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FORT ST. JOHN, B.C.– Though residents of Fort St. John (and of municipalities across the province) will determine the fate of several different positions and bylaws in the municipal election, voting this October does not need to be an intimidating affair.
Bonnie McCue, chief electoral officer for Fort St. John’s local government election, broke down what the process looks like for voters in Fort St. John—and why it matters.
First, residents will be able to select their choice for mayor.
“Now that we know there’s a race for mayor, you’ll have the option of choosing one person for mayor,” McCue explained. Before the nomination process, only one candidate had announced intentions to file papers. If this had remained the case, she would have run unopposed.
Now, Fort St. John has a three-way race for the top spot.
In the ten-candidate race for six seats on council, McCue explains, each voter can select, but not rank, their top six candidates—one for each available seat.
“You can vote for up to six members of council,” she said, “but you don’t have to do six.”
School board trustees will also be elected on this ballot, McCue says, and Fort St. John will elect three representatives for the area to sit on the School District 60 (North Peace) board.
Voters will also come face to face with four assent voting questions, or referendums, when they line up to cast their ballots in October.
The Peace River Regional District needs voters to agree to its creation of service function bylaws—or small pots of tax revenue for specific uses. Municipalities can create these without direct voter assent.
Service functions appearing on ballots across the regional district next month will include Regional Connectivity and grants in aid for the Dinosaur Museum, the Global Geopark, and Sports and Cultural Events.
These service functions—as well as the council members and mayor who will make further decisions on questions like these and more—impact daily life and that, McCue says, is why they matter.
“Municipal services impact your every day;” she explains, “So [voting] is a great opportunity to have a voice and to be part of the decision-making process of who is going to represent you at the council that impacts your day.”
Though historically voter turnout can be “quite low” in Fort St. John, McCue says that the city is not aiming for a certain amount of ballots cast.
“We are taking the position that our job is to make people aware of how to vote, when to vote, and making it accessible to vote,” she says. “We’re trying to stay away from numbers because whether or not they come and cast a ballot is really a personal choice.”
That being said, McCue notes that this election has a race for the mayor’s seat—something that tends to draw attention and with it, votes.
“We’ve seen our voter turnout increase when people feel that they have more of a choice,” she explains.
Voter turnout, however, is not a measure of difficulty. It does not need to be intimidating, McCue promises.
“It’s fast…we rarely have a lineup. It’s something that you can do easily, quickly, and it makes an impact,” she says.
The election takes place on October 15th.
Voters can head to Energeticcity.ca/election for information on candidates or to find the closest voting location to them.
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