CBC TorontoOntario Votes 2011

Toronto Votes: Advance voting up 83% compared to last election

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By Pras Rajagopalan

The number of people who took part in advance polls in the city is in, and if you're one of those concerned about voter engagement in municipal politics, you have to be encouraged.

A release from the City of Toronto indicates that on Saturday and Sunday, 61,262 people cast ballots at advance polls. Add that number to the 16,135 who voted in weekday advance polling earlier this month, and you have a total of 77,397 votes cast.

That figure represents an 82.5 per cent jump compared to the 2006 election, when only 42,413 people voted at advance polls. In 2003, the number was 42,599.

It may be a stretch to assume that we will see as dramatic a jump in the final voter tally. But it now appears likely that the turnout for the 2010 municipal election will at least surpass the 39 per cent turnout in the 2006 election.

Likely, this year's mayor's race has inflamed the passions of many more Torontonians than in 2006, when incumbent Mayor David Miller cruised to a comfortable victory over his only serious challenger, Jane Pitfield. Miller isn't running this time around and mayoral candidates Coun. Rob Ford and former provincial MPP George Smitherman are running neck and neck, according to opinion polls.

But the obvious - and unanswerable - question remains: who will be the beneficiary of voter enthusiasm?

We'll find out seven days from now when all the votes are counted on Oct. 25.