Voter turnout continues to fall: My piece in Centretown News

View the original story published on the Centretown News website here.

Friday November 14.

Somerset Ward’s voter turnout rate continued its decline in the October election, a problem forcing newly elected Catherine McKenney to confront the ward’s growing transient population.

The wide-open election race featured 11 candidates, with mainstay Diane Holmes retiring after years in municipal politics.

Average voter turnout this year was 39.82 per cent, putting Centretown just below the city average. Voter turnout across Ottawa has been in rapid decline since 2006, with rates plunging from 54 per cent to 40 and dropping.

Somerset Ward fell from 50 to 43 per cent from 2006 to 2010 and now to under 40 per cent in 2014.

Somerset was one of only two of the city’s 23 wards with 11 candidates, the highest number in this year’s election.

The diversity of urban Centretown are one explanation for declining voter turnout.

Carleton University political sciencist Conrad Winn suggests voter turnout is directly related to how “consequential” an election seems. When individuals feel that all the options on the ballot offer them the same thing, they are not as likely to vote than if candidates vary in platforms, he says.

“There aren’t a lot of radical things that politicians at any level of government can do,” says Winn. “When you look at where turnout is high, it’s because the election is consequential. Voter turnout is lowest at the local level because the consequences are smallest.”

Somerset’s young population, 40 per cent of which is between the ages of 15 and 29, may also explain the result.

Winn says low voter turnout is a result of the growing “social youth” demographic, a group finding less motivation to engage in municipal politics.

“People are staying young longer and longer. They’re getting married really late, they’re having children really late,” he says. “They don’t have the same pressing reasons to follow municipal politics and vote.”

These pressing reasons, Winn suggests, can include having a child, owning property or land, or having a long-term job. The “social youth” demographic is waiting longer before settling down and in doing so prolongs their period of non-committal involvement with local politics.

“People aren’t going to vote when they don’t understand what’s happening,” he says. “Municipal and ward politics are hard to understand unless you have lived in that ward for a long time.”

Exaggerated enthusiasm? Agreed.

This post, written by Deqa Ahmed as a critique of the article Romney Deflates the President, by Peggy Noonan for the Wall Street Journal, is one I agree with. The original article, regarding the first 2012 presidential debate, dove too far into the Romney –or, Republican- point of view, revealing the author’s intention and political opinion.

That said, I agree with my classmate concerning Noonan’s writing style. I too found it easily read, thought provoking, clear and concise. I also appreciated the natural feel of her writing style; not truly formal, and with enough personal comments that indicated that it was not necessarily a subjective piece concerning the presidential election. I found it refreshing. The article made sense of topics that the audience may not be familiar with; the audience is not guaranteed to be fluent in politics.

I also agree that the way the argument was presented was effective. Noonan gave plenty of evidence to support Mitt Romney’s victory over President Obama, as was mentioned in the critique, and gave a very convincing argument. That being said, I disagree that there “seemed to be a slight bias”. In fact, I found the bias of the piece almost painfully blatant the entire way through. Noonan seemed to abandon all objectivity throughout the piece and instead use the piece as an opportunity to share her conservative views. Regarding the critique, I agree with most of Deqa’s argument, as her opinion is well represented and explained.  However, I would disagree with the opinion that the use of picture and videos was a positive addition; based on the prominence of both politicians discussed –Obama and Romney- I felt it was an unnecessary addition to the article. Everyone knows what Obama and Romney look like, and this only allows Noonan to provide photos that support her argument against Obama. It adds another level of subjectivity to an article that should be striving to be more objective, and only adds to the bias. That said Deqa provided a clear, thorough critique of the article, and I agree with her opinions of Noonan’s original article, particularly concerning the issue of bias.