Advance Polls Show Surprising Record Turnout

April 27, 2011 Updated: April 27, 2011

As May 2 nears, the federal election is threatening to change Canada’s political dynamic, with leading parties facing sharp support reversals and a record turnout at advance polls.

After opening advance polling on Friday, Saturday, and Monday, Elections Canada on Tuesday reported a 35 percent increase in the number of Canadians partaking in early voting.

Over the three days, 2,056,001 voters casted their ballots, up from the 1,528,780 voters who turned out for advance polling in the 2008 election, according to preliminary estimates released by Elections Canada.

With more than 676,000 Canadians voting on Friday and over 823,000 on Monday, the two days represent the biggest advance turnout ever.

“There was a higher than expected turnout this past weekend at the advance polls,” Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand said in a release. “We thank voters for their patience and field staff for their responsiveness.”

The biggest increases took place in Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia. Newfoundland and Labrador saw an increase from 10,296 advance voters in 2008 to 17,277 in 2011, up 68 percent, while Nova Scotia’s number increased from 37,782 to 66,053, a 75 percent increase.

Among all 10 provinces and three territories, only Nunavut experienced a decrease in turnout from 381 in 2008 to 158 this year.

The high turnout offers some hope that the persistent decline in voter participation in federal elections might be reversing.

Voter turnout was the lowest in Canadian election history in 2008, with participation dipping below 60 percent.

When it was introduced in 1920, advance polling was restricted to voters whose work required them to be away from their electoral districts on Election Day. Now almost a century later, advance polling is merely one of the many methods that voters can choose to cast their votes.