Mayor disappointed with 17.75 per cent voter turnout
Voter turnout for this year’s municipal election in Airdrie showed that just 17.75 per cent of eligible voters came out to the polls on Oct. 21.
The city’s population has grown since the last municipal election in 2010, with the number of eligible voters jumping from 27,000 to 31,500.
This year’s voter turnout, however, took a significant dive with 5,592 people casting their ballot, compared to 8,524 in 2010. The percentage of voters who made their mark on a ballot in 2010 was 33 per cent.
With no mayoral race in this year’s election, Mayor Peter Brown anticipated that voter turnout would take a bit of a hit, though he was disappointed with the final number.
“I’m not surprised really by the number, but I am disappointed,” said Brown. “I don’t quite understand how when selecting the board of directors for your corporation you wouldn’t want to be involved in that process.”
Brown was unable to point the finger to one thing in particular that may have led to a low turnout, but instead listed a number of factors that may have contributed.
“It may be an instance of the pace that we live at now and people were just too busy, maybe people had a sense that their vote didn’t really count,” said Brown. “Some people just weren’t that invested in the election, I talked to some people who didn’t even know there was an election and of seven people I talked to, only one could name three candidates.”
Brown and the City’s Manager of Legislative Services Sharon Pollyck both projected turnout to be somewhere between 15 and 20 per cent. Pollyck was working for the City in 2007 when Linda Bruce was acclaimed as mayor and voter turnout was just 12 per cent.
“I would have been happy with a 20 per cent turnout this year,” said Pollyck. “Not having a mayoral race was a factor and also the fact that there wasn’t one big pressing issue.”
The Legislative Services Department was in charge of organizing and staffing the election and ended up not having to bring in any extra staff at 4 p.m. on Oct. 21 as they had originally planned.
“We plan for a full election no matter what,” said Pollyck. “We bring in enough ballots for a 50 to 60 per cent turnout.”
There were some hiccups with voters who had recently moved to Airdrie and did not bring proper identification, according to Pollyck.
“There were times when we had to send people home because they didn’t have an Alberta driver’s license,” said Pollyck. “It’s frustrating for some voters and you never want to have to send them away, I would suspect that’s an issue province-wide though.”
Brown hopes City staff can find ways to increase voter turnout in the future.
“Maybe we need to run more advance polls, perhaps look at internet voting,” said Brown.
City council endorsed introducing online voting back in the spring, but it was defeated by the Municipal Affairs Department due to security reasons.
“If I have four people living in my house and we all get PIN numbers, what’s to stop me from using all of those PINs myself?” said Brown. “There are a number of things that need to be looked at as far as online voting goes.”
Calgary reported a 38.43 per cent voter turnout as of Oct. 22 a decrease from the 53 per cent turnout in 2010. Cochrane had a voter turnout of 33 per cent. All used and unused ballots from this year’s election will be destroyed within six weeks.