An Elections Ontario sign marks a polling station. (File photo by Blackburn Media)An Elections Ontario sign marks a polling station. (File photo by Blackburn Media)

Low voter turnout in byelections is normal says Poli-Sci professor

The head of Political Sciences at the University of Windsor isn't too surprised by Thursday's low voter turnout in the Lambton-Kent-Middlesex by-election.

Professor Lydia Miljan told CK News Today by-elections typically have a low voter turnout.

The unofficial results show that 27,529 voters or 30.3 per cent of all registered voters voted in the riding. That's down 17 per cent from 42,652 voters or 47.3 per cent of registered voters in the 2022 general election in Lambton-Kent-Middlesex.

Miljan noted by-elections, especially provincial by-elections, don't usually motivate people to vote, unless they're angry about something.

"There's two schools of thought on this. One is that it's terrible for democracy, people aren't engaged. The other argument is that people aren't mad either. Often times people are much more motivated to vote when they're really angry and this could be a nod to the status quo as well," Miljan said.

Miljan said the lack of interest in this by-election shouldn't be too concerning, but added that people maybe aren't as engaged or informed as they were or should be because traditional media numbers are declining and social media is rising in popularity.

"It's thorny problem because as some of the scientists and watchers, we tend to focus on election results as the key indicator for engagement, but it isn't the only indicator for engagement. We're seeing people go to the streets and protest in increasing numbers," said the professor.

Miljan said fixing the trending voter apathy will require restoring public trust in institutions and politics and by adding more Civics and Politics lessons and courses to the high school curriculum.

"We spend a lot of time on history and the sciences and language writing, which is all great, but the core part of being in a democracy tends to be overlooked, especially at the education level, said Miljan.

Longtime Chatham-Kent councillor Steve Pinsonneault won the seat in a landslide.

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