Low turnout in Halifax election a result of voter apathy: political scientist
Published Monday, October 17, 2016 8:38PM ADT
Nova Scotians have elected dozens of mayors, wardens, councillors and school board members, but numbers show only about seven out of ten eligible voters in the Halifax Regional Municipality made it out to the polls.
The overall voter turnout in the HRM dropped from the last municipal election by seven percentage points. The official results aren't in, but it appears 29.7 per cent of eligible voters cast a ballot for mayor.
The numbers are low compared to the 56.2 per cent in Berwick, 45.4 in Truro, 52.9 in Sydney, and 61.4 in Yarmouth.
Political scientist Jeffrey MacLeod says smaller communities generally see a higher percentage in voter turnout. He also says Halifax residents may not have voted because the race for mayor wasn't expected to be close.
“Elections are a time not only to vote in administration, but to educate the public on policy issues and if you have a quiet election then that process doesn't take place,” said MacLeod.
Despite the low tally, Halifax Municipal Election candidate Andrew Curran isn't giving up. He is only 15 votes behind incumbent councillor Russell Walker and is asking for a judicial recount.
“Sometimes the numbers change and sometimes they change quite a bit,” said Curran. “It makes the spread bigger or perhaps it will make it in my favour.”
Curran and Walker have concerns about accessibility around one of the polling stations at Mount Saint Vincent University.
“The race was close and it was the low turnout that did that because there were a lot of seniors who couldn't get out to vote and didn't, and there were a lot of people not on the voters list,” said Walker.
HRM’s returning officer Kevin Arjoon says the city launched a campaign to encourage people to vote and increased its election advertising budget by 25 per cent.
He says election officials will ask citizens how to improve voter turnout.
“Get information on how we can communicate with them better, what were some of the barriers they faced and how we can improve for 2020,” said Arjoon.
This year voters didn't have to show ID or proof of where they live at the polling station, but officials are left wishing the changes were reflected in the voter turnout numbers.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Kelland Sundahl.
Council will have a newer look when it will be officially sworn in this November.