Letter to the editor – The counting of votes in Penticton municipal elections

Statistics say that Penticton voters no longer care who runs their city. In 1990 there were 16,657 eligible electors. 48.83% voted. In 1993 42.93% of 17,600 voters voted. No percentage was available for 1996.

Limited stats for 1999 the first year vote tabulating machines were used in Penticton show 17,819 eligible voters. The 9019 votes for the mayor indicate that approximately 49.39% of electors chose to vote the first year of automated counting.

After the established use of vote counting machines elector votes fell sharply never to rise to the above percentages again.

2008: 33.6% of eligible electors voted.

2011: 33.5% of eligible electors voted.

2014: despite record number of 1456 new registrants at the polls only 31.4 % of electors voted.

Before the vote tabulating machines were in regular use in Penticton and during its first use just under 43 to 49% of electors chose to exercise their right to vote. Voter interest in particular election issues could account for the percentage swing. Stats would indicate that there has been no voter interest on any local issues for the past three elections.

In the 2013 provincial election 52.74% of electors in Penticton chose to vote. (2017 stats are not yet available) Why the difference between provincial elections and municipal elections? Why the steep decline in electors choosing to vote between up to and including 1999 the first year of the vote tabulating machines and later elections? What accounts for the steep decline in electors choosing not to vote?

These stats in my opinion are revealing.

Provincial elections have manual controls and many regulations ensuring accurate counting of votes.

Prior to the use of vote counting machines in Penticton votes were counted by hand by many people and this in itself ensured accurate counts.

In the 2014 local election during the advance polling the vote tabulating machine broke down. Those votes had to be run through the vote tabulating machine again by staff. There is no security of the ballet box. That combined with the decline in votes since the regular use of vote tabulating machines leaves too many unanswered questions.

The most important duty of any elected government is to ensure that voters are comfortable that the election system is accurate and their wishes are respected. That is not happening in Penticton and in my opinion has not happened for the past three civic elections.

Elvena Slump

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