Voter turnout remains low in Meadow Lake, across province

·2 min read

With new councils gathering for their first meetings since the Nov. 9 election, Saskatchewan residents are left looking once again at low voter turnout rates.

Low numbers are no surprise for Gordon Barnhart, president of the Municipalities of Saskatchewan, as he said this is something he has seen for years in Saskatchewan elections and they are always disappointing.

While people are most impacted by the municipal issues in their communities, they are more likely to care when things aren’t working compared to maintaining the community when things are working, he said.

“They're not even aware of what the municipal level of government does for them. They're aware of when their taxes are due or if something is not working or if the city or the town is digging up a sewer and the street is all dug up. They're very well aware of the instability, but other than that, if it's working well, they don't think about it.”

While the voter turnout numbers are historically low in Meadow Lake at around 30 per cent, city clerk Jessica Walters said the 2020 turnout was around 20 per cent, which still beat the numbers from the 2016 election which saw little interest from the community due to lack of candidates running for the council table.

While Meadow Lake did not have a contest for mayor, with Mayor Merlin Seymour being uncontested going into the next term, Meadow Lake residents did see an race with 11 candidates running for six council seats.

Meadow Lake was not as badly impacted by the snowstorm as other parts of the province, but Walters said she suspects that the snowfall still did have an impact on the voter turnout, as well as pandemic fears that kept people at home or voting via mail-in ballot or advance polls. Around 30 per cent of total votes cast were cast using early voting methods, Walters said, which was a huge increase compared to other elections.

Advance polls across the province seemed busier, Barnhart said, but he can only suspect that this was due to fears of COVID-19 and the approaching snowstorm that hit the province particularly hard in some places.

Municipalities of Saskatchewan’s webinars early in the fall focused on teaching people about municipal politics for two reasons, Barnhart said. One, to get people prepared to run for municipal councils and two, to encourage people to get out and vote. Barnhart can only hope this worked in both respects.

Becky Zimmer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist