Toronto voter turnout appears poised to hit a new record low
Toronto’s voter turnout appears poised to hit a new record low following a municipal election campaign which lacked a high-profile challenger to John Tory.
Preliminary numbers released by the City of Toronto reveal that a total of 551,890 votes were cast for mayor, only accounting for about 29 per cent of the estimated 1.89 million people who were eligible to vote.
It’s a sharp turnaround from just eight years ago, when a record 60 per cent of eligible voters cast a ballot in Toronto’s municipal election.
Turnout fell sharply in 2018 but still ended up at 41 per cent.
“We are not in a very good place at all. We saw this in the provincial election recently and now here go again municipally,” Myer Siemiatycki, professor emeritus at Toronto Metropolitan University, told CP24 on Monday. “I think what it all adds up to is our elections, our government institutions are not connecting with the public and we need to do a serious rethink on how we engage the citizens, the residents of Toronto in their own city hall.”
The City of Toronto will not release official voter turnout data until next month, however the preliminary numbers are not expected to change significantly between now and then.
The lower voter turnout on Monday come on the heels of a seven per cent drop in advance voting totals from 2018.
Siemiatycki said that he believes the COVID-19 pandemic could be behind some of the decline, as it has made people more isolated “and less connected to communities and political processes.”
But he noted that there is likely more to it than just that.
“There's probably less faith or trust in public institutions now but the bottom line is the problem is at the grassroots and it has to be built up again at the grassroots,” he said. “City hall has to find a way of better connecting to residents on their streets and in their neighborhoods. The expansion of the size of city wards in our last election where we basically went from a ward of 50,000 to a ward of 100,000 people when we cut the size of council by half this is the result we are now getting. Councillors are much more detached from their residents. They have too many voters to try to be attentive to and that has had a really negative impact on local democracy in Toronto.”
Early data from the Association of Municipalities of Ontario shows that turnout across the 301 municipalities which held local elections Monday was about 36 per cent.
Voter turnout in Mississauga was less than 22 per cent.
Ottawa had among the highest voter turnout in Ontario with 44 per cent of eligible voters casting a ballot for mayor.
With files from The Canadian Press