By Bruce Rhodes
(From “Report of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada on the 38th General Election”, 24 June 2004, as posted on elections.ca; summarized by Bruce Rhodes)
A total of 13,683,570 ballots were cast nationally in the 38th General Election in June, 2004. This total includes advanced polls, regular voting day ballots, and rejected ballots. The final number of eligible voters was 22,466,621. This compares to the figure of 22,295,670 voters whose names were on voters’ lists as used at the polls on election day. In other words, the final tally of eligible voters, which included walk-in registrations on election day, increased by 170,951 voters or 0.77 percent as compared to the number of voters shown the election day official voter lists. Dividing the total number of ballots cast by the final total number of eligible voters, voter turnout rate was 60.91%.
Comparing the 2004 and 2000 federal elections, the number of votes cast increased by 5.5 percent in 2004, the first increase in the number of votes cast in ten years. However, the number of persons established as eligible voters grew by 8.7 percent from 2000 to 2004, meaning that the voter turnout rate declined in 2004.
Final, validated voting results by electoral district are available at www.elections.ca. In the electoral district of Richmond Hill, for example, the winning Liberal candidate garnered 58.48 percent of valid ballots cast (27,102 votes / 46,345 ballots cast). However, it is also true that Richmond Hill had at least 79,141 eligible voters (as of the start of election day; the final number will be larger, once election day walk-in registrants are added). This means that at least 65.8 percent of eligible voters in Richmond Hill, nearly two-thirds, either voted against the Liberal candidate or simply did not bother to vote.
The Green Party candidate in Richmond Hill received 4.63 percent of valid ballots cast. If that candidate could have additionally attracted votes from 77 percent of the 32,602 registered voters who did not vote, he would have won the seat.
In summary, the relatively low voter turnout rate (less than 58.8 percent in Richmond Hill in 2004), if it persists going forward to the next election, could be an opportunity for those candidates who did not win in 2004: any candidate who can persuade non-voters to vote for him or her can challenge the status quo.