Thousands of Hamilton adults are missing from the city voters list and the main cause appears to be long–suspected discrimination against tenants. In the downtown ward with the highest percentage of apartments, more than a third of adults don’t appear on the voters list, but registration in rural wards exceeds 98 per cent.
In the 2006 election – the last for which full comparative data are available – there were 30,890 adults living in ward two, but less that two–thirds (19,782) appeared on the voters list. In ward fourteen in Flamborough over 99 per cent of the 11,775 resident adults were included on the official lists. And despite population growth in the downtown ward, the number of registered voters in the 2010 election fell by over 400.
Ward two has by far the highest number of residential units in apartments or duplexes at 79 per cent, whereas only 4.2 per cent of ward fourteen units fall into these categories. And while the missing voter numbers are highest in downtown (where about 10 per cent of residents were recent immigrants in 2006), the relationship between missing voters and higher tenant numbers appears to hold right across the city.
Just east of downtown, in ward three, where nearly half the housing is apartment or duplex, nearly a fifth of the residents didn’t get on the voters’ list. There are also high percentages of missing voters in the only other two wards where more than four in ten units are apartments or duplexes, with 16 per cent missing in the east end ward five and 12 per cent in West Hamilton’s ward one (although the latter is likely affected by the high student population). And the old city ward with the smallest number of tenant units (ward eight on the west mountain) also had the lowest percent of missing voters (8.5 per cent).
None of the seven suburban wards scored this poorly, but the two that each had about a quarter of their units devoted to tenants also had the most omissions from the voters’ list (Stoney Creek’s ward nine at 6 per cent and the Dundas ward 13 at 5 per cent). None of the other five suburban wards have more than half as many apartments and duplexes, and their highest rate of missing voters was only 2.2 per cent.
A review of 2010 election turnout in the thirteen polling stations in ward five strongly suggests that tenants are less likely to vote. The six polls with no apartment buildings had turnout rates of 40.0–47.5 per cent. In the five polls with the highest number of apartments, turnout was 23.2–34.6 per cent.
The above analysis compares 2006 data from city election files and detailed ward profiles, and doesn’t account for people who rent single–family units, or for a growing number who own condos in apartment towers. About 3 per cent of city residents in 2006 were immigrants and therefore ineligible to vote (although campaigns are underway in some cities to let all residents vote in municipal elections).
Actual door–to–door enumeration of voters no longer occurs. Since 1999, voting lists in Ontario have been compiled by the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation using lists of tenants that are supposed to be supplied by landlords.
Over a quarter of Hamilton’s residential units are apartments, with duplexes adding another 3.5 per cent. The city tax rate on apartments is nearly three times the rate on single–family homes, and tenant household incomes in Ontario average less than half that of single–family residents.
Toronto has taken specific steps to increase tenant voting by locating nearly half their polling stations inside or within 800 feet of apartments. With the exception of long–term care facilities where polls are required by law, none of Hamilton’s regular polling stations are located in apartment buildings, although the city does use some to conduct advance polls. V