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City launches voting pilot program

Project aims to increase turnout in Oshawa’s multi-residential buildings

The City of Oshawa has launched a pilot program in hopes of improving voter turnout at 13 of the city’s multi-residential buildings.

By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express

The City of Oshawa is hoping to make voting in this fall’s municipal election more streamlined and accessible for occupants of multi-residential units.

The city has launched a new pilot program that will see voting stations set up at a number of apartment buildings.

“When we started our election planning we were thinking about different ways to engage the community,” says city clerk Andrew Brouwer.

Brouwer notes that people who rent are often one of the lowest demographics in voter turnout.

Voter turnout was at 26 per cent during the 2014 municipal election, the second lowest in the city’s history.

Brouwer says because voting lists are generated from data provided by the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC), data is usually more accurate for those who own their own homes.

And while MPAC does make some effort to engage landlords to improve voting lists, Brouwer says the sometimes short-term nature of renting can be a challenge.

In preparation for the pilot program, city staff set out a number of criteria.

Program invitations were sent out to multi-residential buildings that had 100 or more units, and had an accessible and appropriate space to allow for voting.

Consent from the property management had to be received as well.

“We wanted to make sure the building management is going to be welcoming. Some cases they said yes, some said no,” Brouwer says.

In all, residents of 13 buildings will be able to vote at nine locations throughout the city.

“I am pleased with the response. I think it’s going to be a way to build the idea up and do it in the future,” he says.

He believes there could be some feedback from residents in buildings that are not participating, and “maybe they’ll change their minds.”

More public reaction to this year’s election is something Brouwer would like to see.

“You would like to see a higher voter turnout,” he says. “It’s a level of government that touches every day life.”

Although optimistic for the program, Brouwer says an increased effort to engage voters isn’t always fruitful.

“It doesn’t necessarily change voter turnout,” he says.

He was working for the City of Markham when internet voting was introduced there.

“Yes there was a spike initially, maybe because of the novelty, but the voter turnout has remained around 30 per cent,” he says.

Voters at the selected buildings can expect to receive a letter from the city in mid-September detailing arrangements, including details around timing and other voting options available.

For more information on the municipal election, visit oshawavotes.ca