Election officials and voters alike are heralding the new curb-side voting process implemented during the Ward 7 byelection as a possible reason for higher than expected voter turnout.
More than 2,700 people voted over four days of advance polls and 2,400 more on Election Day.
When all the votes were counted, 27 per cent of eligible voters cast their ballot, up from 22 per cent in the 2013 byelection.
Political Science professor John Sutcliffe says it could have been the open seat — the large number of candidates — or the safety measures put in place that brought more people to the polls.
“There was a good reason to expect turnout to be lower than it was. It was slightly higher than expected which is good in any democratic system, but it’s still disappointing,” says Sutcliffe.
But the city’s new manager of elections and records has a different take.
“It was really encouraging to see a large cross section of the electorate come out and also a very multi-cultural turnout, so we were really encouraged with that,” says Terri Knight Lepain.
She believes the surge in numbers may have been boosted by the curb-side voting process.
Cars were lined up throughout the day — a line that at times stretched all the way to the entrance of the WFCU Centre at McHugh Street.
“The curbside voting was hopping,” Knight Lepain says. “It was very successful. I think we did over half the ballots Saturday curbside, and we did half the ballots yesterday curbside.”
Windsor’s mayor had no idea the city was implementing the new method of voting — but applauds the folks who pivoted quickly to made it work.
“It was very well received by the residents and I hope that the clerk’s office considers making it easy for residents in future elections as well,” says Mayor Drew Dilkens.
Knight Lepain says most feedback was very positive and agrees that pandemic or not — it’s a good way to encourage more engagement in the municipal electoral process.
“People were saying, ‘this couldn’t have been any better, only if you had coffee for me,’ so it’s definitely something we’re going to be doing in the future,” she says. Jeewen Gill emerged the councillor-elect after Monday’s results.
According to the clerk’s office, Gill will be sworn in sometime this week, ahead of his first scheduled council meeting on Oct. 19, 2020.