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Turnout tanked, bucking BC election chief's prediction

VICTORIA - Voter turnout in the British Columbia election dropped to around 50 percent, despite efforts by elections officials to encourage voting and predictions the figure would rise.

Headed into the May 12 vote an Elections B.C. press release said there were 3.2 million eligible voters in the province, of whom some three million were registered to vote.

Preliminary results show just 1.54 million people cast valid votes, about 220,000 fewer than in 2005.

That works out to 51 percent of registered voters, and 48 percent of those who were eligible. It is unclear from Elections B.C.'s website how many ballots were spoiled.

That turnout is down sharply from 58 percent in 2005 and 55 percent in 2001.

Chief Electoral Officer Harry Neufeld told the Globe and Mail in April he expected turn-out to rise in this election, adding he hoped it would be as high as 62 percent. “I am cautiously optimistic that B.C. may be leading Canada out of the voter turnout recession,” he said.

Neufeld was unavailable during the morning of May 13.

The election was the first conducted in B.C. with tightened voter identification requirements the B.C. Liberal government introduced last year. The Liberals made the change, the Tyee reported, even though Neufeld had advised making it easier to vote.

Similar voter identification laws may have prevented as many as 450,000 people voting in the October, 2008, federal election.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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