Turning Out the Vote Has the Potential for Big Change
From the Nest, Issue 12
by IELECT Hamilton
If you live in Wards 1, 2, or 3 and you voted in the 2018 municipal election, you were among 23,701 residents from the three downtown wards who did.
Unfortunately, that means there were nearly 45,000 residents in those same wards who did not vote.
The average voter turnout between the downtown wards was 36%, that breaks down by ward as follows – Ward 1 at 43%, Ward 2 at 36%, and Ward 3 at 31%.
So, the minority of voters elected Councillors who end up representing 100% of the residents.
Think of it as unrepresentative representation.
The following chart summarizes the voter turnout and its implications for each of the three wards in downtown Hamilton.
IELECT Hamilton, a grassroots organization that is pushing for new leadership for a better Hamilton, wants more residents to vote. Change can still happen even if Hamilton’s average voter turnout stays at 43%, but we believe the more people who vote, the greater the likelihood the winners can claim to represent a real majority of their residents.
It’s no secret that open seats usually see many more candidates stepping up, so when there’s a combination of an open seat and low voter turnout, it usually means a very small percentage of eligible voters elect the new Councillor for their ward.
For example, in Ward 7 in 2018, Esther Pauls was elected with 25% of the votes cast in an 11 person field. In fact, votes for Pauls represent only 10% of registered voters in Ward 7.
In 2018, Wards 1 and 3 did not have an incumbent. As a result, they had 13 and 12 candidates respectively. Ward 2 had 8 candidates, including the incumbent Jason Farr. A total of 23,701 votes were cast in those three wards for 33 candidates. By contrast, some of the wards with incumbents saw as few as 2 candidates. The norm was about 3 to 4 candidates in wards with incumbents, which can affect voter turnout.
City-wide, only six wards had a 40%+ voter turnout, the highest being Ward 13 (Arlene VanderBeek) with 47%.
Already for 2022, we know there will be at least 3 open seats with the resignations of Sam Merulla (Ward 4), Chad Collins (Ward 5), and Brenda Johnson (Ward 11).
Rumour has it Ward 2 Councillor Jason Farr is considering a run in Hamilton East – Stoney Creek for the provincial Liberals against NDP MPP Paul Miller. If Farr runs and wins, that means Ward 2 will also be an open seat.
Last election, Farr won his seat with 47% of the vote against his nearest competitor, first time candidate Cameron Kroetsch, who had a strong showing at 30%. Kroetsch was the first person in the city to announce he was running again in Ward 2 in the 2022 election.
Vote splitting is a fact of life in a democracy. For an example of how two strong competitors can split the vote, resulting in a win for the incumbent, one can look to Ward 10 where incumbent Maria Pearson received just 36% of the total vote, while her two closest competitors, Louie Milojevic and Jeff Beattie, received 27% and 25% respectively. Pearson won with a vote total of 3,988.
The tightest race in the city was in Ward 15 where incumbent Judi Partridge won by a mere 216 votes against her only competitor, Susan McKechnie, or 52% to 48%.
Generally speaking, you need about 3,000 votes +/- to win as a Councillor. Ward 1 Councillor Maureen Wilson won with 3,664, Jason Farr with 3,162, and Ward 3 Councillor Nrinder Nann with 2,618.
What does all this mean to downtown residents?
If you’re thinking about becoming a candidate, think in terms of at least 3,000 votes. Study the poll-by-poll results in the last election, or the last several elections. Determine where the incumbent is strong and where the incumbent may be vulnerable. Start a list of people you know. Then consider who on that list would vote for you, would volunteer for you, and would donate money or services to you.
If you’re a voter, reflect on what you want to see happen that isn’t happening now. Study the candidates and pick the ones who you think would help close the gap between what is and what should be. Volunteer. Donate money or your time. But most of all, vote.
If you’re someone who didn’t vote in 2018, review the preceding paragraph and consider making this election one to become informed about the candidates. And vote.
Finally, please go online and look at the first IELECT Hamilton Resident Survey Report. Over half of all respondents live in Wards 1, 2, and 3 and there are both citywide and Ward-specific summaries in the report.
2022 is not the year to be a spectator.
IELECT Hamilton is a registered non-profit organization with a simple vision – new leadership for a better Hamilton