Troubling total

When all was said and done here Monday night, just over 51 percent of the eligible voters in Fort Frances cast ballots in the municipal election.
A very disappointing number to be sure–especially considering people had a full eight days to vote for their choice for mayor, town council, and the local public school board.
Actually, voting got off to a brisk start when the telephone/internet system being used here for the first time went live at 8:30 a.m. last Monday (Oct. 15). Some 583 people voted that day–a turnout that town clerk and local returning officer Lisa Slomke called “phenomenal.”
In fact, with that number having reached 998 by the end of the day last Tuesday, local election officials were left hopeful that voter turnout would hit the 60 percent mark by the time the system shut down at 8 p.m. this past Monday, which would have topped the 55 percent seen in the last municipal election in 2014 and the 55.77 percent in 2006 (there was no election here in 2010 as all the candidates for mayor and council were acclaimed).
In the end, though, that proved to be wishful thinking. Daily totals dropped off as the week wore on, with the numbers over the weekend being slow. Voting did pick up again on the final day Monday but it wasn’t enough to even come close to matching the turnout totals from the past two elections.
With voter turnout continuing to be dismal (though on the uptick) for federal and provincial elections, does a large segment of the population just not care who represents them in Ottawa, at Queen’s Park, or around the council/school board table? Or in this case, did the new voting system have an impact on why only just over half of the eligible voters bothered to cast a ballot?
Voting was relatively simple and quick using the new system, although there were some issues with the telephone method by people pushing buttons too soon. And the town certainly tried to ensure those without computers, or perhaps not comfortable navigating the internet, had the opportunity to vote by manning voter help centres all eight days at the Civic Centre, as well as travelling ones set up for an afternoon each at Rainycrest, La Verendrye Hospital, and Columbus Place last week.
No doubt there will be a post-mortem on how the new system worked and whether it was to blame for the poor turnout, which would be ironic given its aim is to increase voter turnout by its ease and 24/7 access, particularly among younger voters who tend not to vote as it is.
Whatever the outcome, though, it’s troubling that only 51.3 percent of eligible voters here voted in the municipal election. And bottom line, there just no excuse for that at all.

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