Voter turnout down at advance polls

(File photo courtesy of © )

Fewer Londoners took advantage of advance polls compared to those who did in the 2014 municipal election.

Only 14,307 people cast their ballots at the seven advance polls that were held over the past two weeks. That is down from the 16,184 electors who cast early ballots four years ago.

The dip in voter turnout at the advance polls is hard to attribute to any one factor, according to City Clerk Cathy Saunders.

“One of our advance polls was on Thanksgiving weekend and we had students away on reading week,” said Saunders. “It could be with the ranked vote that maybe people are still doing their research on ranking candidates and will come on October 22 instead. It’s difficult to say why it is down a bit.”

London is the first Canadian city to scrap first-past-the-post in favour of a ranked ballot system. The municipal election is the city’s debut of the new voting process. Ranked ballots ask voters to rank candidates in order of preference on their ballot with the winning candidate needing more than 50% of the votes in order to be elected.

“We have trained our workers at the polling stations to talk more fully about the ranked ballot before the elector goes behind the privacy screen to mark their ballot to ensure that they understand that they can pick up to three candidates based on their preference, they don’t have to but they can if they wish,” said Saunders. “Our staff also note that the school board race is not a ranked choice, so it is first past the post.”

Saunders said many of the voters who took part in the advanced polls seemed pleased with the ranked balloting system.

“There’s always some people not happy with using the ranked choice, but for the most part people seemed to be aware and for the most part it was a positive response,” said Saunders.