Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Turnout Last Night

I hate to toss up yet another by election post because we shouldn't read too much into them. So rather than look at the results, I'll just add a final word on voter turn-out. Here's where it was yesterday:

Montmagny 36.6%
Cumberland-Colchester 35.7%
New Westminster Coquitlam 29.9%
Hochelaga 22.3%

The average turnout of 31.1% isn't much worse than the normal for by elections - since 1998, it's been 34.5%. And last night was actually an improvement on the dismal 27.8% turnout in last year's 4 by election.

The only number that really stands out is Hochelaga, where under 1 in 4 registered voters took the time to vote. I know it was a slam dunk election for the Bloc, but the riding was right around the national average in the last general election (58%), so it's surprising that it would get so low.

Especially when you look at it historically. Elections Canada only has turn out rates going back to 1998, but Hochelaga marks the lowest by election turn out over that time period (36 by elections) - making it, quite possibly, one of the lowest vote turn outs ever in a federal by election. Here were the previous lows:

Saint-Léonard–Saint-Michel (2003) - 22.9%
Calgary Southwest (2003) - 23.1% (in fairness, there weren't any good candidates to vote for in this one)
Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière (2003) - 23.5%
Willowdale (2008) - 24.4%
Denesthe-Missnipi-Churchill River (2008) - 25.0%

So what was the best by election turn out over that period, and the only time half the voters came out?

That would be the 2005 Labrador by election that sent Todd Russell to Ottawa in a rout, showing that it's not just a close by election that gets people to the polls. On the flip side, everyone expected Denesthe to be close last year and it still made the list of worst shows.

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  • CG,

    As someone who lives in Hochelaga, I can tell you that it hardly seemed like a byelection was going on in this riding for the past five weeks. There were very little campaign signs in the parts of Hochelaga I regularly travel through (and I live in Hochelaga Street, so it's not like I'm away from the action). The only place where there were a few signs was near the main metro stations, and even there, the NeoRhino.ca party managed to capture just as much visibility as the mainstream parties.* I received only one round of campaign literature, from the NDP in this case. In all, further than 30 meters from a metro station, you would be hard pressed to know there was an election going on. It seems the parties didn't really care all that much (no visits from any leader, as far as I can tell, no rallies, no campaign literature, no campaignaing, etc.), and thus nor did the population.

    (*On an amusing note, the NeoRhino.ca party's platform was advocating for the independence of Hochelaga from the rest of Québec/Canada. Among the other proposed policy was to transform The Big O into a big ashtray, convert all condos into zoos, allow graffiti, and start a crown corporation to brew the new national beverage, known as "Hochelager.")

    By Blogger Maestro, at 12:28 a.m.  

  • Thanks for the on-the-ground report. Sounds like the parties mostly mailled that one in...

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 9:24 a.m.  

  • In those by elections that you list, did the winners all hold the seats in following general elections?

    By Blogger nuna d. above, at 12:14 p.m.  

  • Odd.

    The pundits didn't seem to make the same rationalizations a couple years ago when the Conservatives lost London North Centre to Glen Pearson (and, Elizabeth May). Recall that in that election, significant efforts were made to ensure students cast their ballots, so voter turnout as a percentage of the voters list was artificially enhanced.

    I'll leave it to others to draw conclusions about what this says Ignatieff's leadership.

    By Blogger Paul, at 10:36 p.m.  

  • If it's agreed that pollsters, who sample between 1000 and 1500 people across the nation, and then claim their results are accurate within 2-3 percentage points nineteen times out of twenty, do pretty accurate work with such minuscule samples, why do agonize over low voter turnout? The idea that bumping the turnout numbers from 35% to 75% would significantly alter the result is absurd in this context.

    If one wants to bemoan the pathetic level of engagement by the voting public, that's one thing. But it's quite another to imply that, if only more people showed up to the polls, a different result would have been achieved. Not when the margins are are as significant as these were..

    By Blogger Dr. Strangelove, at 10:05 a.m.  

  • By Blogger abo-bder, at 11:51 a.m.  

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