Almost half of Quebec voters shunned polls

Elections Quebec is calling Monday's historically low voter turnout a catastrophe.

Elections Quebec is calling Monday's historically low voter turnout a catastrophe.

Jean Charest's Liberals won a third mandate and a solid majority, taking 66 of Quebec's 125 seats. But only 56.5 per cent of Quebec voters cast a ballot in the election — the lowest election turnout since 1927.

The turnout was noticeably low in many predominantly anglophone ridings, including Mont Royal, D'Arcy-McGee, and Westmount – where there was a 17 per cent drop in voter turnout.

The outcome is worrisome because Quebec's chief electoral officer, Marcel Blanchet, went out of his way to get the vote out, said Denis Dion, a spokesman.

The province's election agency ran a splashy television ad campaign, sent open letters to all major newspapers, and extended advanced polls to seven days, the most ever for a provincial election.

Monday's election was the province's "most accessible," which makes the turnout "extremely disappointing," Dion said.

Everyone is responsible for the outcome, and it may be time to review the voting system, Dion said.

All three main political parties will have to look at the results, said Finance Minister Monique Jérôme-Forget.

"Nobody is going to be happy about that. Democracy is based on people voting, expressing their wish and their will, and therefore the fact that they didn't is certainly a sad story for me," she said.

"On the other hand, we live in a society where people do not have to vote."

Observers warned about voter fatigue before the election, said Christian Bourque, vice-president of research at Léger Marketing.

"I mean after the federal election, the American election, people did not feel like paying attention to the election campaign," he said.

"The second thing as well, people kept saying the Liberals will win, the Liberals will win. When people don't perceive there's a race, that's one more reason to stay home."

Record cold temperatures in some parts of the province on election day didn't help attract voters to the polls.

University and CEGEP students complained that election day was scheduled right in the middle of their exam period.