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Editorial Obiter

It’s been a long campaign for those running in #BencherElection2019, with the end in sight.

Part of the ongoing discussion (and controversy) that has emerged is around voter turnout.

As of April 22, more than 7,000 lawyers and 900 paralegals had cast a vote, with a total of 8,156 people voting. The Law Society of Ontario says there were around 54,000 lawyers and 9,000 paralegals who were eligible to vote.

By my calculation — with days left in voting, admittedly — that means only about 12.8 per cent of people eligible to vote have participated so far. That number could stand to be improved considerably.

The low voter turnout is surprising considering the record number of lawyers and paralegals running, with a total of 145 people competing for 45 spots. But is it surprising?

A piece by Law Times in February noted that turnout had declined in Law Society of Ontario elections, decreasing to 33.84 per cent in 2015 from 56 per cent in 1987.

However, the same piece noted that the number of total ballots cast had risen to 16,040 in 2015 from 10,287 in 1987 and that the voting pool had doubled, rising to 47,396 from 18,369.

In this election, the voting pool is 63,285 lawyers and paralegals, an increase of almost 16,000 people.

The low voter turnout is also puzzling if one looks at the prodigious online traffic around the election.

Low voter turnout can be seen to be a sign of disengagement or apathy (or, perhaps, discontent with the regulatory body, the Law Society of Ontario), which is not a trait for which lawyers are known.

Part of the low turnout may be attributable to the learning curve around how to cast a vote and understanding the importance the act of voting has on the future of the profession at large.

This campaign has been notable for the enthusiasm and vigour of its candidates, so hopefully, the turnout will improve by the finish.

Law Times Poll

A group of benchers opposed to the Statement of Principles will need to win the support of their colleagues to repeal the requirement. Do you think they will be successful in repealing the statement of principles in the coming year?