By Bob Groeneveld/Special to the Langley Advance
When the community doesn’t get fully involved in elections, it’s bad for business.
That’s the thinking behind the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce’s “Your Vote – Your Voice” campaign.
It’s also driving the chamber’s push to add the internet to the polling places where Langley residents can cast their ballots.
Voter turnouts in Langley’s municipal elections has been poor, often around 30 per cent in the Township and under 25 per cent in Langley City, said chamber vice-president Paul van Koll.
“It means there’s a very specific population determining the municipal direction for the future,” he pointed out.
That translates to a risk that local government policies may be “biased by minority views,” according to a BC Chamber of Commerce policy statement that the Langley chamber helped draft.
Ironically, the statement notes that low voter turnouts tend to increase voter apathy, as “voters feel less ability to influence public policy.”
The local chamber is planning to fight that growing apathy with its Your Vote – Your Voice campaign, which will include all-candidates meetings, leadership luncheons, and other avenues to create awareness among potential voters as this year’s municipal election campaigns get underway for the Oct. 20 voting.
“If you want to drill it down to the most basic level,” said van Koll, “it’s to get more people out to vote.”
Their goal this year is a modest five per cent increase in turnout to the polls.
“Obviously, we’d like more,” he said, “but you want to start with a manageable number, a goal that’s attainable, and then hopefully we get another five per cent the next time.”
However, online voting could have a large impact on voting numbers, van Koll explained.
“I think if we can get the online voting going, we’d jump just from the convenience factor.”
Largely with Langley’s prodding, the BC Chamber’s policy promotes online voting for all elections – municipal, provincial, and federal. But, van Koll thinks it “probably makes more sense” to start with the municipal in Langley.
“We do know that there are some perceived risks involved with it,” he said. However, about a quarter of Ontario municipalities used online voting (in 2014), “so we do have a bit of a tested market there.”
There were modest increases in most Ontario municipalities that took their elections online.
“This policy really comes from us trying to reduce the red tape and make it easier for people in Langley, first because we’re the Langley chamber, but also B.C. as a whole, if we can get some kind of an online voter system running,” explained van Koll.
It is Chamber of Commerce week Feb. 19 to 23, and the Langley Advance is helping celebrate by offering a number of stories about this business organization in Langley that is 1,000 members strong.