‘Voter grant’ turned down

What would it take to increase voter turnout? Perhaps a financial inducement would do the trick.

Noting the poor turnout in the recent byelection for a single seat on the Langley board of education, Township Councillor Kim Richter suggested a financial incentive in the form of a “voter recognition grant.”

The grant would be equivalent to the average property tax payment in the Township, and be awarded in a random draw of voters who submit a coupon proving they had voted.

But on Monday, Richter’s motion was defeated, as was a motion to defer her suggestion to staff for a legal opinion.

Richter said that giving a grant would require legislative change as under current law, paying someone for voting is illegal.

“I don’t think we should turn elections into a lottery,” Councillor Bob Long said.

Councillor Bev Dornan, agreeing that the 3.8 per cent voter turnout in the recent byelection was “abysmal,” said that the importance of voting begins with educating children that voting is a right that is not enjoyed by many people in the world.

Richter said that in order to win the grant, a voter would not have to own property. The winner, whether for example a renter or student living at home, would win the equivalent of the average property tax.

“It’s time for us to think outside the box,” she said.

The recent byelection, which was for a single school trustee position, attracted 2,675 of the 70,345 residents who were eligible to cast ballots. That makes the per-voter cost very expensive, Richter said.

The election is reported to have cost $75,000, which the Langley school district will pay.

“The cost of an election is fixed, so it only makes sense to get more people out to vote to offset the fixed cost,” Richter said.

“I’m not a believer in forcing people to vote. I think voting should be an act of choice but I am a believer in encouraging people to get out to vote,” Richter said.