A vast majority of eligible North Okanagan voters didn’t bother to use their democratic right Saturday.
Voter turnout was down from four years ago in four of six municipalities, up slightly in another, while the Village of Lumby went to the polls Saturday after acclaiming mayor and council in 2014.
Average turnout for Vernon, Coldstream, Armstrong, Spallumcheen, Enderby and Lumby was 30 per cent, down from 32 per cent in 2014.
Enderby, which had the highest voter turnout four years ago at 39 per cent, dropped to 35 per cent Saturday. A total of 829 votes were cast from 2,383 eligible voters. Enderby was voting for mayor, council and school board trustee.
“It’s fascinating,” said incumbent Mayor Greg McCune, who defeated Herman Halvorson Saturday. “In all of the talking we did to people, we heard ‘I can’t vote, I don’t own property,’ and I don’t understand that. I don’t understand where the gap is. With all of the information out there, with all of the technology, how do some of these people not know some of these things? I don’t know where we can go from here.
“I know we worked really hard. Our goal was to get people out and we actually busted it to get to 35 per cent. I don’t know it will ever get higher.”
The City of Armstrong, voting only for councillors and school trustee as Mayor Chris Pieper was again acclaimed, had the biggest drop.
In 2014, 30 per cent of Armstrong residents cast a vote. On Saturday, 864 votes were cast from 3,854 eligible voters, for a 22 per cent turnout rate.
“The only thing I can think of is, our population is right at 5,000 or 5,000 and a few and they say we have 3,800 registered voters and I sort of wonder about that,” said Pieper. “Whether it’s 22 per cent or 30 per cent, it’s still disappointing. Isn’t the B.C. average around 30? I think we’re similar to the rest of the province. People are not interested in local politics. I think that’s fair to say.
“The provincial government moved the election a month ahead this year, before they were always in November, to provide better weather, better access to the polls. We had an absolutely perfect day across British Columbia for voting but it still didn’t make any difference to the turnout. I don’t know why. It’s not just Armstrong. It’s across the province.”
As of 8 a.m. Monday, the unofficial voter turnout provincial average from Saturday was 36 per cent.
Spallumcheen, electing mayor, council and school trustee, dropped to 25 per cent turnout from 29 per cent four years ago (994 votes cast out of 4,046 eligible voters).
Vernon, Coldstream and Lumby all had 32 per cent voter turnout.
Lumby had 448 votes cast from 1,388 eligible voters. Coldstream dropped from 32.5 per cent turnout in 2014, with 2,609 voters casting ballots from among 8,037 eligible voters.
Vernon was the only community to see a rise in turnout.
With four people running for mayor, 20 for council and nine for school trustee, 9,755 votes were cast from among 30,602 eligible voters, up from 30 per cent turnout in 2014.