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Advance voting drops in Toronto’s municipal election
Oct. 17, 2022

Fewer Torontonians voted in advance polls for this month’s municipal election than did in 2018, despite having more days to vote, in what one political scientist is chalking up to an uncompetitive race.

Just 115,911 Toronto residents cast ballots between Oct. 7 and 14 -- a 6.75 per cent decrease from four years ago, according to a news release from the city. Voters also had three more days to vote in advanced polls this year than they did in 2018.

“We’re very lucky here. Voting is easy,” said John Beebe, founder of the Democratic Engagement Exchange at Toronto Metropolitan University.

“But when you don’t have competitive races, you don’t have high voter turnout.”

Toronto’s mayor for the past eight years, John Tory, is widely expected to win another term. A recent poll conducted for the Star by Forum Research had Tory leading with 56 per cent support followed by Gil Penalosa with 20 per cent.

Polls also suggest many of the incumbents on Toronto’s city council will be re-elected, although there are some close races for open council seats.

That so many of the races feel like they are already decided is indicative of a “much more troubling issue,” Beebe said, “where people don’t feel like politics and democracy and serving as an elected representative is a way to create change.

“That’s a big problem if people don’t feel like this is how they can address the issues that they care about.”

While Tory has several challengers this year, including urbanist Penalosa, policy analyst Chloe Brown, and former police officer Blake Acton, Beebe said none of them have “the funding and resources to put up competition to Tory.”

Moreover, when voters feel like the race is already decided, they may not take the time to learn about other candidates, he said.

This has not been a good year for civic engagement. Ontario’s provincial election in June saw the lowest turnout in history, with just 43 per cent of eligible voters casting ballots.

Municipal voter turnout was already down in 2018, when just 41 per cent of eligible Toronto residents showed up to vote, down from 60 per cent in the 2014 election.

Toronto’s municipal election will take place on Oct. 24, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.