Esquimalt first, the advance vote went from 423 in 2011 to 1077 this time, so why is that? This is for two reasons. First, voter turnout in Esquimalt was dismal in 2011 and second there was no mayor's race that time.
Here is the total votes in Esquimalt by election
What you can see is that 2011 had a much lower voter turnout than what normally happened in Esquimalt,
The second factor is a well contested mayor's race. In 2011 Barb Desjardins was acclaimed so there was no race. A mayor's race not only increases voter turn out, but the way a good campaign for mayor is run normally means the candidate works hard to get as many of their supporters to advance vote as possible.
In my opinion these two factors explain the rise in advance vote in Esquimalt. The only factor at play is how strong the NDP machine behind John Ducker is. The NDP has a lot of names of friendlies in Esquimalt, enough he could win the election on those names alone. Did he get them out to vote?
Now we come to Saanich. In 2011 they had 1264 people advance vote and this year 4089 people. this looks like a HUGE increase, what happened? Is there some massive demand for change? Are the people in the streets with burning torches and pitchforks? I do not see it in the numbers.
What changed between 2011 and 2014 is that Saanich went 2 advance voting opportunities, both of them at City Hall, to eight opportunities this time at seven different locations. More chances to advance vote will mean more voters. Offering more locations to advance vote also means more people will vote, City Hall is not close to most people in Saanich.
Given the change I would have expected to see the advance vote to rise though with diminishing improvement with each new opportunity. So who are the people that normally advance vote?
There was time not so long ago when you could only advance vote if you had some reason you could not vote on election day. This is no longer the case and there has been a trend at all levels for more of the general population to vote in advance polls. The incremental increase seems to be about 15% between elections. If there had been no new chances to advance vote I would have expected about 1450 people in Saanich to have done so.
Advance voting has become a very important tool of well organized campaigns. The norm over the last 20 years has been that the bulk of people advance voting are hard core supporters of one of the campaigns. In the last 10 years every well run campaign has pushed hard to get as much of their IDed vote to advance vote as they could. The more of your supporters that advance vote, the more people you can reach and get out to vote on election day. Advance voters are also locked in, nothing at the last minute in the election can change the votes of those that have voted.
With only one location and two dates most campaigns could only convince the really hardcore supporters to go out and vote, but with the expansion to seven locations over five days this is a God send for well organized campaigns. The extra days and places makes it much easier to get a large portion of your supporters out to vote especially when you can geographically focus the campaign. With two normal campaigns getting the vote out in Saanich I would have expected the advance vote in 2014 to have been around 5000 people. If we had had two really strong campaigns with 400+ volunteers each I would have expected the advance vote number to 6000 to 7000.
We had 4089 people vote, not the 5000 as I would have expected. Where are the other close to 1000 voters? The only way I can reconcile this lower number with what should have happened is if one of the campaigns did not put much energy in getting their identified vote to go to the polls. Which one was not doing their job?
I know Frank Leonard's campaign is doing the old school thing of finding the voter and then getting them out to vote, much as he has always done. They got their vote out. It means I can only ascribe the missing voters to Richard Atwell's campaign not getting their people out to vote. It means Richard Atwell has a much harder task on election day to reach all his supporters and Frank Leonard has an easier task than in 2011 because so many more of his voters are already in the "bank".