Province sees most declined ballots since 1975: Elections Ontario

More than 31,000 voters in Ontario dismissed their political choices at the polls and chose to officially forfeit their right to vote in last week's provincial election.

More than 31,000 ballots declined, thousands more rejected or unmarked amid higher voter turnout

Residents of Wahnapitae First Nations want to switch provincial ridings. They're currently a part of Temiskaming-Cochrane, but they live closer to Nickel Belt. (Darren Calabrese/Canadian Press)

More than 31,000 voters in Ontario dismissed their political choices at the polls and chose to officially forfeit their right to vote in last week's provincial election.

Elections Ontario says unofficial results show 31,399 voters opted to decline their ballots — the highest amount since 1975.

The agency says it also counted 22,687 rejected ballots and 12,059 unmarked ballots from the June 12 election.

Elections Ontario spokesman Andrew Willis says a declined ballot is different from an unmarked one because it involves a voter actively informing an officer at the poll that they are choosing to decline to vote.

The officer will then mark the ballot as a declined one and count it separately from rejected or unmarked ballots.

The spike in declined ballots came after the election campaign saw a push to educate voters about their choices at the ballot box.

Controversial campaign

A Windsor, Ont., man with ties to the PC party launched a website and social media campaign to encourage disillusioned voters to decline their ballots rather than not voting at all.

"You have another option — Decline Your Vote," the website run by Paul Synnott said. "You're sending a message to all political parties that you're not happy with what they have to offer or how they're conducting themselves."

Synnott was accused of trying to suppress the vote in order to support the Ontario Progressive Conservatives, but said he's not telling people not to show up at a polling station.

But those who declined the vote didn't send the message they hoped, said a democracy expert who works to promote voting to young people.

Taylor Gunn said he supports having the option to decline a ballot, but that exercising it isn't likely to send a message to politicians. Instead he encouraged people to vote for or against candidates, parties or issues.

Elections Ontario has said 52.1 per cent of Ontario's 9.2 million eligible voters cast their ballots in the June 12 election, up from 48.1 per cent in the last election in 2011.

The Liberals won a majority in the election, securing 58 seats, while the Progressive Conservatives won 28 seats and the NDP got 21.

With files from CBC News