New Brunswick Votes

Voter turnout drops again in New Brunswick

Despite efforts to encourage more people to vote in Monday's election, only 373,337 ballots were cast by the 571,050 eligible voters.

Elections New Brunswick says 65.38% of eligible voters voted in Monday's provincial election

New Brunswick's voter turnout dropped in Monday's election to roughly 65 per cent, despite ongoing efforts to encourage more people to cast a ballot.

Elections New Brunswick's unofficial figures show 373,337 ballots were cast by the 571,050 eligible voters, which puts voter turnout at 65.38 per cent, 

Voter turnout dropped to below 66 per cent in Monday's provincial election, prompting suggestions for changes to the system. (CBC)
An Elections New Brunswick official said those numbers are not yet final and voter turnout may be even lower as more names are being added to the eligible voter list.

In 2010, 69,56 per cent of eligible voters, or 374,902 people, cast ballots. 

The lowest previous rate in New Brunswick history was 67.52 per cent, which occurred in 2006.

In the five elections between 1967 and 1991, the province's voter turnout was higher than 80 per cent.

Tom Bateman, chair of the political science department at Saint Thomas University, said it is very interesting that turnout continues to decline. 

"This is a reduced turnout when both Elections New Brunswick has made voting easier than ever and when we've had a much more competitive party system developing with three opposition parties having quite a bit of prominence in this election campaign," Bateman said.

"It has to do with young people entering the electorate but not paying attention."

Cynicism prevalent among young voters

Jamie Gillies, as assistant professor of communications and public policy at St. Thomas University, said low-voter turnout is in part a generational problem, which won't be easy to fix.

Political scientist Tom Bateman says it is time to consider changes to the electoral system in New Brunswick given the consistent decline in voter turnout. (CBC)
"This is a feeling among a lot of people who believe that voting as a civic duty does not matter. It does not matter who we elect on election day," Gillies said. 

Bateman said the province has to make some changes which could include a more proportional system or compulsory voting.

Nicole LeBlanc of Moncton worked during the election campaign to convince more young people to vote and said she was hoping for an 81-per-cent voter turnout.

"The turnout I wanted obviously was a 10-per-cent increase from the last one which was 71," she said.

"It went down a little bit from that, however the projections I was hearing for the turnout were 52 to 58 per cent, so the turnout we got was higher than that at least so it's not as bad as it could have been."

LeBlanc said she has heard a lot of cynicism with many young people telling her they won't vote because their vote wouldn't make any difference.

She said the province needs to look at some changes, including something she calls "issue-based voting" where important issues are added to election ballots. 

"In the [United] States they do this a little bit, they put referendum questions for people to vote on directly," LeBlanc said.

"I think that would be a good idea because even if people don't agree with parties they may care about specific issues."

LeBlanc said online voting also should be considered.

Elections New Brunswick increased the number of on-campus polling stations during this election, and allowed students to vote in their home ridings.

A spokesperson for Elections New Brunswick said that outreach was successful with 2,833 ballots cast.


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