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Record turnouts at advanced polls

Source: Globe and Mail 

Written by: SHAWN McCARTHY

Canadians flooded to advance polls for the federal election last weekend, countering the widespread concern that voter apathy would lead to another poor turnout on election day.

Elections Canada recorded the two busiest days ever for advance polling last Friday and Monday, when many people were off work for the Easter weekend.

“There was a higher than expected turnout this past weekend at the advance polls,” Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand said in a release late Tuesday. “We thank voters for their patience and field staff for their responsiveness.”

All told, voting at advanced polls was 35 per cent higher than Elections Canada recorded for the 2008 election, as 2,056,001 voters took advantage of the opportunity to cast their ballot on the weekend.

The biggest percentage increases occurred in Newfoundland and Labrador, and Nova Scotia, at 75 per cent and 68 per cent, respectively, while the number of voters at advanced polling stations in Ontario was up 37 per cent.

While it’s not clear the trend will result in higher turnout on May 2 election day, voters appear to be more energized by the stunning reversal of fortunes for the New Democrat Party, which has claimed second place nationally in some polls and first place in Quebec.

There has also been a concerted effort on university and college campuses to motivate young people to vote, with appeals by celebrities such as comedian Rick Mercer.

Some analysts have warned that the downward trend in Canada’s voter participation rate appears ready to continue in the current election, the third in five years.

Canada had a record low turnout in 2008, when it dipped below 60 per cent for the first time.


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