NOTE: Elections Ontario issued corrected data last evening concerning declined ballots from last week’s election after Global News asked about what seemed like unusually high numbers in certain polling stations. Turns out unused ballots were counted as declined ballots in at least three polls in three different ridings, Elections Ontario spokesperson Andrew Willis explained. The province-wide total of declined ballots has been revised downward to 29,442 from 31,399, but Global has no way of knowing whether similar problems persist elsewhere in the data. The map has been changed to reflect the updated data.
More than 29,000 Ontario voters were so uninspired by the choices they faced in the election, they voted for no one.
And instead of staying home, they exercised their right to go to the poll, have their names crossed off the list and formally refuse a ballot.
The total number of declined ballots, 29,442 across the province, was the highest since at least 1975. Historically, about 2,000-5,000 voters decline their ballots in any given election, though 20,795 did in 1990, the year the NDP’s Bob Rae was elected. (Calculated as a rate, 2014’s declined voters were still higher than 1990.)
Declined ballots are counted in election statistics, including voter turnout, which rose this year for the first time in a quarter-century.
That means formal ballot refusal did better, province-wide, than any minor party except the Libertarians, who squeaked past with 38,000 votes. It did far better than the Communists, whose 11 candidates netted about 2,200 votes.
Interactive: Explore declined ballots as a percentage of all ballots cast for every riding in Ontario. Enter an address in the box above, double-click to zoom, click and drag to move around. Click a riding for details.
Declined ballots by riding, 2014
Declined ballots show a strong regional pattern, concentrated in one belt roughly along the Erie shore from Niagara to Chatham, and another stretching southeast from Barrie through Bradford and Uxbridge to Bowmanville.
The startling jump in declined ballots may be connected to the declineyourvote.ca campaign during the election led by Windsor’s Paul Synnott, who describes himself as a “disaffected Tory”.
Synnott, who says he is “very, very happy” with the election results, said the campaign was a way of enabling people who don’t want to vote for a particular candidate to participate in the democratic process anyway.
“I wanted to see increased numbers at the polls, and it looks like that’s what happened,” Synott explains. “That’s a great thing as far as I’m concerned – to have people go to the polls and take part, as opposed to staying at home on the couch.”