The Charlatan is Carleton University’s independent student newspaper run separately from the School of Journalism.
Ontario’s provincial election Oct. 6 resulted in an all-time low for voter turnout.
Only 49.2 per cent of the population went out and cast a vote this year, according to Elections Ontario, breaking the 2007 record, when the turnout was 52.8 per cent.
This is the first time ever that half of eligible voters didn’t vote in an Ontario provincial election.
Scott Bennett, a political science professor at Carleton University, said he believes there are several factors associated with the low turnout. Electoral fatigue from a recent federal election is one of them, Bennett said.
“Many people simply do not separate one level of politics from another and are simply tired of politics in general.”
When an election isn’t perceived to be a close race between parties, people are less motivated to get out and vote, he added.
“There were a few polls that suggested it was not close at the end, and this may have influenced people,” Bennett said. “I think a lot of marginal potential voters were confused by the fluctuating trends but decided that things could not be changed much by their vote.”
If the different parties had more charismatic or exciting leaders, it would only affect voter turnout by a few points, Bennett said.
“I think a large portion of the public has tuned out of electoral politics because they find it boring, they have a wider range of entertainment and participation options than a few decades ago,” Bennett said. “They don’t think they will have much impact on the result, and generally don’t think it makes much difference who wins.”
The voter turnout isn’t necessarily a problem. It does, however, represent apathy, according to Bennett. He said he believes people see very little net benefit in voting compared to using their time in other ways.
Julia Riddick, a second-year geography student at Carleton, said she made sure to go out and vote.
“As a citizen of Canada, I have been given my right to vote, unlike so many other people. You don’t know what you have until it’s gone,” Riddick said.
Grant Hutter, a fourth-year commerce student at Carleton, said he has never missed out on voting during election day, at any level of government.
“Students should look at current election issues at hand and realize that voting now influences the future political landscape which they’ll be living and working in,” Hutter said.
Other students, like second-year anthropology student Charlotte Potter, said they felt although there was a lot of campaigning, there wasn’t enough signage regarding what date the election actually was.
Potter, who is originally from Toronto, said she believes some students who live off campus weren’t well informed about what ridings they were allowed to vote in.
“Ontario needs a recall law and a referendum law with more teeth. Give people a chance to participate when they want to and are motivated to. Again, the professional polls don’t want this, but some other places in the country do have it,” Bennett said.