Ontario’s municipal elections are just over a month away, meaning this will be the third time voters will be casting a ballot in just over a year.
Following the federal election in September 2021, there was a record-low turnout for provincial election in June, and voter fatigue could be an issue in the upcoming municipal contest.
“Some people say it’s better to vote than not vote at all,” says Darcy Babcock, a Kingston resident. “But if I don’t have the right information, I could be voting for the wrong person and I really don’t want to do that.”
“I don’t think I’ve been paying much attention, but it’s next month so I’ll probably do a bit of digging,” adds Rich Tyo, another Kingston resident.
“At this point I think I’m drowning it out because it’s been too much stuff.”
Comments like these are not a surprise to local experts.
“I think that we can reasonably say that voter turnout at the municipal level will be slightly down,” says Dax D’Orazio, a post-doctoral fellow at Queen’s University.
“We shouldn’t be surprised if it is significantly down.”
Turnout for the provincial election in June was a record-low 43 per cent, and federally in last year’s election, the number of ballots cast dropped as well.
D’Orazio says three elections in quick succession, along with the pandemic and the fallout from that, have played a role in individuals participating in this round of voting.
“They are working a lot, they have families, they might have other familial or other care obligations,” he says. “A lot of their time is focused on supporting themselves and their families.”
D’Orazio also says there are also other longer-standing issues at play, such as transparency and accountability of political and public institutions, along with a more polarized political discourse.
“While turning up the temperature might get people interested and motivated that already have keen political ideas, it might have the complete opposite effect for those who are just in the middle and struggling to figure out what’s going on,” says D’Orazio.
Incumbent city councillor Gary Oosterhof has been acclaimed in his Countryside district.
He says he is hearing about some voter fatigue, but he still thinks people will turn out at the ballot box.
“There’s a lot of engagement with your municipal councillors,” says Oosterhof. “So I think that’s a little different, they feel more connected I would think.”