Andrea, Guthrie and I voted on Saturday morning, at the advance poll at City Hall. We usually vote at advance polls - it gets the job done, and election day can be busy. We were part of a small crowd, but as usual the officials were efficient at getting people through the process.
I would suggest that you download the voter registration form from the city web-page before you go - that allows you to skip a step. This is something that wasn't as well advertised as it could have been. I found out about it at the candidates' information session held last week, and it is in the voter brochure that went out a couple of weeks ago, but I didn't see anyone else with filled out forms while we were there. With our filled out forms we were able to go straight to the line to get our ballots, rather than stopping at the long table to fill out the form.
The ballot is different from in past years. Whereas before you would be handed three separate ballots - for mayor, councillor and school board - it's now all on one sheet. And rather than marking an X, you fill in an oval by your preferred candidate, similar to filling out a multiple choice exam that's going to be marked by a computer. After you vote the form is fed into a machine like a fax machine, confirming that you've voted. Quite a change from making sure that the right ballot goes into the right ballot box. This should make getting results much quicker on election night.
Voter turn-out in municipal elections is usually quite low, which I don't understand. Civic elections are about the issues that affect your life every day - garbage pick-up, snow-plowing, ensuring that clean water goes into your house and that pipes are there to take away the water after it's been used. Decisions made by council will affect the state of the street in front of your house, how often sidewalks are repaired, and how many police officers patrol the streets.
Perhaps the low turn-out is because the issues are so ordinary, and members of council are so accessible. We live right here, not in Regina or Ottawa, we have no staff to organize us or prevent us from saying stupid things, and you're likely to see us in the grocery store or coffee shop, so that you can offer your opinion or ask questions in person, rather than going through communications people.
I would argue that those ordinary issues make civic elections more important to citizens on a day-to-day basis than provincial or federal elections. Once elected, a member of council is directly responsible to his or her constituents, not to the leader of a party, and is free to vote however they wish, which means that the opinions of residents are taken into consideration with every vote.
If you still want to vote early, there are three more advance polls - next Thursday and Friday evenings, and next Saturday afternoon, all at City Hall. If you're waiting for Election Day, the city has done a couple more things to make things easier. Public transit is free on that day, to make it easier to get to the polls, and two super polls have been added, where voters from all wards can vote. One is at the Art Hauser Centre, the other at the Field House. These options might be helpful if you have to pass either on your way to or from work.
How you vote is your decision, of course, but I would suggest that substance be a bigger factor in your decision than image. I've been on councils where image was the over-riding factor in most decisions, and that left us with a huge infrastructure deficit that we're still trying to make up for, and facilities that require increasing subsidies every year that weren't planned for. Read all you can, ask questions of your candidates, and make your decision based on facts, not fiction.
"Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote." - George Jean Nathan