Looking hard for a message
Ranked ballot idea has some merit to encourage larger turnout
Anyone who follows politics always looks for a message in byelections. Nothing startling came out of the three held Tuesday in Nova Scotia, but at any rate the governing Liberals can rest easy with the results.
What was more troubling, as expressed by Premier Stephen McNeil in the aftermath, was the low voter turnout. In the Dartmouth South riding, only 38 per cent of eligible voters cast ballots, resulting in the NDP’s Marian Mancini winning by just 82 votes over the Liberal candidate.
The turnout in Sydney-Whitney Pier was 42.6 per cent while 47 per cent of potential voters took the time to cast a ballot in Cape Breton Centre.
With the Liberals picking wins in the two Cape Breton ridings, however, both formerly held by the NDP, McNeil certainly wasn’t handed any worries in the overall outcome.
Had it gone another way, the Liberals winning only one or none, a lot of people would be trying to read some- thing into the tea leaves.
But it’s hard to say if any such message would be forthcoming in a midsummer byelection with little at stake – even if voters like to see such contests as bellwether events, a test of the government’s performance.
In the lead- up, earlier this week, Don Mills, chairman and CEO of Corporate Research Associates, said he didn’t see these three byelections as any test of government support. With a solid majority, a couple of seats wouldn’t make a substantial difference. That often means interest in them isn’t as high, Mills said, and victory is more likely to depend on which party gets more of its supporters out to the polls.
On top of that, again, let’s remember the time of year. General elections are typically cast in fall or spring, never in the summer when, frankly, most people are pursuing a more entertaining agenda.
The abysmal turnout can probably in large part be attributed to those factors. McNeil did reflect on considering such possibilities as reforming the system to one of ranked ballots to encourage better turnout. There’s merit in that, definitely, but at the same time we can be sure when voters want to send a message, a lot more will show up.
‘ When voters want to send a message, a lot more will show up’