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Behind the Local Election Numbers

October 15, 2010

The election this fall created a lot of interest in local politics and in particular, the Town's debt. While on the surface of things the mandate of the current council was reaffirmed as all incumbents were re-elected, many of the races were close and bear a closer examination.

The Town reports that there were 24,092 eligible voters and 10,590 votes cast, which is 43.96% of eligible voters. However, the percentage of eligible voters who made the effort to vote in the election have some interesting variations by Ward.

Excluding the advanced polls, the lowest turnout was in Ward 1, which is found in the northwest area of Town, with the upper boundary in the region of Davis Drive and the 404 highway. There just 29.06% of eligible voters cast a ballot. Yet neighbouring Ward 2, known for its inclusion of the Mussleman's Lake area, saw the highest voter turnout, at 45.79%.

Ward 3, the third rural Ward that is also bounded by the 404 highway to the west and which down towards 19th Avenue to the south, had the second  lowest turnout of 32.85%. The race here was hotly contested, with incumbent Clive Smith narrowly winning his seat by 25 votes.

The more urban Wards 4, 5 and 6 ranged from a low of 35.82% in Ward 4 to a high of 43.89% in Ward 5. Ward 6 saw 38.87% of eligible voters cast a ballot.

Wards 4 and 5 as well as the race for Mayor were the only places that had three or more candidates.

While Mayor Emmerson was the clear victor, he received just 40% of all votes. Fifty-nine per cent of votes were split almost equally between Justin Altmann (30%) and Sue Sherban (29%).

Susanne Hilton also ran a very close race with Anne Pride. While Hilton collected 46% of the votes cast, Pride was not far behind with 42% of all votes. Collectively Anne Pride and Alexis Adams received 54% of votes cast in the Ward.

Richard Bartley in Ward 5 was the only candidate in a three-way race to receive over 50% of all votes, with a 51% margin. Interestingly, this Ward also saw the second highest voter turnout.

Compared to 2006 there was little difference in voter turnout. While Ward 3 saw an increase of 5% and Ward 6 saw a decrease of 3%, the remaining Wards either staye the same or changed by just 1%. However, what is interesting is the proportionate decrease in voting as the Town's population has grown. Over the past 4 years the Town of Whitchurch Stouffville added 4481 eligible voters, yet it only saw an additional 1797 votes or 40%.

But at the end of the day, these are all just numbers. What does all this really mean?

Given that incumbents have an inherent advantage in an election, the close nature of three of the six Ward contests, as well as the vote splitting over the position for Mayor, signals that while residents are ready to continue on the path set by the last council, there are serious concerns about debt and overextending the Town.

Over the course of the campaign, a number of promises and commitments were made.  It now falls to the residents of Stouffville to make sure that they are honoured over the coming four years.

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