More people exercised their right to cast a ballot in Thursday’s election than in any other provincial vote in Ontario since the new millennium.
Fifty-eight per cent of those eligible voted in the election that saw Doug Ford and the Progressive Conservatives form a 76-seat majority, according to unofficial results posted by Elections Ontario with 99.89 per cent of polls reporting.
Turnout grew by nearly seven percentage points over the 2014 provincial election, when 51.3 per cent cast their ballots to re-elect the Liberals.
The only time in almost two decades that turnout topped this year’s total was in 1999. That election was the last time Ontarians sent a Progressive Conservative government to Queen’s Park — the second mandate of former premier Mike Harris.
The relatively high voter turnout was also reflected in the advance polls, which showed a spike of nearly 20 per cent over the 2014 election.
Despite the uptick in numbers this year, turnout in Ontario’s provincial elections remains low, both compared to other provinces and in relation to how many ballots Ontario residents cast in federal elections.
Prior to the 2018 election, Ontario ranked worst in the country for provincial election turnout, according to The Samara Centre for Democracy, a non-partisan advocacy group that promotes civic engagement.
“This turnout, if it is what has been reported so far, would put us about fifth out of 10 — so kind of in the middle of pack.” said Mike Morden, research director for Samara.
While turnout has increased in the last two elections both federally and provincially, Ontarians, he noted, are more likely to show up and cast a ballot for a federal candidate. The 2015 election saw an Ontario turnout rate of 64.4 per cent, just shy of the overall turnout rate of 66.1 per cent.
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Morden said he thought that turnout in the 2018 election would increase somewhat, given that it appeared to be an election where voters perceived the stakes to be high. There’s also some evidence to suggest races that are believed to be more competitive bring out more voters.
“I thought that there were some ingredients there for a bit of an uptick,” he said. “I am a bit surprised by the magnitude.”
Morden said he’s curious to see how the vote was distributed, which will tell us more about what drove the turnout.
“It’s entirely possible that young people are starting to turn out in greater numbers,” he said. “There’s suggestion that there could be some movement in that direction.”
Ontario voter turnout over the last 10 provincial elections
2018 – 58% *unofficial
2014 – 51.3%
2011 – 48.2%
2007 – 52.1%
2003 – 56.8%
1999 – 58.3%
1995 – 62.9%
1990 – 64.4%
1987 – 62.7%
1985 – 61.5%
Source: Elections Ontario
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