Do You Vote?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Whether you look at it as a privilege, a responsibility or an activity you opt to forgo, voting is the right of every Canadian citizen 18 or older.  Registered voters can vote in several ways:

  •     At the polls on election day

  •     At advance polls on the tenth, ninth or seventh day prior to election day

  •     By special ballot (vote by mail)

How many people actually do exercise their right to vote?  According to Elections Canada, voter turnout for the May 2, 2011 election was 61.1%, comparable to that of the past decade but significantly lower than in decades past.  Records dating back to 1867 reveal that voter involvement reached its peak in the March 1958 federal election, which drew a 79.4% voter turnout.  Momentum has shifted downward in subsequent decades, as reflected by the chart below.

Federal Election Voter Turnout by Decade

                    Decade                      Number of Elections       Average Voter Turnout                 

   1960 - 69         4           77.1%      
1970 - 79      3           74.5%     
1980 - 89      3           73.3%     
   1990 - 99         3           69.5%    
   2000 - 09         4           61.4%    

Source: Elections Canada

Why are fewer people voting today?  In its May 2011 Labour Force Survey, Elections Canada asked those people who did not cast a ballot in the May 2, 2011 federal election why they chose to forgo their right to vote.  More than a fourth of the 7.5 million eligible voters who reported they did not vote in this election said it was because they were not interested in voting or they didn’t believe their vote would make a difference.  Almost another fourth said they were too busy to vote. The chart below summarizes survey responses.

Main Reason for Not Voting
May 2, 2011 Federal Election

Not interested (including feeling their vote would not make a difference)  27.7%
Too busy (including family obligations, work/school schedule conflict)  22.9%
Out of town 10.1%
Illness or disability   8.5%
Did not like candidates/issues 7.6%
 Forgot 3.8%
Not registered to vote  3.7%
Too difficult or transportation issue 2.9%
Religious beliefs  1.3%
Weather conditions 0.1%
Other  11.4%

Source: Elections Canada

Single parents, recent immigrants and skilled trade workers are among those least likely to vote, says a Statistics Canada survey. Statistics Canada also collected information about the political engagement of various age groups through its 2008 General Social Survey. Survey highlights follow.

Voters Who Say They Have Voted in a Federal Election


                   Age        Voted in at Least 1 Federal Election

18+ 77%
20 - 29 59%
30 - 44 71%
45+ 85%

Source: Statistics Canada, 2008 General Social Survey 

Percentage of Canadians Involved with a Political Party or Group


                   Age         Involved with a Political Party/Group                                   

15+ 5.9%
15 - 24  3.6%
25 - 54  5.1%
55+  8.6%

Source: Statistics Canada, 2008 General Social Survey

The Statistics Canada publication titled Canadian Social Trends reveals that young adults are just as likely as older adults to sign petitions, boycott or choose a product for ethical reasons, and attend public meetings.  The higher their level of education, the more likely these individuals are to participate in these non-voting activities as well as to vote.

If you’d like to register to vote, simply call 1-800-INFO VOTE or contact your local Elections Canada office.  You can find more information about voting by visiting or calling Elections Canada at 1-800-463-6868.

Sources: Elections Canada, Statistics Canada