What’s behind low voter turnout in Canada’s election? Experts seek answers

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Preliminary data from Canada’s pandemic election showing low voter turnout has sparked conversation among experts about its impact on the country’s democracy.

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With 98 per cent polling reported till Tuesday morning, 15,993,868 out of 27,366,297 registered voters cast their vote – 58.4 per cent turnout so far.

This is less than the 2019 federal election, in which 18,350,359 out of 27,373,058 eligible voters voted, resulting in a turnout of 67 percent. In the 2015 and 2011 elections, the voter turnout was 68.3 percent and 61.1 percent.


Darrell Bricker, CEO of Ipsos Public Affairs, blames much of the low voter turnout on the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“There are two things that cause the fall in the turnout. One of them is whether people think the election is of consequence or not, and the other is whether the friction associated with the voting process is low or high,” he told Granthshala News.

“I would say in this instance, there wasn’t a lot of interest in this election… and second, voting was tough.”

There were reports of long queues in many parts of the country on election day. Several were seen in Toronto and in GTA, including one in Vaughan, showing people lined up along a highway to vote. Ipsos polling data also showed that a growing number of Canadians polled felt the campaign should not have happened.

Bricker, whose company has voted for Granthshala News throughout the election, said the true test of Canadian democracy would be during the next election.

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“People were upset about the election, no doubt about it, but I expect that we would have seen the same results as we saw in the last election, like the mid-60s, because the dynamics are very similar. was,” he said. said.

“It’s unique, it’s not a statement about Canadian democracy because if you look at the last two elections, voter turnout was at a century high.”

For John Beebe, who leads the Democratic Engagement Exchange at the Faculty of Arts at Ryerson University in Toronto, voting data is “not good news.”

He said, “We have historically had a lot of faith in our democratic institutions, our election process … and I think the challenges we faced in this election will take some time to restore confidence in our elections.” are.”

“I don’t put it on Election Canada, but it is a reality that there were major challenges to the administration of the election.”

He blames two reasons for the fall in the voting percentage. First, Beebe pointed to the community organizations he has worked with, saying he has struggled to enlist new voters during the more than a month-long pandemic election.

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Second, there was no on-campus voting for students in Election Canada, which Beebe said has limited avenues for youth to vote. Couple that with the back-to-school season in the same month, and going to polls may not be as a priority for some, he said.

“I think that for these community-based organizations, which were already thin in terms of what they were doing to respond to the pandemic, their ability to reach new voters was really limited,” They said.

“I think we’re seeing the results of that too, and we obviously need to invest more if we’re going to build a more vibrant and healthy democracy because we can’t go back.”

According to Elections Canada, updates on voter turnout numbers will begin Tuesday afternoon.

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Prior to Election Day, approximately 6.8 million Canadians voted during the advanced voting from September 10 to 13, or through special voting by mail or in person at the Elections Canada offices.

Spokesman Dougald Maudsley told Granthshala News that 1,025,896 special ballots were returned before the deadline in Election Canada, but that number would increase after special ballots were discarded in person on Election Day, and those received at local offices. But not yet processed, they have been calculated.

He said the counting of ballots is being done on Tuesday and they are expected to be counted at the earliest by Wednesday.

However, in some ridings where races are too close to call, Elections Canada has warned that it could take up to four days to finish counting special ballots if there are high volumes or logistical challenges.

Although the figures so far are preliminary, the voting results are similar to those of Canada’s last midterm election in 2008.

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Then, Prime Minister Stephen Harper dissolved Parliament to seek a majority government. Voters rejected Harper’s push for power, but gave him a large minority government.

About 14 million of the 23 million eligible voters voted in that election, resulting in a turnout of 58.8 percent. Elections Canada website reveals.

“Snap elections are a challenge, especially to engage new voters and bring new people into our democracy,” Beebe said.

“This is one of the reasons we recommend that we have a longer election period in the event of a snap election. No one is looking for long American-style elections, but I think two or three weeks will give us new voters. to reach and engage, which are often not visible during election period.”

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