A total of 32,259, or 37.19 per cent, of eligible Abbotsford voters cast their ballots in Saturday’s municipal election. That number is down about only about one per cent from the 2011 election (38.4 per cent) that featured a referendum question on the Stave Lake P3 water project that put Abbotsford well above the provincial voter turnout average of 29.5 per cent that year.
This time around, a close race for mayor likely helped spur voter interest in Abbotsford.
“One of the things that drives turnout is perceived competitive races. I don’t know how close the race is, but it seems somewhat competitive and that might prevent turnout from dropping a long way,” explained University of the Fraser Valley political scientist Hamish Telford prior to Saturday’s election.
Abbotsford had 86,739 eligible voters for the 2014 municipal election.
In 2011, 185,193 votes were cast for 21 mayoral and council candidates, compared to 186,235 votes cast for 30 candidates in 2014 – with the additional nine candidates accounting for nearly 20,000 votes.
Recent municipal elections in Abbotsford have seen just over one-third of voters cast ballots.In 2008 and 2005, 34 per cent of voters cast ballots to choose a council and mayor. There was no referendum in either election.
In 2006, only one-quarter of voters participated in the still-much-debated referendum on Plan A, the proposal to build what would become the Abbotsford Centre and The Reach Gallery Museum, and to expand the Abbotsford Recreation Centre.
Voter turnout was a little higher in 1999 and 2002, when 37 and 36 per cent of voters, respectively, cast ballots. (The 1999 vote featured a referendum on whether to build a Mill Lake arts centre).
But lest one think voters were intrinsically more involved in local affairs in the late ’90s, only 12.5 per cent of eligible voters – one in eight – took part in a 1998 referendum on whether to build a multi-sports complex.
In 1997, only 22.6 per cent of voters cast ballots in a referendum on charitable casinos, and 1996 saw only one-quarter of eligible residents vote for council and mayor. That election also included a referendum on whether to build a new police building.
The most well-attended municipal vote came in 1994, when 45 per cent of eligible residents went to the polls to elect a council and mayor and decide whether to call their newly amalgamated municipality Abbotsford or Matsqui.