Graph showing comparisons of Fernie, Sparwood and Elkford voter turnout by percentage over the last five election cycles. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

Graph showing comparisons of Fernie, Sparwood and Elkford voter turnout by percentage over the last five election cycles. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

Turnout down in Fernie and Sparwood, up in Elkford for 2022 elections

With the dust settled on the election, voter turnout can be calculated and compared to years past

Voter turnout was lower across much of the Elk Valley in the municipal elections held on October 15, compared to 2018.

In Fernie, 2,485 voters out of a possible 4,552 chose to cast a vote at all – that’s a voter turnout of 54.59 percent, well below 2018 voter turnout in the city which was 64.2 percent.

Given the way voting works in municipal elections, those 2,485 voters were able to cast up to six votes each when selecting councillor candidates, of which there were 14. That means there were 14,910 potential votes on the table, but according to polling data, votes for those 14 candidates only adds up to 12,358, meaning many voters chose to withhold their support.

Likewise, the mayor race also showed a few voters that turned up to cast a ballot chose neither candidate, with Nic Milligan earning 1,701 votes, and Ange Qualizza earning 776 – a total of 2,447, eight short of the number of voters who turned up to exercise their democratic right.

Looking back at the council race, top candidate, Harshan Ramadass, secured the support of 68.8 percent of all voters who showed up, with 1,709 votes – more even than mayor-elect Nic Milligan.

Ramadass’ raw vote count and percentage share of support put him head and shoulders over the candidate in second place, Tracey Audia Kelly, who was supported by 49.3 percent of voters with 1,225.

The candidate in sixth place, Troy Nixon, earned himself 1,068 votes, or 43 percent.

The gap between the candidate who secured sixth place and a seat on council, and seventh place and missed out, was well over 200 votes in 2022, with April Montague earning 808 votes.

Comparatively, in 2018 that gap was only 38 votes, while the number of eligible voters that didn’t vote was 1,405.

This year, the number of people who didn’t vote was much higher both in raw numbers (2,067) and in percentage, as Fernie annexed the community of West Fernie between 2018 and 2022.

While voter turnout was relatively low in Fernie this year, the city remains a hotbed of political engagement compared to neighbouring Sparwood and Elkford.

In Sparwood, there are 3,015 estimated eligible voters, of whom only 1,072 turned up to vote – 35.55 percent, down from 41.6 percent in 2018.

In Elkford, of the 1,993 eligible voters, only 707 voted – 35.47 percent, though this is slightly higher than 2018, when 34.6 percent of voters turned out.

The two upper Elk Valley communities are relatively consistent between elections however, while Fernie swings back and forth depending on the issues of the year.

For four out of the last five election cycles, Fernie has trounced both Sparwood and Elkford for turnout, except in 2014 when Mayor Mary Giuliano was acclaimed and there were seven candidates for six council seats. Fernie was down at 28.2 percent for turnout in that year, behind Sparwood at 36.2 percent, where there was a four-way contest for Mayor, and 13 candidates for council.

In 2018, Fernie saw the record high 64.2 percent turnout, a year after the Fernie Memorial Arena disaster that claimed the lives of three men. That year there were three candidates for mayor, and 12 for council.

The other standout year for turnout in the valley was 2011, when both mayor and council were acclaimed in Elkford, yeilding a turnout of zero percent, and throwing out chart comparisons for the purpose of this story.

READ MORE: Fernie elects Nic Milligan as mayor



scott.tibballs@thefreepress.ca
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Election 2022