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Fall elections galore, but where are the voters?

Published on Toronto.com
By Sevaun Palvetzian

Fall really is the season of elections. In just a span of a few weeks we had elections not only here at home, but also in New Brunswick, Quebec, British Columbia, and across the United States.

Like any election cycle, unique and complex issues in need of leadership dominated headlines at local and national levels. Every election has its own flavour and focus.

But let’s hit pause for a moment and focus on one common element — Election Day turnout.

In the United States, turnout for the recently completed 2018 mid-term elections is expected to be historic. The New York Times estimates that 113 million Americans cast ballots on Nov. 6. But if that’s accurate, it actually means that only about 48 per cent of the eligible voting population turned up.

Toronto region municipal elections on Oct. 22 told a similar story. Voter turnout barely crossed the 41 per cent mark in many important mayoral and councillor races.

While there’s no doubt that the province’s move to lower the number of Toronto councillors had an impact on the quality of debate and attention to the issues, low voter turnout in municipal elections is a perpetual talking point.

Since 1988, voter turnout in municipal elections has never breached the 45 per cent mark provincially. And unofficially, only 38 per cent of Ontarians voted in their 2018 local elections — a new low according to Association of Municipalities of Ontario records.

The fact that we can’t even pull in one in two Ontarians is troubling for our local democracies.

It’s clear we need to fundamentally change the way we think about voting and democratic engagement. Read more to find out how.