The 2009 provincial election is now officially historic for another reason.
A lower percentage of people came out to vote this June than in any other provincial election in the province’s history.
Despite an explosion of support leading to Nova Scotia’s first NDP government, only 58 per cent of eligible votes were cast, according to final figures released late last week by Elections Nova Scotia. That’s down from the previous low of 60 per cent in 2006.
“It’s always distressing to see voter turnout go down,” Premier Darrell Dexter said yesterday.
“We’re doing everything we can to try and create awareness, to increase the mechanisms by which people participate.
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“I think we have to continue to stress and make government relevant to people.”
More people actually voted this time (413,871) than in’06 (404,683) but because there were more eligible voters the percentage shrunk.
Dexter said the government has done everything it can to make voting easier for people over the years, including greatly expanding opportunities to vote. But he doesn’t plan more drastic measures such as online voting because of security concerns.
The results also cast a dim light on Democracy 250. The program received more than $10 million last year to promote voting and the democratic process across the province. All but about $2 million was spent.
The program was supposed to halt the erosion of voter participation that has been underway for more than a decade, but the numbers continue to drop.
Still, the success or failure of D250 can’t be judged in voting results, according to Dexter.
“It’s one of those unknowns,” he said. “You don’t know what the participation would have been had the project not gone ahead.”
Several of the lowest turnouts were in Halifax Regional Municipality, including Dartmouth North and Halifax Needham at 49 per cent each.
The NDP gained about 46,000 votes this election, for a total of 186,556. On the flip side the Tories lost nearly 60,000 votes, falling to a little more than 100,000.