Voter card likely to stay; New West wants feedback on voter’s guide
Printing and postage for municipal voter cards, guides cost approximately $100,000
A photo of a sticker handed out during the 2022 New West municipal election/Ria Renouf, New West Anchor
The City of New Westminster has shared some information about the most recent municipal election, which happened Oct. 15. This includes some numbers around costs associated with the newer features in this election: the voter's card, and the voter's guide.
“The cost to print and mail hard copies of the voter’s guide to all households in New Westminster was significant,” reads question six of a survey on beheardnewwest.ca. “Printing and postage alone cost approximately $100,000. This does not include costs for staff time, graphic design, translation, etc.”
“We want to gauge how well we did. We get some anecdotal feedback from social media and through various emails, but we really want to go out to the community and ask their opinion about how we did,” says Jacque Killawee, who serves as the city clerk and was the city’s chief election officer during the vote.
At this point, the voter’s card is expected to be a mainstay for future elections.
“We have heard anecdotal feedback that the voter’s card was useful and appreciated, and many residents brought their card with them to the polling station,” a portion of the survey question reads. “City staff expect the voter’s card will become a standard practice in all future local elections in New Westminster.”
A report from April 2019 gave staff three options for cards: an unaddressed card to be delivered as bulk-ad mail, a card addressed to each voter on the provincial voters list, or a card addressed to every resident in the city no matter their voter eligibility. The city opted for the second choice.
The voter’s guide, which was also new, was made available in English, French, simplified Chinese, traditional Chinese, Korean, and Punjabi.
“When we designed the voter’s guide … the text was very much evergreen so that we would only be changing very small parts of that text for the next election, and a lot of that text that would change was predominantly in English, so a lot of the candidates’ information, we didn’t translate that,” explains Kilawee, though that would also depend on whether there are any changes to election rules by the time the next vote comes around.
Kilawee also pointed out a discrepancy in the timing of the 2021 census results and the vote.
“When we designed our translation, we had not received our 2021 census results, so we did not know at that point that Tagalog was a predominant language, second language, in New Westminster … we would update our languages based on that new set of data,” notes Kilawee.
New West Anchor received at least one report of residents not receiving a voter’s guide in the mail, or a delay in receiving a voter’s guide.
Just 27% of New Westminster voters participated in mid-October’s civic election, although 108 of those did not count towards a vote for mayor. Between 2008 and this year, voter participation was at its highest in 2014 when just under 30% of eligible voters cast a ballot.
After the 2018 election, a survey staff ran requested voter cards, as well as more access to information on candidates. There was also an ask for a variety of groups to be able to read said information. A total of 203 people took the survey, and of those, 78% were in favour of mailing out voter cards.
A report similar to the one after the 2018 municipal vote is set to be presented to council in the weeks ahead—and is expected to include more details about this year's mail-in ballot option.
The survey can be found on the Be Heard New West website, and it’ll be open until 9am on Nov. 28.