There is a rather disheartening trend in voting for our elected officials.
In the recent Saskatchewan election 445,011 votes were cast from among 820,844 registered voters, or 52.86 per cent, according to Elections Saskatchewan.
Provincially, more people did vote this year than in the 2016 election (434,244), but the percentage four years ago was actually higher at 57.83 per cent.
Pop back to 2011 the official number was higher but questioned by at least one notable source.
“In fact, the number of people voting in provincial elections has been dropping following opinion consistently for the past 30 years,” wrote Dr. Michael Boda in an editorial provided by to the Leader-Post, Star Phoenix and CBC Saskatchewan on March 27, 2016. “And despite an ‘official’ turnout figure of 67 percent of registered voters during Saskatchewan’s 2011 election, only 51 percent of voters eligible to vote actually did.”
At the time Boda had been Chief Electoral Officer in Saskatchewan since 2012.
The notable comment by Boda was the decline being a 30-year trend.
Surprisingly, nationally the numbers are somewhat better with voters’ turnout as a percentage of eligible voters holding at generally 60 per cent or better. In 2008 it was 58.8 per cent, 61.1 per cent in 2011, 68.5 per cent in 2015, and 66 per cent in 2019.
The federal numbers are particularly interesting when often the decisions made at the federal level impact a voter less directly. It is after all the provincial government that keeps highways smooth and municipal governments that deal with everything from hockey arenas to sidewalks to drinking water quality.
And that brings us to the recent municipal election in Yorkton.
At the recent swearing in ceremony for the latest edition of Yorkton Council Jessica Matsalla, Returning Officer for The City of Yorkton presented the official results of the election. She said using 2019 Saskatchewan Health numbers it was estimated there were 15,000 eligible voters in the city. There were 3,976 ballots cast this year, or 26.5 per cent of those eligible.
For comparison in 2016 there were 4,819 cast.
In this case Mitch Hippsley topped the polls for mayor garnering 2000 votes, a slim margin over Aaron Kienle with 1914 votes.
But what is most startling is that Yorkton just elected a mayor who attracted roughly 13 per cent of the City’s eligible voters to mark their ballot for him.
Among the 15 candidates for Council Quinn Haider topped the polls with 2426 votes.
This is no slight on either of the mayoral candidates or those running for Council, but it is an admonishment to our community that we are not taking our responsibility to vote as seriously as we should.
We should be better than 26.5 per cent of voters. It’s too important given issues ranging from funding aging infrastructure replacement to a new regional hospital to maintaining public safety to not be part of the process.
In an era of information available at one’s fingertips, an example an extension question and answer series with candidates at www.yorktonthisweek.com, and access to most candidates direct through social media, voters have the greatest opportunity ever to be informed.
And, while COVID-19 is an issue, voting too was easier than ever with advanced polls including a drive through option, and the ability to mail-in ballots.
We should have done better as voters. Those now sitting on Council deserve to know they have a strong base of support among a broader base of voters than 26.5 per cent when they make decisions moving forward.
In the future let’s hope we as a community remember voting is a hard earned freedom we enjoy and that we should take advantage of that freedom every chance we get.