Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Hard-fought election fails to inspire more to vote

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THE closest election contest in Manitoba in more than a decade was not enough to propel more voters to the polls.

Elections Manitoba posted official results of the Oct. 4 provincial election Thursday, and they show voter turnout actually declined almost a full percentage point from the 2007 election, to 55.77 per cent.

Turnout reported on election day was skewed because initial results included the votes of people who were sworn onto the voters list at the polls. Those voters were not initially included in the number of registered voters. Ultimately, that meant turnout went down.

Mary Skanderbeg, manager of elections operations for Elections Manitoba, said the numbers are disappointing.

"I always say as long as we have the process in place, it's up to the voters," Skanderbeg said.

She said the turnout result must be put in perspective because Elections Manitoba was much better at getting people registered to vote in 2011. The agency spent more time in the field enumerating and 36,054 more people were on the voters lists this year than in 2007. However, only 12,803 more people voted.

Some ridings did show a jump in turnout, particularly those that received a lot of media attention for having close contests. That includes River Heights, with turnout up more than three percentage points to 72.51 per cent. It received a lot of attention for the close race between Liberal Leader Jon Gerrard and Tory candidate Marty Morantz.

River Heights had the highest turnout of any riding for at least the second election in a row.

Close contests in Seine River and Southdale also propelled more people to the polls, with turnout jumping more than seven and more than four points, respectively, in those ridings.

Close contests don't always predict higher voter turnout. In Brandon West, where Tory Reg Helwer held off the NDP's Jim Murray by just 151 votes, turnout fell more than seven percentage points, to just below 60 per cent.

In Kirkfield Park, which was the closest race of all, with NDP incumbent Sharon Blady beating Tory Kelly de Groot by 26 votes, turnout declined 0.27 percentage points.

The Pas had the lowest turnout in the province this time at just 30.4 per cent. That is down more than six points from 2007. Keewatinook (formerly Rupertsland) was the only northern riding to show a slight increase in turnout, going from 33.34 to 35.68 per cent.

mia.rabson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 15, 2011 A8

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