Record turnout at the polls

If the turnout at advance polls this weekend is any indication, lots of voters are taking an interest in the Canadian Federal election.

Voters lined up outside the Seniors' Drop-in Centre in Penticton last weekend to cast their vote in advance polls.  Processing was slow at polls around the province

Voters lined up outside the Seniors' Drop-in Centre in Penticton last weekend to cast their vote in advance polls. Processing was slow at polls around the province

If the turnout at advance polls this weekend is any indication, lots of voters are taking an interest in the Canadian Federal election.

Elections Canada is reporting that more than 3.6 million voters turned out over the four days of advance polling from Oct. 9 to 12, setting a new elections record.

On Monday, Oct. 12 1.2 million voters turned out besting the individual totals for the previous three days: 850,000 on Friday, 780,000 on Saturday and 767,000 on Sunday.

Turnout at advance polls has been growing since 1993, when the opportunity was extended to all voters, but this year’s count represents a 71 per cent increase over the 2011 federal election, when about 2.1 million people voted in advance polls.

“In previous elections, we have only had three days of advance voting. This is the first time we added a fourth,” said Dorothy Sitek, representing Elections Canada. “In past years, advance polls weren’t open on Sunday, but that changed this year.

“We increased the advance voting opportunity,” said Sitek, adding that besides adding 25 per cent voting time, there were also more sites: B.C. had 602 advance polling sites, out of 3,423 nationwide. In 2011, B.C. only had 544 advance polls out of 3,258 total.

Sitek said that as the agency charged with administering the election, Elections Canada couldn’t comment on the voter turnout.

“We do say it is great to see electors taking advantage of the opportunity to vote, but we can’t say anything beyond that,” said Sitek.

What the high turnout at advance polls means in terms of the overall election will only be known when the polls close at 7 p.m. on election day, Oct. 19. The only certainty is that with five first-timers running, South Okanagan West Kootenay will have a newly minted MP representing the riding in Ottawa.

Made up of large parts of the former Southern Interior and Okanagan-Coquihalla ridings, the new South Okanagan West Kootenay has a complex voting history.

The riding, stretching from the Similkameen to the Central Kootenays, was a NDP stronghold under Alex Atamanenko since 2006, but the area leaned to conservative under Jim Gouk since 1993, first for the Reform Party, then the Conservative Alliance.

In the northern part of the riding, which includes Penticton, Okanagan-Coquihalla has been a conservative stronghold, most recently under Dan Albas, and before him, Stockwell Day. Jim Hart, who stepped down in 2000 to make room for Day to run, held the area for the Reform Party since 1993, when he took it from the NDP’s Jack Whittaker.

 

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