The DRA has received the attached response from the City of Vancouver to our letter regarding advance polls.
We appreciate the City’s speedy response, but disagree with its approach and conclusion. The only response of significance to our concerns is the City’s assertion that many people made use of polling stations some distance from their homes in prior elections. They did not, notably, indicate whether these were advance polls or election day polls.
There is no surprise in that, but it does not mean that ignoring entire sections of the City is justifiable. There are many reasons for this.
First, the City has not indicated that the long-distance travelers in prior elections were a significant proportion of voters.
Second, the City does not indicate that the ignored areas were the origin of the traveling voters. Without that data, ignoring large swathes of the City is simply unjustifiable.
Third, the City does not indicate that it understands why advance polls saw some travelers. One would expect, for instance, that commuters are likely to use advance polls near their workplaces.
Fourth, turnout at prior elections suggests disenfranchisement on a widespread basis. The City’s apparent indifference to regional representation in such circumstances is significant.
Fifth, a number of the excluded neighbourhoods have higher-than-average populations of senior citizens, for whom mobility concerns are a serious problem. The City does not indicate that it has investigated the proportion of traveling voters who are senior citizens.
Finally, the City’s history indicates a variety of sites over the years. There is nothing to indicate that use at these sites was properly assessed in determining what areas had higher demand for voting facilities.
We do not agree with the City’s view that appropriate sites are difficult to find. There are numerous vacant rental spaces throughout the City which could be used in addition to existing public buildings. Elections merit these expenses.
The DRA will likely demand, in partnership with other concerned groups, proper release of the City’s records, so that its assertions can be fairly assessed and recommendations forwarded to prevent the anti-democratic approach taken in this instance from being repeated in future.