Oshawa sets new record with just 18.4 per cent voter turnout; Ajax, Whitby only marginally better

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Published October 25, 2022 at 2:41 pm

A voter leaves a polling station after casting his vote in the general election at St Giles Church in London, U.K., on Thursday, June 8, 2017. Britons vote today after an election dominated by Brexit, austerity and in the closing phases, security. Photographer: Luke MacGregor/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Oshawa keeps setting election records but unfortunately, they’re of the wrong kind.

Just 18.42 per cent of eligible voters turned out for yesterday’s municipal election, breaking the record for voter apathy set in 2018 of 24.6 per cent. Which broke the record of 26.4 set four years prior to that.

Whitby wasn’t much better at 23.35 per cent, a record for the town and Ajax, which set the bar among the five southern communities four years ago at 32,9, reported a dismal 22.5 per cent this election.

Experts say voter fatigue, non-competitive races and the non-partisan nature of local elections likely contributed to low turnout in many communities. With three trips to the polls now in 13 months a little voter fatigue is understandable. But 18.4 per cent?

Early numbers from the Association of Municipalities show 36 per cent turnout across 301 of the 444 municipalities.

But the voter turnout situation is worse in Durham Region, especially in the five more populated communities along the lakeshore. This year Clarington recorded 28.05 – the high so far reported, as Pickering has not released its 2022 numbers.

It’s better in the northern communities but still declining. All three were in the 40s in 2018 and more than half – 50.9 per cent – turned up to vote in Uxbridge.

This year 39.61 per cent of voters cast their ballots in Uxbridge and 35.54 per cent in Brock turned up. Considering fully two-thirds of the council seats in the three towns were acclaimed, the only surprise was that it wasn’t worse.

Brampton and Mississauga saw less than 25 per cent of eligible voters come out to re-elect incumbents, while Ottawa saw a little less than half of eligible voters – 44 per cent – cast ballots in an open race for a new mayor.

University of Windsor political scientist Lydia Miljan says municipal elections generally see lower turnout as voters have limited media coverage to look to and no political parties to guide their decisions.

Various polls were correctly predicting it was going to be a tough election for voter turnout as a combination of voter fatigue and pandemic burnout among volunteers and others who make our election system work took their toll.

As well, the provincial election in June recorded its worst-ever turnout, while last year’s federal election saw its lowest turnout in a decade.

Voter turnout in Ontario’s 2018 municipal elections was 38.3 per cent provincially, the lowest among municipal election turnouts recorded since 1982.

With files from The Canadian Press.

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