Voter turnout in Oshawa and Durham on decline; polls aren’t expecting much improvement

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Published October 24, 2022 at 1:06 pm

milton byelection poll

Voter turnout across the province has been on the decline in recent years, hitting a record low of 38.29 per cent in the 2018 municipal election.

But the situation is worse in Durham Region, where voter turnout in the five lakeshore communities ranged from a ‘high’ of 32.9 per cent in Ajax to just 24.6 per cent – the lowest ever – in Oshawa.

Voter turnout in Oshawa, Whitby and Clarington were all under 27 per cent, in fact.

Various polls are predicting it’s only going to get worse as a combination of voter fatigue – today’s election will be the third time Ontarians have gone to the polls in 13 months – as well as pandemic burnout among volunteers and others who make our election system work.

There are bright spots. In Durham’s northern townships, all three municipalities recorded better than 43 per cent turnout in 2018, with Uxbridge cresting the 50 per cent threshold at 50.9 per cent.

But voter apathy may make those numbers drop dramatically. In Scugog the mayor, regional councillor and four of the five council seats were filled by acclimation. In Uxbridge it is the mayor and one council seat and in Brock Township three of the five council seats were acclaimed.

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.

Competitive races often bring out the voters, especially if it’s for a position such as mayor when the current head of council is stepping down. Even there there’s a letdown in Durham as Wilma Wotton was acclaimed in Scugog after Bobbie Drew announced her retirement. Other races that are guaranteed to produce a new mayor in Whitby and Pickering should be competitive.

The betting line on those races translating to a higher voter turnout is still long odds, however.

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