Low voter turnout for municipal elections
Municipal elections took place across Ontario last week and, by and large, voter turnout was low.
According to the Association of Municipalities Ontario, total voter turnout across the province for the Oct. 22 elections was about 40 per cent. During the last 20 years, total voter turnout for the province in municipal elections has alternated between about 40 per cent on the low end and 45 per cent on the high end, according to stats provided by AMO. Voter turnout for the 2010 and 2014 municipal elections was 44.4 per cent and 43.1 per cent, respectively.
A Nanos Research survey completed during the summer indicated that about a third of Ontarians were unaware that municipal elections were even taking place this year.
While there are 444 municipalities in Ontario, there were a total of 417 elections, since some of those municipalities, like Haliburton County, are upper-tier ones, where members of councils are appointed based on the makeup of lower-tier councils. In the county, the mayors and deputy mayors of each of its four lower-tier townships comprise the eight-member Haliburton County council.
In Minden Hills, of 11,392 eligible voters, 3,847 cast ballots, for a total voter turnout of 33.77 per cent. In the mayor’s race, incumbent Brent Devolin was re-elected receiving 1,720 votes, or 46 per cent. Competitor Wayne Hancock was next with 1,375 votes, or 37 per cent, and Jarrett Campbell with 662, or 18 per cent of the vote.
Dysart et al had the highest voter turnout in the county, with 6,112 of 13,506 eligible voters casting ballots, for a total turnout of 45.19 per cent. In a highly watched race in the municipality, Deputy Mayor Andrea Roberts beat longtime Mayor (previously Reeve) Murray Fearrey 3,445 votes to 2,513, meaning she took 58 per cent of the vote while Fearrey took 42.
The lowest voter turnout in the county was in Algonquin Highlands township, where just 993 of 7,691 eligible voters cast ballots for an overall turnout of just 12.9 per cent. However, it’s important to note that three of the township council’s five members reclaimed their seats by acclamation. Mayor Carol Moffatt will take her third consecutive term at the head of the table by acclamation, and Ward 2 councillors Liz Danielsen also took their seats by acclamation. So the only elections in the township took place in Ward 1 and Ward 3.
According to AMO, throughout the province, there were a total of 477 acclamations, and 120 of those were for heads of councils; mayors or reeves.
In Highlands East, voter turnout was 31.59 per cent, with 2,716 of 8,851 eligible voters taking part in the election. Dave Burton reclaimed the mayor’s chair with 1,557 votes, or 56 per cent, over the 1,211, or 44 per cent, cast for competitor Cheryl Ellis.
Of all the 6,645 candidates in the province, 28 per cent were incumbents seeking the same position, and four per cent were incumbents running for a different position on council.
Twenty-seven per cent of all candidates were women, up from 24 per cent in the 2014 elections. Algonquin Highlands and Spanish, Ont. both elected all-women councils for the upcoming term.
Nearly 60 per cent of municipal elections were at-large elections, the others using the ward system, which is in effect in the townships of Haliburton County.