Nunavut sees drop in voter turnout during federal election

By latest count, 34% of registered voters participated, down from 48% in 2019

People line up at a polling station in Iqaluit on Sept. 20. Voter turnout appears to be down in Nunavut this year. (Photo by Mélanie Ritchot)

By David Lochead

Voter turnout appears to have taken a dive in Nunavut during the recent federal election.

As of Sept. 24, voter turnout in the territory for 2021 stood at 34 per cent of registered voters.

Those results remain incomplete, because Elections Canada still needs to count special ballots and the votes of people who registered on election day.

But even when those extra ballots are counted, it will be difficult for Nunavut’s turnout to match 2019, when nearly 48 per cent of registered voters cast a ballot.

In 2019, 9,542 Nunavummiut voted, while this year’s current number is at 7,276 – a difference of 2,266 votes.

Nunavut MP elect Lori Idlout said one issue that may have affected turnout is how Elections Canada wouldn’t accept voters who tried to vote outside their home community.

The Federal Elections Act stipulates that on election day, voters have to cast their ballot in the polling place where they live, said Elections Canada spokesperson Diane Benson.

That situation is challenging for Nunavut, said Idlout, since people often travel from their community to Iqaluit for health reasons.

Idlout also heard from some who needed to hunt around election time, because of excessive rain in the earlier part of the season.

Nunavut’s low voter turnout is not surprising historically, with numbers there coming in under the national average since its founding in 1999.

Idlout says some potential voters have told her they feel like they have given the federal government solutions to Nunavut’s issues only to be ignored.

“There was definitely a sense of frustration with some voters, saying, ‘There’s no point in voting because things won’t change anyway,'” she said.

Idlout said she intends to promote the importance of voting whenever possible.

“I think it’s an important exercise in expressing what you want in democracy.”

Nunavik sees more voters than Nunavut; national average also down

The riding that included Nunavik fared better, with 42 per cent of voters who registered before election day casting a ballot. Like the results for Nunavut, this number excludes special ballots and voters who registered on election day.

In 2019, nearly 50 per cent of registered voters in the riding cast a ballot.

Turnout appears to be down this year nationally too. About 62 per cent of Canadians voted this election, excluding special ballots and voters who registered on election day. In 2019, participation was about 67 per cent.

Voter fatigue may have played a role in fewer ballots being cast, and that could have translated to Nunavut and Nunavik as well, said Daniel Béland, a political science professor at McGill University.

Béland pointed out there was a drop in voter turnout the last time Canada had elections two years apart, in 2006 and 2008. Participation was near 65 per cent in 2006 and dropped to near 59 per cent in 2008.

Having an election that lasted the minimum number of days, 36, also presented challenges, said Benson with Elections Canada.

Locations for voting cannot be secured until the election starts, and with COVID-19 pandemic, larger voting stations were needed to accommodate physical distancing, she added.

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(1) Comment:

  1. Posted by Caribou Hunter on

    After Nunavut was created the majority of the people has lost trust in politics and even in the federal level and its showing in polls or the turn out speaks for itself.
    We have realized govt is govt no matter who is in there and they are taking turns with new ideas but pretty much with the same budget and with new people try and spend else where but with the same turn out which is not enough money for their new ideas.

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