From stickers to revamped websites, Calgary council wants to improve voter turnout

From stickers to revamped websites, Calgary council wants to improve voter turnout

A City of Calgary committee is looking at ways to improve the accessibility of civic elections ahead of the municipal vote in October.

Compared to federal and provincial rates, turnout for municipal elections is usually dismal. In Calgary, it averages around 36 per cent. 

In 2004, just 19 per cent of Calgarians voted. The all-time high was 53 per cent in 2010.

On Tuesday, the city will look at a new report on improving election accessibility.

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"Studies have shown that the most often cited reasons for non-participation include: lack of support for available candidates, lack of information about candidates and platforms or means of voting and indicates belief that one's vote does not make a difference," reads the report.

No online voting

The fall election will look different from previous ones in the city, Coun. Ward Sutherland, the vice-chair of the priorities and finance committee, told the Calgary Eyeopener.

Online voting, however, won't be part of those changes — Sutherland said research shows it's unlikely to improve turnout. 

"It kind of surprised me because I thought that would make it a lot easier," he said. "You have to pique the interest of the people and online [voting] didn't increase interest at all."

Information and stickers

What will be different is a revamped Elections Calgary website which will include all candidates' information, and the department will be handing out information throughout the summer at various events including the Calgary Stampede and the Calgary Folk Festival, said Sutherland.

The city's advance vote program is being expanded, and transit will be free on election day. Those who vote will also receive a sticker.

"What you really want is for people to be interested and engaged and at least they can ask the questions," Sutherland said. "It's challenging to convince people it does matter."

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With files from the Calgary Eyeopener