By Creeson Agecoutay
This year’s civic election saw a rise in people who took advantage of the advance polls.
“I just couldn’t wait. I was just dying to know whether Marian Donnely will win,” said Carle Steel, 46, an early voter in Ward 3.
“I would love to think that there will be new councillors and a new mayor with new progressive ideas - a council that is not unanimous all the time and less focused around developers and their interests,” said Steel, who voted last Friday at a mall.
Susan Peterson, 50, a resident in Ward 6 also voted last Friday and said she voted because of the increased notice of advance polling stations.
“I just wanted to get it over with and not have to go stand in line after work. I’m hoping they will get a bunch of new people in council and they will take another look at the stadium and not have tax payers pay the whole bill,” said Peterson.
With advance voter turnout jumping from 1,295 in 2009 to 5,637 in 2012, City of Regina election coordinator Shelley Powell said her office explored new ways to increase the opportunities for people to vote and she is happy with the results.
“We had 52 regular polls in 2009. This year we decreased that number to 30 and we did that with the thought that we would increase the opportunities for advance polling,” said Powell.
There was only one advance poll station in 2009, held at the Cathedral Neighborhood Centre. It ran for three days and resulted in 1,295 votes.
This year there were five advance poll stations held at SGI (167 votes), City Hall (825 votes), Victoria Square Mall (1,449 votes), Northgate Mall (1,540 votes) and Golden Mile (1,656 votes) which ran at different times from Oct. 10 to the 12 and Oct. 17 to 20.
Powell also said this year’s numbers increased from the city’s new idea of a drive-thru poll station at City Hall and offering free transit service during the days of the advance polls and on election day.
Lee Ward, a political science professor at the University of Regina said he had seen more excitement from this year’s civic election and added that the stadium and former councillors stepping down created a wider turnout.
“When you have one issue that captures the imagination of the public, it tends to drive voter turnout I think more than it has in the past and voter intensity. The second reason is just the fact that we don’t have as many as incumbents both in council and obviously in mayor so you have an open race and that generates excitement,” said Ward.