions because the next municipal election is more than two years away.
Coun. Pat Wallace applauded the idea to move polling stations for better access. She said, for many, voting day is a social occasion. Hosting polls at malls could also give a small boost to merchants.
“I’d applaud going to large, open spaces where there’s parking and bus routes.”
The report also recommends setting up an advance poll at Thompson Rivers University. An election day poll is not being considered because civic elections are on Saturdays, when the campus is largely empty.
Kelowna set up polls at Okanagan College and the University of B.C. Okanagan campus in the civic election but the report said results were disappointing.