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Election machine already gearing up

If you are planning to run for a seat on Kelowna city council in November’s civic election, start making friends now.

The number of nominator signatures required to file papers for the election is being increased to 25 from the current two.

The change, which puts Kelowna in line with other area municipalities, is allowed under provincial rules governing civic elections. Victoria says municipalities can require up to 25 nominator signatures.

But while the number of people required to sign a candidate’s papers is being increased, the amount of money required as the deposit candidates must pay to run is not going up.

That amount is staying at $100. The deposit is returned to candidates who file financial disclosures following the election.

There had been talk of increasing it given the large number of candidates who vie for the eight councillor positions every three years here.

Coun. Kevin Craig, the newest and youngest member of Kelowna council, said while he supports the increase in the number of nominator signatures, he is against raising the deposit amount because that could be a financial barrier for some would-be candidates.

“I love the fact that people (at the civic level) are elected on their individual merits,” said Craig,

Other changes that the city plans to make for the upcoming election is to hold more advance polls, test a new-style of voting machine, improve its communication plan for advertising the election and use more social media.

City Clerk Stephen Flemming said in both the 2008 election and the 2009 by-election that saw Craig join council, there were larger numbers for votes cast in the advance polls than in previous years so it is hoped more advance polls this year will increase the overall voter turnout.

Historically, civic elections attract a small number of voters and the city has been searching for ways to change that, said Flemming.

This year the city will also test a new voting machine that helps people with visual impairment cast ballots without the assistance of another person in the polling booth with them.

The machine will be located at City Hall on election day and information about it will be advertised in advance.

The city is working on a revamped communications plan to not only advertise the changes but also encourage more residents to come out and vote on Nov. 19. It will likely use social media to get the word out.

“In 2008, I don’t think the city had a Twitter account,” said Flemming.

During the last civic election, Kelowna increased the number of polling locations to 20 in a bid to make voting more accessible.

But that move appeared to go nowhere as it did not result in a higher voter turnout. In fact, it was one of the lower turnouts in recent memory.

Flemming said despite suggestions over the years to have polling stations in places where people regularly congregate, such as shopping centres, that has proved impossible.

“The people at Orchard Park (Shopping Centre) have respectfully declined to allow it,” he said.

A new wrinkle added in 2008 that will be kept this year is the pre-election information meeting for candidates to educate them about the requirements and expectations  should they be elected.

But unlike three years ago, the date may be moved forward to present the same information to anyone considering a run for a council seat, not just the confirmed candidates.

That meeting could be held either in late August or early September, said the city clerk.

This year, election packages for would-be candidates will be available in early September and the deadline for filling will be Oct. 14.

Candidates then have a week to reconsider and pull out if they choose to do so. And once again, voters will be able to vote by mail.

Despite the province publicly saying it was considering making municipal terms four years instead of the current three, no change has been made to the terms for this upcoming election.

Many civic politicians, including some locals as well as the Union of B.C. Municipalities, opposes such a move.

The UBCM, however, has supported a call to move civic elections back to October from November in future years but no decision has been made on that by Victoria.

 

awaters@kelownacapnews.com

 

 

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