The big question in this campaign, aside from all the issue-based questions, is how many people are going to come out to the polls in the middle of the pandemic’s fourth wave. Well, they certainly showed up for the advanced polls if a first glance at numbers from Elections Canada are to be believed as the early voting period in this election has seemed to yield a 20 per cent increase in turnout over 2019.
Technically, the voter turnout at early polls went up by 18.46 per cent this election over 2019, with around 5.78 million voters casting ballots between Friday September 10 and Monday September 13, according to a media release from Elections Canada. In the 2019 Federal Election, nearly 4.88 million Canadian voters visited an advanced polls, which that year happened over the Thanksgiving long weekend.
“I want to thank the electors who took advantage of advance polls for their patience and their help in making this a safe experience for everyone. I also want to thank the tens of thousands of election workers for making this possible,” said Chief Electoral Officer Stéphane Perrault in a statement. “Canadians still have the opportunity to contribute to this great democratic exercise by voting on election day or by returning their special ballot before the September 20 deadline.”
Voters in Guelph were part of that national trend, as early estimates say that 21,714 people in Guelph went to cast their ballots last weekend versus 17,187 people in 2019. What impact will this have on the overall voter turnout on September 20? Consider that 75,568, or 72.3 per cent of Guelph’s eligible voters, came out to vote in 2019, which means that 22.75 per cent of all the people that voted in 2019 voted in the early polls.
The 2019 election saw a slight dip in voter turnout in Guelph over 2015 where 73.27 per cent of eligible voters came out, which was almost 10 per cent higher than the voter turnout in 2011 where almost 64.5 per cent of eligible voters participated.
For anyone and everyone planning on voting on Election Day itself, you should keep in mind that number of local polling stations has been cut back due to the effect of COVID-19 limitations for available sites. Specifically this affects the vast majority of schools that will not be used as polling places in Ontario this election, which are typically among the most obvious choices to hold a polling station.
In Guelph, the number of polling places open on September 20 will be 43 compared to 61 in the last election, meaning a net loss of 18 polling places. Comparatively, Guelph gets off light because according to a report by the CBC last week, Ontario has seen the most significant drop in the number of polling places, with 11 Greater Toronto Area ridings seeing a loss of half their polling stations when compared to the last election.