A look at the advance turnout

Justin Trudeau got his (large) majority in part because of an increase in turnout (in particular in the key ridings). Others have also pointed out to the fact that quite often, there are more migrations to and from the non-voters than between parties. In other words, forget about the mystical "swing voter" and focus on trying tom get new people to vote for you.

An increase (or big change in) turnout usually also mean that polls would be less accurate and so would be my projections (yes, I'm already looking for excuses!).

With the BC election getting as close as it gets thanks to the two most recent polls (first two to actually show the Liberals ahead; I'm ignoring the Forum poll that still puts the BC Cons at 7% lol), should we also expect an increase in turnout that would add a layer of uncertainty to this already hard-to-call election? Let's look at the preliminary numbers from Election BC regarding the first two days of advance voting (people will also be able to vote this week on May 3, 4, 5 and 6).

Advance turnout has been on the rise in BC (and elsewhere in Canada) over the last few elections. Last BC election, it's more than 20% of the voters who did so by casting their ballot early. Still, we can't fully compare the turnout of 2013 to this year since advance voting isn't completed yet. But we can still look at the preliminary data and try to find some trends or patterns. After all, the increased turnout for the last federal election was visible in the advance turnout as well.

So here is some data. First of all, after the first two days, 231,034 people have already voted. That represents 7.3% of the registered voters. As comparison, in 2013, in total, 11.6% of the registered voters chose to vote in advance. So we are currently at 62% of the advance turnout of 2013, after only two days. At the same time, there weren't as many days to vote early in 2013. So again, it's hard to directly compare. Trends from previous years seem to indicate that early voting is big the first and last days. We'll thus know more by Saturday (Note: I personally wonder if voting 3 days before the election should really be considered voting early, but that's another question).

If we extrapolate, I think we can expect an increase in the advance turnout, but not necessarily a large one. And since the share of voters who decide to vote early has been steadily increasing, it's really not guaranteed that the overall turnout will go up.


1. Advance turnout in 2017

First of all, let's look at which ridings have seen a high and low advance turnout. Here are the top and bottom 10 so far, after two days.

Bottom 10

Mid Island-Pacific Rim
Richmond North Centre
Prince George-Mackenzie
Abbotsford South
North Coast
Prince George-Valemount
Peace River North
Vernon-Monashee
Vancouver-Kensington
Kootenay West

And the top 10:

Vancouver-Fairview
Surrey-Fleetwood
Langford-Juan de Fuca
Vancouver-Point Grey
Boundary-Similkameen
Courtenay-Comox
Kootenay East
Vancouver-Quilchena
Vancouver-West End
Esquimalt-Metchosin


Let's look at the top 10 first. Surprisingly, very few on the Island. I say surprisingly because I was kind of expecting the Green campaign to motivate more voters, especially young ones. Esquimalt-Metchosin is there and this is a really good sign for another Green seat. The latest projections (May 1st) give the Green candidate only 15% chances of winning. If the riding is still at the top of the advance turnout after Saturday, I'll likely make adjustments. With that said, please do not think that increased turnout is always a good sign for the Green. In 2013 for instance we didn't see any connection between the two. Even in the riding of Andrew Weaver, the turnout increased by less than the provincial average! Still, I said it before and I'll say it again: if there is indeed a Green surge on the Island, I'd expect an increase in turnout.

Courtenay-Comox is there, maybe indicating a true 3-way race.

I don't have Surrey Fleetwood as a close race but the people over at Election Prediction do have it as currently too close to call. The high turnout might force me to reconsider this riding (or maybe this is simply the indication of a strong NDP wave there).

Finally, here is some data about these 20 ridings.

Bottom 10
Top 10
Average % BC Lib (2013)
45%
44%
Average % BC NDP (2013)
39%
44%
Average % BC Green (2013)
4%
10%
Average % BC Lib (proj)
46%
38%
Average % BC NDP (proj)
40%
42%
Average % BC Green (proj)
14%
19%
Number of close races (2013)
0
3
Number of close races (proj)
0
2


We can see higher turnout in ridings where the Green are projected to be higher and the Liberals lower. also, close races (winning by  fewer than 5 points) tend to  lead to an increase in turnout. That makes sense.


2. Comparing 2013 to 2017

Simply comparing turnouts might not be enough. In particular, it's often the change in turnout that can cause surprises. After all, maybe our top 10 above was already top 10 in 2013 and it's simply that people in these ridings vote more (and earlier). Since we are trying to compare preliminary data to final data, I proceeded this way: I created an index for each riding in each year. This index is very simple, it's the turnout in the riding divided by the average. So if a riding already saw 14% of its voters casting a ballot and the average is 7%, then the index value for this riding is 2. I then compared the index of 2013 and 2017 to see where changes were occurring. Here are the ridings:

Bottom 10:

Mid Island-Pacific Rim
Vernon-Monashee
Saanich North and the Islands
Powell River-Sunshine Coast
Prince George-Mackenzie
Peace River North
Oak Bay-Gordon Head
Parksville-Qualicum
Stikine
North Coast


Top 10: 

Surrey-Whalley
Surrey-Cloverdale
Burnaby-Lougheed
Coquitlam-Maillardville
Esquimalt-Metchosin
Surrey-Panorama
Kelowna-Lake Country
Surrey-Guildford
Kelowna West
Surrey-Fleetwood

The top 10 is interesting. In particular you can see the 3 Surrey ridings where there is high uncertainty (Fleetwood, Guildford and Panorama). Notice also that5 out of the 9 Surrey ridings are here!

Surrey was one of the regions where the BC Liberals actually increased between 2009 to 2013 (while dropping provincially). The fact that turnout changes could come from there just shows that Surrey might have become the volatile region of the Lower Mainland. No wonder parties spent so much time talking about tolls... So, is the possibly increased turnout in Surrey good news for the NDP (desire for change) or the Liberals (Liberals were up there in 2013 already)? I can't answer for now (and quite frankly I'm not sure I'll be able to by next Tuesday, maybe the data here is simply indicative that Surrey will be hard to predict).

Bottom 10
Top 10
Average % BC Lib (2013)
41%
47%
Average % BC NDP (2013)
39%
40%
Average % BC Green (2013)
11%
6%
Average % BC Lib (proj)
40%
44%
Average % BC NDP (proj)
40%
40%
Average % BC Green (proj)
23%
17%
Number of close races (2013)
1
4
Number of close races (proj)
0
3

Interestingly here, the top 10 aren't in ridings supposedly good for the Green. Logical since Surrey is not expected to be part of any Green surge if there is one. The number of close races in both 2013 and in the projections most likely show that parties put more efforts in these ridings.

What I take from it is that I'll look more closely into some ridings on the island and especially at some of the Surrey ridings. I'll update after the full data will be available on Sunday (so close to the final projections).

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