Elections are about the future, and with that in mind, Canadians can feel encouraged. High voter turnout in last week’s federal election is evidence that people really do care.
Voter turnout soared in ridings across the country, including in Nanaimo-Ladysmith. Fair comparisons are impossible because the electoral district’s boundaries changed, but the figures we have show that citizens here were much more likely to cast ballots than in the last election.
Of our riding’s 93,578 eligible voters, 71,399 dropped a ballot in the box this autumn, for a turnout of 71.4 per cent. In the 2011 election, the turnout in Nanaimo-Alberni was 67.4 per cent; in Nanaimo-Cowichan, 65.2 per cent.
The reasons for the increased turnout are left to conjecture, and every person who voted might have had different reasons for doing so.
Here in Nanaimo, we think the re-drawn riding boundaries had the effect of localizing the election and spotlighting federal issues that impact our city.
The strength of the Liberal vote in Nanaimo-Ladysmith, when compared with the party’s historical performance here, suggests it not only drew supporters from other parties this time around, but also attracted a significant number of people who didn’t vote last time, boosting overall turnout.
We expect political scientists will study the impacts of social media, and what sort of impact it had on reaching voters and rallying them to one side or another.
As for strategic voting – voting defensively to prevent a party from gaining power – it’s sometimes thought that it has a negative effect on turnout, since it can lead to apathy. But it’s clear that even after an 11-week campaign, apathy didn’t win the day.
Instead, we got something better – voters who participated and were interested, and who we hope will continue to care during elections, in between elections, and always.