Municipal elections can be a snooze - Metro US

Municipal elections can be a snooze

Media speculation about who may or may not run for mayor next year — former mayor Bob Chiarelli is the latest possibility — seems a bit at odds with public interest in actually electing any of them.

Increasingly, it seems, voters can’t be bothered to vote, and municipal elections in particular bear the brunt of this growing indifference.

Election authorities in Saskatchewan and Quebec launched campaigns effectively begging their citizens to shrug off their inaction and cast a ballot in this fall’s civic elections. Jokey TV commercials in Quebec envisaged an election in which nobody voted, with abandoned polling stations, acres of potholes and brown goo for drinking water.

Still, Saskatchewan voters stayed home in legions this week. In Saskatoon, just 27 per cent of the electorate bothered showing up. In Regina, it was 24 per cent.

Quebec municipalities vote Sunday, and there is little reason to expect much better. One might think that allegations of corruption and bid-rigging in Montreal might have angry voters lining up at the booth to kick some ass, but widespread disgust and weariness, it is feared, will just further suppress turnout. Last time around, 35 per cent of Montrealers voted.

How does Ottawa stack up against this electoral malaise? Well, the good news is that in our last election, voter turnout was at a record high. The bad news is the actual number was 54.4 per cent. A little more than half of voters actually voting isn’t much to crow about, but in the previous election, it was a pathetic 33 per cent.

Mayor Larry O’Brien famously said he fell asleep on his boat with a beer and woke up mayor. It appears much of the electorate had a similar experience.

The unruly crowds at Lansdowne Live open houses at least indicate that active citizenry isn’t dead in the nation’s capital, but you can be almost sure that these people already voted, and are pulling double and triple duty while the rest of us sleepwalk past the polls.

I don’t advocate voting for voting’s sake. If voting day is the only time you give any thought to who governs your city and how, then maybe you’re better off not bothering. Passive apathy might do less harm than active ignorance.

I also won’t repeat that old clanger about having no right to complain if you didn’t vote. You have every right to complain. If you can find something to get mad about, you might even have the basis of an informed vote by the time the 2014 election rolls around.

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