The Results Are In

Posted by Daniel on May 16, 2009





For the record, here are the results from last week’s provincial election, compared to the two previous elections.

Results of the 2009 election (85 Seats):
Seats Popular vote
Liberals 49 46%
NDP 36 42%
Green 0 8%
Conservative 0 2.1%
Other 0 1.7%

Results of the 2005 election (79 seats):
Seats Popular vote
Liberals 46 46%
NDP 33 41%
Green 0 9%
Other 0 4%

Results of the 2001 election (79 seats):
Seats Popular Vote
Liberals 76 57.5%
NDP 3 21.6%
Green 0 12.4%
Unity 0 3.3%
Other 0 5.2%

As many observers have pointed out, perhaps the most important statistic from the election was voter turnout: only 52.5% of registered voters, down from 62% in the 2005 election and down a whopping 25 points from 1983. There are all sorts of explanations for the decline, and all sorts of suggestions to reverse it. I have neither. However, I would observe that although I did vote myself, I came very close to not doing so. I live in a riding where the outcome was a foregone conclusion. I supported the opposition candidate, who stood no chance of winning, so what incentive was there for me to vote? No matter what I did, the outcome would be the same.

In the end, I cast a ballot, more because it is engrained in me to do so than because I felt any enthusiasm for my choices. In fact I have always believed that not voting is a viable choice and for many years I didn’t, arguing that I was waiting for one or other of the parties to put forward policies that appealed to me. Why should I vote for someone just because they were the only thing on offer? If the pool of non-voters gets large enough, won’t the parties tweak their policies in order to swim in it?

Voting activists propose a variety of innovations to get out the vote. Many of these involve making it easier for people to cast their ballots, but I don’t really think ease of voting is the issue. How difficult is it to walk a couple of blocks and cast your ballot? The issue is motivation. Short of making voting compulsory, perhaps only a return to the highly polarized political culture we used to have in the province will get more people to the polls. And do we really want that?