Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Voter Turnout in British Columbia

{P.S. Since I first wrote this blog two interesting facts have come to light:
1. High turnout in the  absentee and advance polls: According to Elections BC, the number of absentee ballots cast (180,000) this election is double that of 2009, and 380,741 votes were cast in advance polls at the 85 constituencies around B.C. --a jump of 28% over 2009, despite an overall drop in voter turnout.

2. Intensive polling by the Liberals was missing in the NDP campaign --The tweeting by Alison Redford and others about "what do pollsters know" misses the point that in fact it was better inside polling that won the day--"Without polling in key swing ridings -- while the BC Liberals were reportedly canvassing 25 seats every day -- and with province-wide public polling showing a substantial if expected narrowing of their lead, the BC NDP was flying blind."--Bill Tieleman, The Tyee.}

The two biggest trends in elections in recent years have been increasing volatility of the electorate and declining voter turnout.  The real lesson of the B.C. election for all future campaigns is how the BC Liberals, through a combination of aggressive negative advertising,  carefully targeted polling, and a bit of luck, were able to make those two trends work to their advantage rather than to their disadvantage.   (In her victory speech on election night, premier Clark even mentioned the good people "who don't normally think about politics" --perhaps revealing something about who she had successfully targeted in the campaign. Very sobering for enthusiasts of deliberative democracy!)

The numbers from BC are quite underwhelming: Greens fell by 4,000; Libs lost 28,000 votes, and the NDP fell by 48,000. Clearly, people who actually vote are dying off rapidly:
The Green Party:
 2001 197,231 votes
2005 161,849
2009 134,570
2013 130,471

At this rate, the Greens should disappear completely by 2037.

2001 343,156 votes
2005 731,719
2009 691,564
2013 643,399
Thank you, Adrian , for an inspiring campaign.

2001 916,888 votes
2005 807,118
2009 751,661
2013 723,618

Great campaign, Christy. But was it really that great?

 All in all, NDP have lost about 88,000 since their high water mark in 2005 and the Liberals are down almost 200,000 since theirs in 2001.


Voter turnouts  in the vicinity of 50% ; constant electioneering and increasing resort to personal attack ads that are effective in gaining a share of the vote but have a dampening effect on turnout because they turn people off. Does this sound like another country that I could mention?  Partly it is a reflection of the personalities and ideologies of our national leaders in recent years, but it may also be an unintended consequence of fixed election dates, just as the increased centralization of power in the prime minister's office and in the leader's office was an unintended consequence of having leaders chosen by party members instead of MPs and MLAs.  Maybe we should consider a return to the first principles of parliamentary government?

I have been reluctant to endorse mandatory voting as a substitute for real electoral reform (i.e. partial proportional representation or an alternative ballot). It has been said that not voting makes a statement. Nevertheless, the citizens of B.C. should get out and vote, and a mandatory voting law would now get my support.

No comments: