New estimated figures from Elections BC show the last provincial election may end up setting a new historical low for turnout as 54.5 per cent of registered voters cast ballots.
An earlier estimate had pegged turnout at 52.4 per cent. This said, officials point out that the updated figure of 54.5 per cent does not include voters who had registered on general election day, Oct. 24.
In 2017, the corresponding figure was 61.18 per cent.
Looking back, the lowest turnout among registered voters before 2020 occurred in 2009, when 55.14 of registered voters cast ballots. That figure gets even worse when looking at the number of eligible voters. In 2009, 50.99 of eligible voters cast ballots. Elections BC did not differentiate between turnout among eligible voters and registered voters until 1983.
Notably, that year was also the year when B.C. set historical records for both turnout among registered voters (77.66 per cent) and eligible voters (70.5 per cent) with available records dating back to 1928.
The last provincial election will likely go down as one of the most historic in the province by virtue of its outcome with the New Democratic Party securing their largest majority ever and under the circumstances which it happened as the COVID-19 pandemic sparked an unprecedented change in how British Columbians voted.
While 0.3 per cent of voters had cast their ballots by mail in 2017, that share rose to 31.4 per cent in 2020. This historic spike coincided with a corresponding decline in voting by person on general election day. Whereas 60.8 per cent of registered voters cast their ballots on general election day in 2017, the corresponding share for 2020 was 28.8 per cent. The 2020 election, however, confirmed a growing trend toward advanced voting, rising from 30.2 per cent in 2017 to 35.4 per cent in 2020.
Looking at the raw numbers, almost exactly 1.9 million British Columbians voted in the last provincial election, almost exactly 86,000 fewer than 2017. While the 2020 figure marks the second-highest total in provincial history, the real story appears to be the on-going decline in turnout, even as the provincial population continues to grow.
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