Thursday, February 08, 2007

By-election fallout - no real surprises so far

At 4:30 this afternoon, Chief Electoral Officer Charles Furey went on the air to pooh-pooh the fact that some polling stations were located in the same building as a campaign headquarters and to state that the turnout so far was low.

Very low. Ranging from 15-20% at that point. The general rule of thumb is that you will get 1/2 the vote before 5pm and the rest of the voters will come out from 5pm to close. So Furey's remarks pointed to a turnout of 30-40%.

By-election turnouts are generally low anyway but that's not always the case.

In the recent Signal Hill Quidi Vidi by election the turnout was roughly 45% and that was considered exceptionally low. In Placentia-and-St-Marys on February 21st, 2006 it was 64.9% while in Exploits on June 23rd, 2005 it was 54.4%.

By comparison, the provincial election turnout in 2003 was 63.6%.

That fact that the PCs took all three seats by margins ranging from handily to overwhelming was no big surprise. While it was possible that might not happen, it certainly was not probable to the reasonable person. In the end it turned out that the stories of internal PC discontent were either over-blown or just plainly not a factor.

More significant than the final tallies, I think, was an exceptionally low turnout even by standards of recent by elections.

Since the 2003 election to these by elections, the turnout in Kilbride went from 61% to 33% and in Ferryland from 64.9% to 45%. In Port au Port turnout dropped less; from 60% to 51%.

Even by the standards of lower turnout in by elections, Ferryland is low and Kilbride is shockingly low; it may have set a record for people staying home. John Dinn, for example, goes to the House of Assembly with the backing of only 26% of the people in his district.

There are any number of possible reasons for why so many neglected to vote: discontent with government, contentment with government, discontent with the opposition or just plain annoyance and disgust with the the whole lot of them.

The Liberal party will certainly be looking very closely at these numbers with little enthusiasm; the party has little to be proud of.

And the PCs don't have a whole lot to crow about either. They won the seats they were supposed to but there were no resounding victories here; certainly no mandate to negotiate with our "enemies".

There are no victories here; on to Humber Valley.

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