Turnout nearly overwhelms Shawnigan polls
Grumbles about huge lineups, waits and no parking at the Shawnigan Lake Community Centre on vote day Nov. 19 might not be such a bad thing.
“One thing that was really evident…there was this sense of camaraderie and purpose with that many people gathered, and it was truly inspiring,” newly-elected Shawnigan director Bruce Fraser said.
But some folks weren’t too tickled about the turnout.
“It simply overwhelmed the facility,” Fraser said. “There were only four tables for people to check in and four voting booths, and there was such a strong turnout that people were lined up right outside the building on some occasions.
“Whether they expected that turnout, or whether they thought they could handle it, it did turn out to be a bit slow, with some people waiting for 40 minutes to an hour and some people left I think without voting because they couldn’t spend the time,” Fraser said.
According to Shawnigan’s new top dog, some seniors took one look at the lineup and made a beeline.
“So that was a bit unfortunate, and obviously you want to do a better job in the future, accommodating especially for people who are either short on time or find it difficult physically,” Fraser said. “I think they just simply didn’t anticipate that level of turnout.”
According to CVRD chief elections officer Kathleen Harrison, 1,733 ballots were cast in Shawnigan, up from 405 in 2008, when there was no race for director. There were 1,539 voters in 2005 and 1,198 in 2002.
Harrison said staff did what it could.
“We also had two advanced voting opportunities where everybody in the valley could go and vote on Nov. 9 and Nov.15 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Island Savings Centre,” Harrison said.
“We also had mail ballot voting opportunities and that was expanded this year for people who expected to be away on all three voting days, plus the usual with regard to people who have a disability, illness or injury that would prevent them attending the voting place on general voting day.
“So there were a number of opportunities besides Nov. 19,” Harrison said.
But only 280 south-end residents voted in the ECO Depot referendum’s advanced polls.
Harrison noted access wasn’t an issue at the Shawnigan Community Centre, as “there’s wheelchair access there,” but admitted she did receive a grievance about wait times.
“I did have a complaint from one elector who said he was standing in line for some time and with regard to signage,” she said. “He felt there wasn’t adequate signage directing people with disabilities to go to the front of the line.”
The community centre’s busiest hours were between noon and 6 p.m., she added, noting the CVRD employed 14 staff members, which was “the largest amount of staff we’ve had at any voting place at any time.”
“The issue was we had a huge voter turnout in a short amount of time. There isn’t really a whole lot you can do about that,” she said.