« I’m disappointed in these numbers, » said Councillor Antonios Tsourounakis, during yesterday’s session of Hawkesbury council.
Town Clerk Myriam Longtin presented council with her final report on the overall .polling results for the 2022 municipal election with a list of recommendations to help prepare for the 2026 election.
This year Hawkesbury opted for the traditional voting method by paper ballot compared to the other seven municipalities in the United Counties of Prescott-Russell (UCPR). Those municipalities all combined efforts to find a cybertechnology service that provided a reliable and secure electronic voting system for phone and/or Internet.
Longtin’s report compared polling results for Hawkesbury municipal elections during the period from 1997 to 2022. The report noted « a considerable decline » in voter turnout for the last municipal election compared to the previous one in 2018. Almost 12 per cent fewer people voted in 2022 compared to the previous election and the report indicated one reason may be that some voters were deterred by having to leave home to go to the polling stations.
The report also noted that the 2022 polling turnout follows a trend since 1997 of fewer people voting in the local municipal election. In 1997 more than 5000 out of about 8600 registered voters, or about 61 per cent, cast their ballots when elections were done by paper ballot. The percentage held steady in the 2000 election when telephone voting was the method.
But starting in 2003 when e-voting became the standard polling results started to drop as people tried to adapt to e-voting. The 2022 election, with the return to the paper ballot method, resulted in the lowest turnout since 1997, with 3378 out of 8406 registered voters casting their ballots for a 40.19-per-cent turnout.
The report included several recommendations to prepare for the 2026 municipal election and try to encourage greater voter participation. The suggestions included: more advance polling days; offer mail-in voting on demand as an option for voters; and improve public awareness of the municipal election and how to vote through more frequent posting of information on the municipality’s Facebook page.
Council voted to accept the report for later review and discussion.