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Voter turnout plunges in Langley City, down in Township

Despite big election campaigns, most voters stayed home on Oct. 15
Nathan Pachal, the newly-elected mayor of Langley City was celebrating with supporters Saturday night, Oct 15. (Dan Ferguson/Langley Advance Times)

Voter turnout was down in both Langley City and Township this year, despite high-profile candidates and a host of serious issues, ranging from crime and homelessness to transit and housing affordability.

In Langley City just 3,778 total ballots were cast, down substantially from the last municipal election in 2018 when 4,891 ballots were cast.

It amounted to 18 per cent of 20,538 registered voters, half the average municipal election turnout in B.C. of 37 per cent.

Close to half the Langley City ballots were cast in four advance polls, three at the Timms Centre and one at the Langley Seniors Resources Society, with 1,442 people voting, up slightly from 1,368 in the 2018 advance polls.

There were 40 mail-in ballots and eight votes cast in a special ballot at one seniors facility.

On election day, voting took place at Timms.

In Langley Township, 25,936 ballots were cast, a turnout of 27 per cent of the registered voters, who numbered 95,934 on election day.

READ ALSO: VIDEO: Nathan Pachal wins Langley City mayoralty race

READ ALSO: Langley Township – Eric Woodward declared mayor

That’s barely up from the 25,747 people who voted in 2018, despite the fact that thousands of new residents have moved to Langley in the past four years.

There were 249 requests to vote by mail, but just 143 of those ballots were received, according to Township chief elections officer Darlene Foxgord. There were also 10 special voting locations – these are usually set up in seniors homes to allow people who can’t get to the polls in person to vote.

That low turnout in the Township and City came despite high-profile candidates. In the City, mayor-elect Nathan Pachal, an incumbent councillor, defeated the previous mayor, Val van den Broek, after a term that saw van den Broek censured by her own council.

In the Township, there were four candidates for mayor, all with a significant political profile, including two incumbent council members, a former Langley East MLA, and a former two-term councillor.

Yet voting decreased as a percentage of eligible voters.

KPU political science instructor Ross Michael Pink said the decline in voting should be very concerning for local leaders.

“This is a wake-up call,” he said.

Political scientists have been studying voter turnout for the last 40 to 50 years, he said.

“In every decade, voter turnout has declined,” said Pink.

Surveys of voters, particularly those 35 and under, have shown they believe their votes don’t matter, and the system is corrupt.

Older people who don’t vote also probably hold similar views, but they’re most prominent among the young, Pink said.

The danger is that democracy is lost, because only a tiny fraction of voters choose to get involved.

“Democracy loses when people aren’t engaged and informed about the issues,” said Pink.

He said governments have to tackle issues of low voter turnout.

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Matthew Claxton

About the Author: Matthew Claxton

Raised in Langley, as a journalist today I focus on local politics, crime and homelessness.
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