Tight race likely top reason for advance poll turnout

Elections Canada estimates 3.6 million people voted during advance polls, up 71 per cent from advance polls in 2011

Elections Canada estimates 3.6 million people voted during advance polls, up 71 per cent from advance polls in 2011.

“This is in a way potentially a good problem to have, at least if you take the classic argument that the system works better if more people are weighing in,” said Dr. Jamie Lawson, associate professor in political science at the University of Victoria.

However, “the question could be raised: Are those people who are going to vote anyway and chose to do it on Thanksgiving weekend rather than on the 19th?”

In Oak Bay, lineups at the Glenlyon Norfolk School polling station prompted calls and letters to the Oak Bay News.

Elections Canada did not return calls by deadline but responded to frustrated voters on social media that polling stations were selected and controlled by returning officers.

The high numbers, however frustrating for some voters, could be a result of many things, Lawson says.

“One thing that could mean a higher turnout for both the advance polls and the regular one on the 19th is just how tight this race is and how volatile it’s been. … It’s been difficult to figure out people’s overarching pattern,” Lawson said.

“It’s rare for three parties to be tied for so long in our country. It’s also the case that, because we’ve had a single government in power for 10 years now, people who disagree with the governing Conservatives are growing in their sense of frustration.”

Modern technology could be another reason for the uptick, as social media feeds on Thanksgiving weekend filled with voting “selfies” and updates.

“There have been a number of different strategies to raise the total vote and getting people to think about voting in a co-ordinated fashion,” Lawson said. “People have been going to the advance polls voting and then saying to their social network, ‘Hey guys, I voted, you should go vote too.’”

Convenience and the lengthy campaign period could also play a role.

“We’ve seen over the past few years concern both within Elections Canada and beyond about declining voter participation and that’s part of the reason we’ve seen a turn to advance polling as more than just the right to vote if you have an unavoidable obligation. It’s new to think about advance polls as just another way to vote without having to have an excuse offered,” he said.

“I think for people who have a choice in the matter (of when they vote) it may be a way of saying, ‘I’ve made my decision. I’m done here and no one’s going to persuade me of anything different in the next six days.’”

The numbers leave more questions than answers about what voting day will look like Oct. 19.

“There have been times when turnout election day was incompatible with the trend at the advanced polls and disappointed people. … We’ll just have to see,” he said.

“Tightness of the race is maybe an even better predictor of whether we’ll have a heavy turnout. Historically it’s often been the case that a tight race draws people out.”

 

cvanreeuwyk@oakbaynews.com