After witnessing two general elections in the year 2014, one thing is clear: Downsview residents are not voting. Some may blame this on things such as ineligibility, apathy, or disengagement, but the reality is most people in the Downsview area are not voting for one reason: accessibility.
With a population of just over 100,000 spread out along 30 kilometers, York West represents one of the biggest provincial ridings in Toronto. The number of polling stations per capita is small in comparison to other, more affluent ridings such as that of Toronto Centre, where polling stations are in abundance for the just over 130,000 residents spread across 13 kilometers.
The number and location of polling stations in a particular riding or ward makes a big difference for a number of reasons. If a polling station is not in a voter’s immediate surrounding area, the likelihood of voting decreases by great margins.
Despite having polling stations in their lobbies for the municipal election, buildings such as those on Tobermory Dr and Finch Ave., or Weston Rd. and Finch Ave., did not have such a luxury in the provincial election.
The voting percentages between these two elections are astounding. In the provincial election, where Tobermory residents had to make the 10 minute walk to Driftwood Public School to cast their ballot, only 21% did, while in the municipal election a few months later 44% made the trip to their lobby to cast their ballot.
This trend continues when comparing the results of voters living in the Weston Rd. and Finch Ave apartment buildings. In the municipal election, close to 50% of eligible voters cast their ballots when they could do so comfortably in the lobby of their building, while only four months earlier only 21% of voters made the trip to Emery Collegiate to participate in the election.
Voting accessibility is important for other reasons as well. Politicians go to where they can predict that residents will vote.
If living in an apartment building without a lobby polling station makes residents less likely to vote, politicians will strategically avoid said locations. Other than leading to voter apathy and disengagement, this phenomenon means that these tenants’ voices are not heard.
To have our voices heard in Downsview, we need to fix this accessibility problem. We need polling stations in tenant-dense buildings as 10 San Romanoway, 15 Tobermory and 3390 Weston Rd.
Voting percentages from last year’s provincial and municipal elections teach us that eligible voters want to participate in the democratic process; but we need to make voting more accessible to help them do so.