VICTORIA – With participation in elections declining at every level, B.C.’s new chief electoral officer wants to extend voter registration to 16-year-olds while they are in high school.
Keith Archer released a report Monday suggesting the government consider that move, to get more young people registered and ready to vote when they turn 18. Currently the lowest level of participation is in the 18-to-25 age group, as well as the lowest number of registered voters.
“Our sense is that by introducing a provisional voter register, we’ll be able to communicate with young voters earlier on, and probably to do so as part of their high school social studies curriculum,” Archer said. “And partnering with with social studies curriculum developers provides us with a real opportunity to enhance civics education within that group, and to address generally the importance of voting in a democracy.”
Attorney General Shirley Bond said Monday she supports the idea in principle, especially after Saturday’s municipal elections where fewer than one in three eligible voters too place in many communities.
“We simply have to look at the elections that took place on the weekend,” Bond told reporters. “We need to make sure we look at how we get our participation numbers up, and what better place to start than young people.”
Archer is also recommending that the government explore options for electronic voting, which is being studied by Ontario and the federal agency, Elections Canada.
Municipal leaders endorsed the idea of online voting in local elections by a two-to-one margin at their annual convention in September. Archer said current B.C. election law does not allow for anything other than paper-based voting at the provincial level.
Bond said online voting was a commitment of Premier Christy Clark’s leadership campaign, and she intends to appoint an expert panel shortly to make recommendations.
“We have to make sure that it’s safe and secure, and people have been worried about that,” Bond said.