Advance polls good indicator of voter turnout

Longer than usual federal election campaign nears end

The federal election is in the home stretch, as candidates across the West Shore and the nation vie for those last few votes before the outcome is determined on Monday.

This marathon of a campaign, the longest in Canada’s modern political history, saw initial concerns about voter fatigue and burnout. But if voter turnout at advance polls is any indication, those concerns have not materialized.

David Black, a Royal Roads University associate professor with a Ph.D. in social and political thought, said advance polls are typically the best indicators of what turnouts on election day will look like. Historically, he said of those who vote, 20 per cent use advance polls and 80 per cent vote on election day.

But Canadians turned up in record numbers to advance polls, which were open from Oct. 9 to 12. In fact, Elections Canada estimates 3.6 million voters took advantage of those four days to cast an early ballot, a roughly 71 per cent increase from advance polls in 2011, when there was three days of early voting.

Six advance poll locations across the West Shore were open for voters. Two were set up in the Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke riding, at the Colwood Pentecostal Church and the Metchosin Community Hall; and four in the Cowichan-Malahat-Langford riding, including Luxton Hall, Millstream elementary, Eagle Ridge Community Centre and Our Lady of the Rosary Church.

Election officials from both West Shore ridings said advance polls were extremely busy and mirrored the national trend of larger than expected turnouts.

Black attributes some of that turnout to a very competitive national race, one that has given “ample opportunity to excite and motivate Canadians.” He said voters are more likely to cast their ballot when they feel engaged, and that their vote will make a difference.

“Every election is an opportunity for people … to reflect on the national scene.” Black added, “People are perhaps making up their minds a little earlier,” which could be due to that engagement and the level of information made available to voters through different mediums.

This election has also given voters a chance to emphasize which local issues they want highlighted on the national scene, Black said. While the West Shore is a little less volatile than other areas in B.C., he noted that there are a number of factors unique to the area which will influence voters’ decisions.

“The quality of the candidates is quite high,” he said of both West Shore ridings, adding that it has made for an interesting race in the polls.

Other voting practices have also begun to shape this election nation-wide, he said, calling it “the strategic voting election.”

Black said most elections are identified by signifying factors; for example, the 2011 election was the first where social media really began to play a role. He predicted that on election day strategic voting would play a significant role in how Canadians will vote.

Registration is now closed until election day but voters can still register at the polls on Oct. 19. For more information on where to vote next Monday, go to elections.ca and enter your postal code.

katie@goldstreamgazette.com

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