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Voter turnout drops in Bradford West Gwillimbury, busy lives cited

Voter turnout in Bradford West Gwillimbury was down this election.

It was 35 per cent compared to 40 per cent in the 2014 municipal election and 39 per cent in 2010. 

And that comes as no surprise. 

There are a number of factors that contribute to voter turnout, ranging from simple weather to more complex voter apathy or satisfaction, said the town clerk Rebecca Murphy. 

Some might be quick to blame the town’s switch to online voting for this election.

But research points to little impact on voter turnout from online, said York University associate professor of politics Dennis Pilon.

While some municipalities were hoping online voting might increase turnout, it didn’t appear to have a significant impact. 

Instead, online voting ranks further down the list of voter turnout factors, Murphy said. 

While the process was not without technical difficulties — on election night, no less — lower voter turnout in Bradford could be more attributed to the lack of a mayoral race. 

“The fact that we had a mayoral candidate drop out of the race weeks before the election, I knew voter turnout would be low,” Murphy said. 

Some of the greater factors that entice voters to vote is a hotly contested mayoral race or contentious issues in the community, she added. 

Things that do increase turnout are scandals or big issues, something that can raise municipal politics above the noise.

“Rob Ford was great for voter turnout,” Pilon said. 

There were no contentious issues or even a significant mayoral race in town.  

Another item affecting turnout is the lack of candidates running, as it is difficult to knock off an incumbent, Pilon added.

In Bradford, the entire 2014 council — mayor, deputy mayor and ward councillors — were all re-elected with a sweeping majority. 

There were but a few candidates running for each position. 

Having few choices on the ballot is a factor, Murphy added. 

“Maybe residents didn’t like either candidate running,” she said. “Or maybe residents didn’t support a candidate because they knew the candidate would win anyway.”

It could also boil down to community engagement. 

The 2014 council dealt with a number of issues impacting local seniors, including the need for senior housing in town. 

The highest voter turnout was among 71 to 75-year-olds at 54 per cent. 

The town’s lowest voter turnout was among 26 to 30-year-olds with 17 per cent.

“People are busy with life,” Murphy said. “They might not be as engaged in the democratic process.”

— with Files from Simon Martin

Bradford voter turnout by age group:

• 18 to 20 — 30 per cent 

• 21 to 25 — 26 per cent

• 26 to 30 — 17 per cent

• 31 to 35 — 22 per cent

• 36 to 40 — 30 per cent

• 41 to 45 — 31 per cent

• 46 to 50 — 37 per cent

• 51 to 55 — 40 per cent

• 56 to 60 — 43 per cent

• 61 to 65 — 48 per cent

• 66 to 70 — 50 per cent

• 71 to 75 — 54 per cent

• 76 to 80 — 51 per cent

• 80 plus — 33 per cent

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