Early numbers from this year’s municipal election show that decisions were made by only a fraction of Waterloo region residents, with voter turnout lower than the last election.

Preliminary results show just 20 per cent, or one in five, of eligible voters in Kitchener cast a ballot, down from 28 per cent in 2018.

“There's lots of opportunities for people to vote but they just don't seem to,” former regional councillor and founder of Women’s Municipal Campaign School, Jane Mitchell said.

The numbers at advance polls in the region were up, sparking some early optimism that more people were coming out to vote. 

But in Waterloo, which had open races for mayor and several council positions, overall turnout was 27 per cent, down from 34 per cent in 2018.

In Cambridge it was 29 per cent down from 32 per cent in 2018.

“I have no solution. It's going down provincially and federally. Maybe it means that generally overall that people are happy with how democracy is going, but yeah, it's a disappointment,” Mitchell admitted.

Mitchell said contentious issues like the recent controversies at the Waterloo Region District School Board can bring out more voters.

She hopes offering more ways to cast a ballot leads to greater participation.

“I think people are just busy and they forget,” she said. “I'm glad we have more advance polls. I'm glad we're starting to do more online voting and telephone voting, even though online voting I have a few problems with.”

In Woolwich Township, where they offered internet, telephone and paper ballots, turnout was up.

In total, 35 per cent of eligible voters cast a ballot – up from 32 per cent in 2018.

The Township of Wilmot, which also offered internet, telephone and paper ballots, saw voter turnout exceed the previous three municipal elections.

“The total number of ballots cast in this election were higher than usual for Wilmot, exceeding 7,000 votes, with the majority coming online over the 11-day voting period,” noted Municipal Clerk Arthur Flach in a news release. “From a percentage perspective, just over 40 per cent of eligible voters participated in the 2022 election.”

That’s up from 2018 when 37.82 per cent of eligible voters cast their ballot.

Wilmot offered 11 days of online and telephone voting and four days of advance polls in person.

The township said two-thirds of votes were cast online or via telephone and the remaining third was cast during the advance polling days.

CTV Kitchener is still waiting to get numbers from Waterloo region’s two other townships.

In nearby jurisdictions like Stratford, almost half of eligible voters cast a ballot at the last election. This year, only 44 per cent voted.

In Guelph, early numbers show 28 per cent turnout – down from 36 per cent in 2018.