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Vancouver advance polls show signs of high turnout — the Obama effect?

November 6th, 2008 · 3 Comments

Everyone’s been predicting possible record low turnouts in the B.C. civic elections, with speculation that voters will be just too tired from the recent batches of voting to mark another X.

But that doesn’t appear to be the case. I dropped by three of the four advance polls today where everyone was reporting higher turnout than the last election, which drew a respectable 132,000 voters.

At Dunbar, the election official running things there told me it had been steady all day. She’s worked previous elections and had never seen such a high turnout. The count was at 942 by 6 p.m., with more people coming in all the time. Lots of young people, said the nice woman.

Over at Trout Lake, the count by 7 p.m. was 505. That was 100 ahead of the total for the same poll in 2005.

“We’re assuming people up up election fever from last night,” said Raymond Milne, who was running that voting station. There’s a theory — rather than being worn out by elections, yesterday’s election of Barack Obama as U.S. president was so exciting and energizing that it encouraged a lot of people here to run out and vote.

At city hall, the woman running things there, Judy, said that was their best guess as well, since they were also definitely running ahead of 2005, with 782 people voting by 7:30 compared to 527 at the same time three years ago. (Very precise records these people keep.)

I didn’t have the energy to run over to the West End, but Judy said it was definitely Dunbar in the lead with the other three advance polls at lower levels, all around the same numbers. That means likely close to 4,000 voters for just the first of three advance polls. The higher numbers could potentially be attributed to the new rules, which say that anyone who wants to can now vote in an advance poll, not just those from out of town, but I highly doubt that anyone even knows about those rules.

For more reading on the connection between Barack Obama and the local Vancouver election, you can read the post on my CTV blog about the Vision?COPE party last night to celebrate the win and motivate the troops — which didn’t go 100 per cent as planned, though almost.

For people who want to look at the historical record on turnout, there’s a good table from the city here. People who think there was some huge drop in turnout between 2002, when Larry Campbell was elected for COPE, and 2005, when Sam Sullivan was elected for the Non-Partisan Association, should note that there isn’t really that big a difference. About 140,000 people voted in 2002; about 132,000 in 2005. The difference is that someone the city put 130,000 new people onto its eligible voters list between the two elections, so that it appeared as though turnout dropped from 50 per cent to 32. But it didn’t really.

Categories: 2008 Vancouver Civic Election