Voter turnout plummets to 36-year low

Voter turnout reached a record low on Oct. 6 as Ontarians went to the polls.

Only 49.2 per cent of eligible voters cast their ballots — the lowest response Ontario politics has seen in 36 years.

The low turnout in the Ontario election appears to be a continuation of a long-term and wide-ranging trend

— Christopher Cochrane

In Scarborough, first voter turnout estimates show that the riding of Scarborough-Agincourt had the lowest response with only 44.1 per cent of eligible voters voting.

According to one political analyst, while it is easy to blame poor campaign strategies and dissatisfaction with politicians, low voter turnout is a rising trend in Ontario politics.

Voter turnout in Scarborough

Pickering—Scarborough East
Eligible: 77,112
Voted: 38,938
Turnout: 50.5%

Scarborough—Agincourt
Eligible: 72,337
Voted: 31,905
Turnout: 44.1%

Scarborough Centre
Eligible: 69,170
Voted: 31,477
Turnout: 45.5%

Scarborough—Guildwood
Eligible: 66,009
Voted: 31,890
Turnout: 48.3%

Scarborough—Rouge River
Eligible: 82,788
Voted: 36,464
Turnout: 44%

Scarborough Southwest
Eligible: 67,617
Voted: 33,079
Turnout: 48.9%

Source: Elections Ontario

“The low turnout in the Ontario election appears to be a continuation of a long-term and wide-ranging trend rather than an anomalous expression of disaffection with this particular Ontario election,” said Christopher Cochrane, University of Toronto political science professor.

Low voter turnout doesn’t always favour incumbents as widely assumed because of the track record they carry into the election.

“If the incumbent hasn’t governed to their supporters’ liking, then they may find it difficult to get their supporters to come out and vote,” Cochrane said.

Pickering-Scarborough East had the highest voter turnout with 50.5 per cent, a riding that had no incumbent.

Analysts expected a higher voter turnout after more than 600,000 voters cast their ballots in advance polling.

“One would think that advance polling would increase turnout – and it may well do that – but despite the best efforts of Elections Ontario … the level of turnout is continuing to decline,” Cochrane said.

Cochrane says making voting mandatory is one way to improve voter turnout.

“I’m not a supporter of this idea, but it would solve the problem of low voter turnout.”