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Low voter turnout in civic election continues disturbing trend

Ron Walter writes about the recent municipal election
Bizworld by Ron Walter

Shameful, a disgrace, unacceptable!

That should be the reaction to the low voter turnout for the Moose Jaw City elections.

The result of hundreds of years of fighting for the right to vote for leaders and to maintain that right are slowly being gutted as voters refuse to go to the polls in election after election.

The low turnout, ironically, occurred during a week when we honour and respect those who gave life and limb in wartime that we might vote. Not voting disrespects their sacrifice.

Civic government is closest to the people, yet by the turnout the right to choose city council and school board members is furthest from peoples’ thoughts.

Congratulations to the elected members and the many candidates with the courage and confidence to run for office. Perhaps in their term of office elected members can come up with a way to increase voter participation.

About half as many voters turned out in Moose Jaw for the election as in 2016.

The 22 per cent turnout is the lowest in memory in an election when half of council was going to be new faces. The mayor’s $100,068 a year job was contested in a three-way race and three new councillors were assured.      

Incumbent Mayor Fraser Tolmie won his second term with 55 per cent of the ballots but only 15 per cent of the eligible voters chose him.

A number of factors contributed to the low turnout aside from the slowly eroding interest in voting.

Premier Scott Moe could have chosen a less weather risky date when he decided not to run the provincial vote over the municipal. And he could have given municipalities a day or two notice of the rule change allowing postponement of the election.

The blizzard, not that unusual for this time of year, cut into turnout. One-third of votes were cast in the heavy advance poll turnout. Advance poll turnout was increased by avoidance of potential COVID-19.

City administration should try to encourage voter interest when organizing the election.

Administration dawdled in getting out candidate and voter information. The setting of only two voting locations certainly didn’t encourage voters to get out.

The desire to save money and avoid COVID led to a poorly planned election event.

Administration will whine that the usual school poll sites were unavailable as the school board was extra cautious about COVID but there are other potential polls across the city.

The certainty of three new councillors being elected when three chose not to run should have stirred enough interest among voters for at least a 30 per cent turnout.

The three councillors stepping down didn’t really tell many people of their decision leaving potential candidates little time to decide and organize in the midst of a provincial campaign.

Next time you hear someone complain about city government ask if they voted. By not voting they should give up the right to complain.

Ron Walter can be reached at 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication.  

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