Costs tallied for civic election

The civic elections from Rossland to Trail and through the Beaver Valley cost local taxpayers about $45,000.

The civic elections from Rossland to Trail and through the Beaver Valley cost local taxpayers about $45,000.

However, when the sum is broken down into the five communities, the price per ballot ranges considerably.

Size doesn’t matter when looking at the final tally from each city or village. Rather, it’s more about how many people seized the Nov. 15 opportunity to cast a vote for their favourite politician.

While Fruitvale’s cost, about $8,500, fell mid-range on the list of the five municipalities, the price for each vote is the highest because only about one in four eligible electors showed up.

With a 23 per cent voter turnout, or 390 from a pool of 1,722, each ballot cost taxpayers $21.86.

Montrose has half the electorate of Fruitvale, and spent $4,260 on the election. Due to a better turnout, about 38 per cent, or 323 votes from 838 eligibles, the village’s cost per ballot is considerably less at $13.19.

Next up is Warfield. That village hadn’t held an election since 2009. So whether it was the chance to vote or the spirited three-way mayoral race – just over 57 per cent of the electorate body paid a visit to the Warfield polling station to have their say.

That translates to $8.95 per ballot, with 677 ballots cast from a pool of approximately 1,175.

Of all the municipalities Rossland had the highest voter turnout of 59 per cent – and the lowest cost per ballot, $5.74.

Election costs for the city tallied at about $9,200 for 1606 residents to cast a vote.

Here’s where the trend seems to end – because in Trail, the cost per ballot averages out to be the second lowest or $5.90, but the voter turnout was about 50 per cent.

Granted that number is up almost 20 per cent since the 2011 election, Trail doesn’t fall into the general trend.

Besides eliminating the chance of human error, the city’s two automated voting machines could be attributed to the cost savings.

The manual count (this year 2,792 ballots cast from a 5,623 pool) would take several hours after the 8 p.m. close of polls, explained Michelle McIsaac, Trail’s chief election officer. “So there is some savings in that the poll clerks are done and have supplies packed up within about 30 minutes of the close of polls rather than working through until 11 or 11:30 p.m.”

Without the voting machine, election officials, who have been at the polls for 12 hours, would have to then start the manual count. “There is opportunity to record or tally incorrectly,” she added.

If a vote is close and affects the outcome of the election, as was the case in Rossland this year, then the manual count has to be redone to ensure it wasn’t a case of human error.

The Rossland recount took about an hour, said Tracey Butler, Rossland’s corporate and chief election officer. “Rossland would love to have a voting machine as long as it is not cost prohibitive,” noted Butler. “That will be a budget item when we get closer to the next election.”

In a larger centre like Kelowna, the single largest cost is staffing on election day and for the advance polls, says City Clerk Stephen Fleming. The city’s total cost was approximately $158,000 and even though voter turnout was only 30 per cent, the price per ballot averaged $5.32.

In Vancouver, the budget to run the election was $2.1 million, in addition, to $600,000 allotted for new technology, explained Tobin Postma, Vancouver’s communications manager.

“That is, the leasing of new voting machines and the technology to support vote anywhere – including the accessibility aids,” he said. “We want to make voting convenient and as easy as possible. Some of the larger election operating costs are for the 1500 election workers to prepare the election and staff the voting places, and printing and postage of voting materials (voting card and candidate info).”

According to the Civic Info BC website, about 182,000 in Vancouver cast a vote, or approximately 44 per cent of the populace, which averages the price per ballot in that city at $14.86.

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