For the first time since 1988, voter turnout in a Nova Scotia provincial election increased, but not by much.
Almost 60 per cent of eligible voters took to the polls on Oct. 8. This is up from 2009’s turnout rate of almost 58 per cent.
“Personally, as a citizen of the country, I would hope the turnout would be higher,” Lorne Smith, returning officer for Pictou Centre, said.
Although not a significant jump, it is a change from the decline in turnout for the past six elections.
The last increase was between the provincial elections in 1984 and 1988.
Turnout went from 68 per cent to 76 per cent.
A significant jump in voters suggests a desire for change. Although the Progressive Conservatives stayed in power with John Buchanan as premier for the 1988 election, the party did lose over a dozen seats to the Liberal Party.
Pictou County ridings were above the provincial rate. Pictou Centre saw 62 per cent of voters. Pictou East received votes from 67 per cent of eligible voters. Pictou West had the highest rate with 70 per cent.
This year’s slight voter turnout increase was accompanied by a dramatic change in government, but there are other factors to consider.
Voters had more options than ever to cast their ballot.
Continuous polls were open every day except Sunday until the Thursday before the election. Voters were able to go into their returning office and cast a write-in ballot.
“I think that’s become a popular way to vote,” Smith said, adding that he looks forward to Elections Nova Scotia furthering on this option in the future.
More than 100,000 people across the province voted in continuous and advanced polls.
More than 900 voted ahead of Oct. 8 in Pictou West alone.
This was also the first year university and college students were able to do write-in ballots right on campus. They were able to vote either in the riding where they went to school or in their home riding.
Despite the increase, Nova Scotians are still nowhere near the turnout rates of the past. In 1960, 82 per cent of those eligible flocked to polling stations to exercise their democratic right.
Smith said many citizens feel disheartened by the process and that he can understand why they might choose not to vote. However, he chooses to embrace it.
“I vote because that is my voice.”
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