EDITORIAL: Long list of names to consider in Penticton election

Many feel they should cast an informed vote, but find that difficult in civic elections with long lists of candidates.

There are a lot of names for citizens to consider when they mark their ballots on Nov. 15.

With so many, it will become more important for these men and women to distinguish themselves. In a three-way race, for example, voters – and media – might be tempted to pigeonhole candidates into the left, right or centre of the spectrum. In the 25-person race for Penticton council, those kind of labels mean less, because candidates now have to differentiate themselves from those with similar political leanings.

A more muddled race could also mean a wider vote split, which could have interesting ramifications. A candidate who centres his or her campaign around a single issue will have a real chance to win, depending on how the rest of the vote splits.

Municipal elections tend to attract a low voter turnout, and that problem could be magnified this Nov. 15. Penticton has 25 candidates running for six council seats. In 2011, those who won a seat needed at least 3,000 votes to win. Considering the large amount of people running, it will be of utmost importance for candidates to engage with voters.

The Columbia Institute report, Getting the Majority to Vote, notes local elections are already complex, requiring voters to choose multiple candidates for mayor, city council and school board, unlike federal and provincial elections in which voters pick just one candidate. Some non-voters are “highly cynical” about politics, but report author Norman Gludovatz said many believe in democracy and care greatly about how they’re governed, adding it’s wrong to write them off as lazy, uncaring citizens. Many feel they should cast an informed vote, but find that difficult in civic elections with long lists of candidates.

So what is the solution for the voters? In our local municipal elections in Penticton and in Summerland, which also has a large number of candidates, it should come down to deciding what issues are of importance to a voter and seeing what the candidates’ stance is. But, as political scientist Wolf Depner points out in our front page story, it could become more about personalities. Hopefully voters find a balance.