57,000 more votes cast in municipal elections

Nearly 40 per cent of eligible New Brunswick voters cast ballots in the municipal, district education council, and regional health board elections.

Unofficial results show 40% voted Monday compared to 48% in 2008

More New Brunswickers showed up at polling stations to cast ballots in the 2012 municipal elections on Monday, despite an overall drop in the voter turnout percentage.

Nearly 40 per cent of eligible New Brunswick voters cast ballots in the municipal, district education council and regional health board elections on Monday.

Unofficial Elections New Brunswick results show 219,777 of 550,335 eligible voters went to the polls.

Elections New Brunswick has not issued the official voter turnout percentages. The unofficial results show, however, that more people actually voted on Monday than four years ago.

In 2008, 162,660 out of 336,398 eligible voters — or 48 per cent — showed up to cast ballots in contested local elections. The voter turnout ranged from 28 per cent to 77 per cent depending on the municipality.

Michael Quinn, the province's chief electoral officer, said there were 57,000 more more votes cast in Monday's election, but the voter base was up by more than 150,000.

The larger voter base this year is due to Elections NB including those who live outside incorporated areas, something that wasn't done in 2008.

Officials had been hoping for a higher-than-average voter turnout.

Quinn said he looked at the actual participation rate, which excludes people who didn't have municipal ballots because positions in their areas were filled by acclamation.

He said that shows a 46.9 per cent participation rate in the 2012 election, which is down slightly from the 48.3 per cent participation rate in 2008.

Tom Bateman, a political scientist at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, said it is not uncommon to see the voter turnout around 30 per cent in a municipal election.

But he said New Brunswick can be different.

"When people are in closer touch with their representatives, when the communities are smaller, and there is less transience in the population — people coming and going all the time — then people have a closer connection with political life and their participation in elections tends to be higher," he said.

Advance poll numbers were up 45 per cent over the last municipal election and Quinn said he expected to see that trend continue Monday night with some hotly contested races across the province.

While there were more votes to process on Monday, Elections New Brunswick is looking at why it took so long for many results to be announced.

Quinn said the tabulation took longer than anticipated because there were so many candidates running for local races along with the regional health authorities and district education councils.

There were 1,268 candidates running in the 105 municipal races and for spots on the seven district education councils and two regional health boards.

Some of the province’s larger cities had intense battles for mayors or high-profile candidates seeking election or electoral redemption.

The unofficial tally of advance voters from May 5 and 7 is 38,558, which is up considerably from the nearly 26,000 who voted early in 2008.

In the 2004 municipal elections, about 46 per cent of eligible voters went to the polls.

Unlike previous elections, this year’s advance polls were open to anyone who wanted to vote early instead of being reserved only for those who were unable to vote on election day.

Plenty of candidates

The number of candidates for the municipal elections was 1,068.

A total of 113 people put their name forward to run for a seat on the province’s seven district education councils.

And 78 people were vying for a spot on one of the two regional health authority boards.

Of the municipal candidates across the province, 416 were running to keep their jobs against 652 non-incumbents.

There were 777 male candidates (72.7 per cent) and 291 female candidates (27.2 per cent).

Earlier this year, Elections New Brunswick officials toured the province, trying to drum up interest and get people to run in the elections.

In the 2008 municipal elections, there were no candidates for 10 council positions.

Elections New Brunswick was forced to call by-elections in the municipalities where no one stood for election.

Meanwhile, 70 per cent of English-language district education council positions had to be appointed or filled by acclamation.

Last month, with just one day left before nominations closed, several New Brunswick communities were still searching for candidates willing to run for municipal council positions.