Turnout for Saanich’s byelection almost doubled to just under 11.4 per cent (9,521 cast ballots) compared to the last byelection in 2001, when just over six per cent of eligible voters participated.
“The voter turnout for this by-election was exceptional,” said Kelsie McLeod, a spokesperson for the District of Saanich.
While it is not clear what caused the increase, potential reasons include the addition of a second all-candidates’ forum, and the controversial nature of the issues, such as the fate of the Environmental Development Permit Area (EDPA) bylaw, perhaps the most divisive issue in recent years.
Voting took place at four locations: Cedar Hill Recreation Centre, Gordon Head Recreation Centre, G.R. Pearkes Recreation Centre and Saanich Commonwealth Place.
“Voting day went extremely well in Saanich,” said McLeod.
However at least one Saanich resident however reported a different experience.
Mary Kelly — who described her voting experience as “badly organized chaos” — said it took her 35 minutes to cast her ballot at Gordon Head Recreation Centre, one of four polling stations. “There was one place to cast your ballot,” she said. “You’d almost think that they didn’t want people to cast their vote, they made it so difficult.”
McLeod said the volume of electors going through that particular voting place was high. “But staff assisted all electors as efficiently as possible while keeping in line with proper protocols,” she said.
McLeod also urged to keep things in perspective.
“It’s important to note that similar to other municipalities, Saanich looks at historic data to determine the number of voting places for a by-election,” she said. “The voter turnout for the last by-election was 6.01%. We also offered two advance voting opportunities and curbside voting for those who needed assistance.”
More voting places will be available at the general municipal election in 2018 due to a higher number of expected voters.
Turnout for the last municipal election was 34.7 per cent, or 28,517 voters, who cast their ballots at 20 locations.