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BC provincial election: the cool kids have voted early

Can an election be artisanal? Can the sunshine lure you out to vote?

BC Provincial election 2013
Walk this way: Early voting starts in British Columbia.

It's a provincial election; you've probably never heard of it

There's a queue. I thought I was ahead of the curve, in the know, up on things, but no. Seems like everyone else has heard of it first.

May 14 is Provincial Election Day in British Columbia, but early voting started today, May 8. My riding is Vancouver-Point Grey (though I don't live anywhere near the fancy part), so I stepped away from the keyboard at around 10am and walked to the Kitsilano Community Centre to vote in the provincial election.

The election volunteer greets me apologetically: "There'll be a wait. Maybe five, 10 minutes." That's not bad: when I voted in the USA, 30-minute waits were normal.

The elections proctor agrees: "It's not like overseas where you wait half a day." Even with a 10-minute wait, your coffee would still be warm when you finish.

The gent tells me that it was even busier earlier in the morning. Gesturing to a spot ten feet behind me, he says, "The line was out to here."

Talking to Strangers

I ask the woman behind me why she's voting early. She replies, "I work on election day." She then raises the spectre of the weather: "If it rains on election day, the vote doesn't get out."

The gentleman behind her chimes in, "I just want to avoid the rush."

Hipster voting

I look around and notice that I'm the youngest person in the lineup, the youngest by roughly 20 years.

So, early voting seems like something for the older generations... just like chunky, twee sweaters. Just like horn-rimmed glasses. Just like high-waisted shorts. So what if early voting is becoming cool? Is this something that younger people can, for lack of a better word, claim?

Early voting in BC

Artisanal papercraft

I reach the front of the queue. The two guys at the folding table check my ID and I sign the register. One of them hands me the ballot. The ballot (which I am not allowed to photograph) is a long, rectangular slip of paper, with my voter number penned at the top. A series of black boxes follows, each with a candidate's name and a big white circle.

You take the ballot to a folded-cardboard tabletop booth. You put an x or a in the circle corresponding to the candidate of your choice, then fold the ballot, and deposit it in the ballot box, which is itself made of folded cardboard.

(There are more candidates than I had realized: surely I'm not alone in having never heard of the Platinum Party or the Work Less Party.)

The whole thing is origami. Artisanal papercraft. Each ballot unique in tiny ways.

Hipsters do not self-identify as hipsters. Fair enough, but are you into paper-folding? Do you like talking to strangers?  Would you rather be the first to know, or the last to know? While you ponder these questions, find out where to go for early voting in BC.

Inside the nerve center

From Kitsilano Community Centre, it's only a ten-minute walk to the Vancouver-Point Grey Electoral Office. I swung by to check out the hive of activity.

Okay, so "hive of activity" may be a bit generous. I step into an office that reminds me of those spaces in "Up in the Air": lots of beige, lots of paper.

More papercraft at the Electoral District Office

I speak with Jan Pierce, the District Electoral Officer for the riding. She tells me that everything has been going smoothly on Day One of early voting. I guess that's why it's so relatively quiet here: no fires to put out.

Pierce tells me, "We opened on time, and there were already voters at several locations, ready to vote."

Turnout, it seems, has been steady in these first few hours. Good start, but Pierce's office still has a ways to go: early voting runs 8am-9pm, May 8-11. That's Wednesday-Thursday-Friday-Saturday.

There are only three early-voting locations in my riding, which probably explains the (short) wait. On May 14, there will be 16 locations. Had I put the whole thing off until the last minute, I'd not have had to go far.

But I didn't put it off until the last minute. I'm doing it today.

Vote because you care, care because you live here

Voters turn out when they care. Voters care when they have an issue to care about. While I only saw older people at my early-voting location, it's clear that younger people do give a shit about what happens in British Columbia. If you don't have your big issue yet, we can help with that.

If you're still not sure, you can use CBC's Vote Compass to help you find your voice.

Don't wait until the Federal election to make your voice heard: our humble province gets lost in the shuffle quite easily.

For example, look how quick Stephen Harper was to shut down the Kitsilano Coast Guard station, which is located in Canada's busiest harbour. It's safe to question whether Harper even knows where the place is, let alone if he cares about the day-to-day lives of its citizens.

Issues such as social housing, homelessness, health care, environmental management, education costs... these are provincial issues. So weigh in during a provincial election.

Lucky for you, there happens to be a provincial election going on right now. Convenient, no?

So step away from the keyboard, get a bit of sunshine, and make early voting cool.

Oh, and one more thing... if you don't vote in the BC provincial election, you're gonna really piss off Daniel Lam. Don't piss off Daniel Lam.

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