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Terrible turnout saw lowest voter turnout in at least 20 years

Only 27.84 per cent of eligible Guelph voters showed up to the polls Monday – down 10 per cent from 2018 and nearly 20 per cent from 2014
20210911 Vote sign RV

It seems voter turnout is on a downward trajectory, with Monday's election dipping nearly 10 per cent compared to 2018, the lowest turnout in 20 years. 

There were 105,096 eligible voters in Guelph, but only 29,254 ballots were cast – meaning just under 28 per cent of the eligible population showed up to the polls. That’s nine per cent less than the provincial average, according to the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO). 

The last municipal election in 2018 had already seen a dip in voter turnout, with around 36 per cent, compared to the near 45 per cent in 2014. 

But this downward trend isn’t unique to Guelph. 

"It's a record low voter turnout in many locations, including Toronto," said Julie Simmons, political science professor at the University of Guelph. 

The City of Cambridge had a 28.87 per cent turnout, while Kitchener saw just 20.26 per cent of eligible voters at the polls compared to 32 and 28 per cent in 2018, respectively. 

Provincially, this is the lowest voter turnout in the last 20 years. For municipal elections, it’s typically hovered between 40 to 44 per cent for more than two decades – until 2018, when it dipped to 38 per cent, lowering again this year to 36 per cent. 

The reason? Simmons said it's not that local candidates didn't knock on enough doors or put out enough signs, but that there is a "malaise among citizens about the efficacy of government, and how it can change or not change the circumstances that they encounter as residents." 

In fact, Simmons said it's part of an broader global trend. 

"Since the 1990s, people have less faith in those positions of authority in terms of their ability to make decisions. So on the one hand, this is part of a historical and global trend," she said, adding that there is another side to it. 

"We've just come out of the more serious aspects of the pandemic, which is still an ongoing concern. Canadians are dealing with things like inflation and making ends meet, rising interest rates."

Plus, municipal elections are notorious for low voter turnout, she said.

"That has always been the case in Canada." 


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