The results are in and Rossland has claimed victory in the Community Voters’ Challenge.
Rosslanders increased their voter turnout by 12.7 per cent, from a 69 per cent voter turnout in 2011 to an 81 per cent voter turnout in 2015, narrowly beating out Nakusp, where voters increased their turnout by 12.2 per cent.
“It was such a surprise because we’d had a pretty high voter turnout in the last election — I mean I felt it was pretty high — and we really just went all out and increased our percentage by 12.7 per cent. That’s a huge increase!” said Mayor Kathy Moore.
In recognition of Rossland’s accomplishment, Mayor Moore and Councillor Andy Morel were invited to attend a city council meeting in Nelson on Monday where Nelson mayor Deb Kozak and organizers of the challenge presented them with an award.
“We really wanted to spark some enthusiasm and excitement around voting and that worked,” said Mike Chapman, one of the organizers. “We feel — I think the word for it all is — celebratory.”
Slocan also received an honourable mention at the meeting as their voter turnout reached 84 per cent in 2015, the highest in the region. Unfortunately Slocan voters were victims of their own success and didn’t win the top prize only because their voter turnout was already an outstanding 73 per cent in 2011, so they didn’t experience a great enough change to nab victory.
Voter turnout in each of the 14 communities that participated exceeded the national turnout, which was 68 per cent, and the provincial turnout, which was 70 per cent. Only one participating community (Grand Forks at 71 per cent) had a turnout that fell below the overall voter turnout for the Kootenay Columbia and South Okanagan-West Kootenay ridings, which was 73 per cent.
A number of communities in the area also significantly increased their number of registered voters, including Rossland, which increased its registered voters by 9 per cent. Chapman wants to thank libraries in the region for holding voter registration events.
“Librarians said, ‘You know these are community centres and this is a natural home for something like this, to educate people and encourage them to take part in the voting process,’” he explained.
Chapman also wants to thank Lucas Myers, who took on the role of ranter in the absence of Rick Mercer.
“He kind of stepped in and became the firebrand, Rick Mercer to the Kootenays,” said Chapman.