Voter Turnout Disappoints Political Scientist

( file photo by Ashton Patis.)

Voter participation may be a concern the world over, but University of Windsor political scientist Cheryl Collier is still surprised voter turnout is so low in this region.

In Windsor, just 37.5% of eligible voters cast a ballot in Monday’s municipal election, down from 46% in 2010. An average of county municipalities shows a voter turnout of just 47%. Tecumseh had the highest with 52.4%, and Leamington the lowest at 42% despite the use of online voting. In Chatham-Kent, only 42% of voters came out to the polls.

“If you think about the fact that we had no incumbent mayor (in Windsor), you had three solid challengers, a very large slate actually of over ten people challenging for the mayor’s position, and that wasn’t enough alone to get some people to come out.”

Collier says many studies point to a variety of causes for sagging turnout in Western countries including voter fatigue and apathy, but it’s also possible Canadians are just plain spoiled. “We take our democratic rights for granted,” she says. “I think in other countries where that right has been threatened, or people feel like they’ve been disenfranchised in the past you see more of a desire to exercise the right when it is granted.”

According to Collier, one of the more troubling consequences of lower turnout is it throws the legitimacy of elected officials into question. “You may have somebody who pulls in 50% of the vote, 50% of a small percentage of the voting public is not really a resounding mandate.”