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Monday, November 15, 2010

Voting turn out in Northern Alberta

Here's a column I wrote for the November 3rd issue, just after our elections and first council meeting with our new council.

Insider Reflections
Too many complaints for too little votes
Ashley Foley
In this past municipal election, I was much more enthusiastic and informed than in any other election that has affected me in the past.
This was mostly due to the fact that I am the main reporter for the Northern Pioneer, and covered all Council meetings for the three months prior to the election, so I was well informed of community issues. As well, I attended forums and spoke with most candidates running for election.
I felt thoroughly informed, both about current events and also about what each person was running for and why.
For once, I was ready to make an informed vote. However, since I had only been an Albertan resident for three months, I was unable to do so.
Fair enough, laws are laws. So that’s why I was unable to vote. Can you explain your reason?
I live in Ward 3 (La Crete) where, according to the 2010 Mackenzie County Unofficial Census, over 2,700 people reside. I find it frustrating to see that only 467 of you came out to vote on Election Day.
That’s about one sixth of the population that voted. Which means that one of six people complaining about municipal issues in the coffee shops, truck stops, or check out lines have the right to do so.
These issues include ward realignment, highway 88 paving, Zama Access road paving, the Ferry/ice Bridge crossing, and the list goes on. For the five out of six people in La Crete alone who did not vote, what right do you have to criticize our Council or current issues?
I desperately wanted to vote but was unable to do so. Five out of six people in La Crete chose not to vote. I would have loved to have the vote so many of you carelessly threw away.
But enough finger pointing at Ward 3 (La Crete), because most of the other Mackenzie County wards did not fair much better.
Ward 1, (Blue Hills/Tompkins) with a population of over 1,300 people had only 92 voters. That’s one in thirteen people who voted to elect the person who will represent your Ward for the next three years.
Ward 5 (Blumenort), with a population of over 1,100 people had only 63 voters. That’s one in seventeen people who voted.
Ward 7 (Fort Vermilion), with a population of over 725 people had 219 voters. Congratulations, Ward 7, because one in three people voted in your Ward. This Ward had a reasonable turn out, yet still fairly low.
Ward 8 (Rocky Lane), with a population of 380 permanent residents had 134 proud voters. Nearly half the permanent residents voted (however, there are 514 temporary residents, which makes the voting statistic much lower).
Ward 9 (High Level Rural), has a permanent population of 584 (603 residents including the temporary population), and had 99 voters. Though the numbers are much different than in Ward 3, these statistics are similar to Ward 3’s one in six people who voted in the 2010 municipal election.
These statistics come from the Mackenzie County 2010 Results and the 2010 Mackenzie County Unofficial Census Report.
If you didn’t vote because you were not eligible to vote, or had a family emergency, or simply have no interest in County issues such as ward realignment or highway 88 paving, then there is no wonder why your vote was not accounted for.
However, many non voters do attend forums to voice their opinions, or write letters to Council in mercy of grants or other favours, and complain over Council decisions without taking charge in the opportunity to vote.
We only get the chance to vote once every three years, and it’s the only time we are 100 per cent certain that our voice, our concerns, our vote, counts. In 2013, make yours count.

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