It was just another night in Meadow Lake.
Election night came and went Oct. 26, and – with the exception of a vast minority – very few people seemed to notice.
Although Meadow Lake doesn’t have an actual voters’ list, according to data obtained from 2011 census numbers, the city predicts there are between 3,000 and 3,400 eligible voters living within the municipality. However, only a mere 582 voted last week to determine who would serve as members of city council. That’s far less than a third of the total population who could have cast a ballot and a sad commentary on how serious the people of this community apparently view their democratic right.
In recent years, Meadow Lake has never had a strong voter turnout, but there was still greater participation in the two previous general elections compared to this one. In 2012, 696 people voted, while 665 visited the polls in 2009. It’s unfortunate to see these numbers drop, as more people seemingly don’t feel the need to have their say.
So, why is it so many residents neglected to vote this time around? A report conducted by the University of Waterloo claims voter turnout in municipal elections is rarely above the 50 per cent mark. Excuses often range from being too busy, being unfamiliar with the issues or, for the most part, voter apathy. People just don’t seem to care who does the job as long as the job is getting done.
Another reason could be unfamiliarity with the candidates. In a community the size of Meadow Lake, this should never be the case. But, considering how low key the local campaign was, it’s probably safe to say most Meadow Lakers know more about Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump than they do Curtis Paylor and Conrad Read. From the day nominations closed until the election itself, there was little to no buzz throughout the community about who would win and who should win. While campaign signs did pop up here and there, there weren’t too many knocks at the door and, unlike the last election, there wasn’t an all candidates forum to allow council hopefuls to plead their case or for the public to ask those hard-hitting questions.
The reason for such an apparent lack of interest could have stemmed from the fact there were so few candidates. The mayor was acclaimed while only seven people were vying for six council seats. This means, following the election, there was only one odd man out (yes, man, as no female candidates came forward this year). A larger field of candidates and thus a greater option for choice could have translated to more votes.
It’s too bad considering the municipal level is where decisions are made that will affect people most directly. Next time someone decides to criticize council for one decision or another, however, he or she should take note of whether or not voting was on their to do list this fall. If you don’t vote, don’t complain.