Declined ballots allow voters to show disapproval of political options
Published Friday, April 15, 2016 6:58PM CST
Recent elections have shown that Manitobans aren't that engaged in provincial politics.
"The last three elections in Manitoba, the turnout has been below 60 per cent, and last time it crept up slightly to 55 per cent," said political pundit Paul Thomas, a professor of merit at the University of Manitoba.
Thomas said it’s one way frustrated voters make their voices heard. "Some people might just say, ‘I’m not going to take the time, I’m too busy, why would I bother to go out, these are not real choices I’m being offered,’" said Thomas.
Voters can also spoil a ballot in protest.
But there is one way to have a more legitimate say, without picking a candidate. It's called a declined vote, and Manitoba is one of only three Canadian provinces that allows it.
"We don’t want people to feel that they’re disenfranchised, or that they can’t make their voices heard if they’re not happy with any of the candidates," said Alison Mitchell of Elections Manitoba.
Instead of putting an X beside a candidate's name, voters fill out their ballot a different way.
"Go to the voting place, get your ballot, and if you write the word ‘declined’ on the front of your ballot, it will still be counted in the final count," said Mitchell.
The declined votes are recorded and the numbers released.
In 2003, only 426 people declined their votes. That number jumped to almost 600 in 2007, but dropped again in 2011 to 440.
Elections Manitoba says if you write anything else on your ballot, it counts as a spoiled ballot and isn't included in the final voter turnout numbers.