Voter turnout in Norfolk steady at 41%
Norfolk barely moved the needle on voter participation in the Oct. 22 municipal election. The number of people who voted in the mayor’s race increased by 400 over the 2014 vote.
However, as a proportion of eligible voters, the percentage of Norfolk residents who cast a ballot in the mayor’s race last Monday was down compared to 2014.
Folkin’ Vote – the non-partisan group that came together to increase citizens’ engagement with the municipal election – was disappointed with the outcome.
However, increasing the gross number of voters was just one of Folkin’ Votes’ objectives.
The group also educated the public on the issues, helped stage several well-attended candidates meetings, and live-streamed these meetings as well as the election night tabulation at the Simcoe Recreation Centre.
“Voter turnout didn’t really increase at all and we found that a little disappointing,” says Meika Matthews of Port Dover, one of the organizers of the Folkin’ Vote initiative.
“We thought turnout would be higher with the feedback we were getting. That sort of feedback was really rewarding for us. But we set out to do what we set out to do. We made the election more accessible and put the issues on social media and on people’s cell phones.”
There were measurable successes along the way, including 10,000 views of Folkin’ Vote’s live and recorded all-candidates events on the Internet. During the all-candidates night in Port Dover on Oct. 3, total viewership reached the 600 mark.
All told, Matthews says Folkin’ Vote’s first foray into municipal politics was a positive one. She suspects the momentum gained will carry the group forward into the future.
“I think that enthusiasm is going to carry over,” Matthews said. “We’re calling it an overall success. I have a feeling next municipal election that you will see us again.”
A breakdown of the Oct. 22 vote reveals some important things about this election.
For one, support for mayoral winner Kristal Chopp, of Port Dover, was broad-based. Chopp collected the most votes of all mayoral candidates at 15 of 19 polls.
Incumbent Charlie Luke prevailed at the poll at the Teeterville fire hall, the Royal Canadian Legion in Waterford, the advanced poll at the Waterford Legion on Oct. 6, and the institutional polls at area seniors homes.
Chopp won the rest. On election day, Chopp topped Luke 1,016 -526 in Port Rowan; 317-263 in Courtland; 466-278 in Langton; 615- 600 in Delhi; 697- 476 in Vittoria; 240-243 in Lynnville; 2,030-1,846 in Simcoe; and 1,8801,161 in Port Dover.
The results of the advanced polls are especially insightful because they suggest Norfolk had settled on change well before election day itself. Chopp won advanced polls in St. Williams on Oct. 4 and Oct. 6, Simcoe on Oct. 4, Port Dover on Oct. 4 and Oct. 10, Delhi on Oct. 6, Simcoe on Oct. 6 and Oct. 10, and Delhi on Oct. 10.
All told, Chopp collected 10,838 votes to Luke’s 8,646. Mayoral candidate Russell Colebrook, of Renton, was aiming for 1,000 votes but had to settle for 604.
The mayoral race in 2014 was also hotly contested. Former Simcoe Coun. Luke defeated incumbent Dennis Travale by a margin of 10,644 to 8,166. Of the 47,513 people eligible to vote in Norfolk four years ago, 41.7 per cent cast a ballot for mayor.
In comparison, 48,696 were eligible to vote for mayor in Norfolk this month. The 20,222 who cast a ballot represent a turnout of 41.3 per cent.
As for the councillor candidates, there were wide variations in the participation rate from ward to ward. Results from the Oct. 22 election break down as follows:
• 35.7 per cent of the 6,034 electors in Port Rowan-area Ward 1 voted in this election. Newcomer Tom Masschaele defeated six other candidates with 547 of the 2,109 ballots cast. Voter turnout in Ward 1 in 2014 was 44.2 per cent.
• 26.9 per cent of the 5,932 electors in Langton-area Ward 2 voted in this election. Incumbent Coun. Roger Geysens defeated two other challengers with 720 of the 1,578 ballots cast. Voter turnout in Ward 2 in 2014 was 26.6 per cent.
• 38.2 per cent of the 5,987 electors in Delhi-area Ward 3 voted in this election. Incumbent Mike Columbus fended off four challengers with 1,249 of 2,273 ballots cast. Voter turnout in Ward 3 in 2014 was 38.7 per cent.
• 37.9 per cent of the 5,533 electors in Windham- area Ward 4 voted in this election. Newcomer Chris Van Paassen defeated two other candidates with 1,089 of 2,074 ballots cast. Voter turnout in Ward 4 in 2014 was 35.1 per cent.
• 45.9 per cent of the 11,491 electors in Simcoe-area Ward 5 voted in this election. Winners Ian Rabbitts and Ryan Taylor – both newcomers – collected 3,007 and 1,616 votes respectively from the 9,085 ballots cast. Voter turnout in Ward 5 in 2014 was 48.4 per cent.
• Turnout in Port Dover-area Ward 6 was impressive compared to the rest of the county. 61.6 per cent of the 7,165 electors in Ward 6 voted in this election. Newcomer Amy Martin topped a field of eight candidates with 2,242 votes of the 4,396 ballots cast. Voter turnout in Ward 6 in 2014 was 51.7 per cent.
• 35 per cent of the 6,827 electors in Waterford- area Ward 7 voted in this election. Newcomer Kim Huffman defeated challenger Jean Montgomery with 1,197 of 2,353 ballots cast. Voter turnout in Ward 7 in 2014 was 36.8 per cent.