Electoral Reform? Try a reformed electorate

This is a guest post by Dave Lundy, a truck driver who resides in Sapperton. He is active within the political community of Burnaby, New Westminster and Coquitlam. His passion is politics. An outspoken, opinionated contributor in various forums on Tenth to the Fraser, Dave has had numerous letters to the editor published in local newspapers. He is married to his wonderful wife Sheila and they are the proud parents of Saba the Cat. He also has 2 step children, Christine who resides in the Yukon, and Tom who is serving in the Canadian military.

We have just finished with another Federal election. The results are in and we have a Conservative majority government. This also means that, at least on the federal political scene, there is 4 years before the next federal election.

Politics can be a passionate pursuit. Though I may not see eye to eye politically with people with political views differing from my own, I respect the fact that people like David Brett and John Ashdown offer their views of politics and opinions as passionately as I do. If everyone thought the exact same way, we’d die of boredom. I think that it can be said that most of us want whats best for everyone, regardless of political stripe. The fact that we are involved politically as passionately as we are, shows that. Though people have differing political views, at least we take the time to be active, to debate, to be vocal, to stand up and be heard.

The latest flavour of the month is the voter turnout. I don’t believe changing the electoral system will address the issue of voter apathy. Sorry sorry Rebecca Helps (btw, wasn’t it nice to have Rebecca text her media to New Westminster Coquitlam from Elizabeth May’s victory party in Saanich. I don’t think she spent that much time in the riding she was actually running in at all. Now there’s someone who takes the citizens in New Westminster Coquitlam completely and totally for granted. I hope that in 4 years time, everyone remembers her for that)

And believe it or not… sorry Fin. Yes Fin Donnelly and in fact the NDP federally are on record as supporting electoral reform. That is one area where I distinctly differ from the party to which I support.

Whether its electoral reform, electronic balloting, or what have you, none of those things address the core reason why we have 55 to 60% voter turnout for elections. To me, it has everything to do with the way elections are portrayed by the media in Canada. Where ever you choose to get your information from, you see the area of politics constantly under attack. The media does a great job of smearing those people like Fin, Peter, Diana, Paul, Dawn, etc as being nothing more than “on the gravy train”. Yet these people cast aside their chosen professions to serve the people of Canada. For the next 4 years, our elected officials will be working in and out of the constituency offices on behalf of their constituents, as well as the citizens of Canada. Regardless of your political stripe, anyone willing to do that, should be respected. You have the Canadian Taxpayers Federation time and again slamming parliament and politics in general Then there was Stephen Harper and the Conservatives telling voters “this election you have a choice between a Conservative Majority and a coalition of the socialists and separtists.”

You have the leader of the Opposition saying, “its a 2 party battle, Liberal and Conservative.” Nothing but doom and gloom from both the Liberals and the Conservatives.

But I digress. Everywhere you look, the entire political process is being put down, slammed, mocked,etc. People are constantly being told, “you have no say in elections” and other ignorant misleading statements. When I was in Grade 4, there was a federal election on. In my class specifically, I remember one of the candidates coming to talk to us about it. He was a young guy named Svend Robinson, running in Tommy Douglas’ riding of Burnaby Edmonds. We had a mock election, in the class. To be brief, I learned about the electoral process itself in Grade 4. That would have been when I was 8 or 9 years old. Today, we talk about politics and elections like they are a dirty word, or a chore, or something to be ignored, something distasteful. Its been a systemic thing that’s taken place over the last 30 plus years.

But its not just the politics that have been under attack. It’s, in my opinion, service to the community in general, that has been vilified to a dangerous extent. In Canada, we talk about a caring compassionate society that we live in. And don’t get me wrong there are lots of people who either work or volunteer to help make people’s lives better. But one only needs to look at the attacks in the local papers of the Last Door by citizens in and around Brow of the Hill, to see that our society is not about “we”, its about “me.”

“What is in it for me, to get out and vote?”
“Why should I care about the homelessness problems plaguing our region?” “Why should I care who gets elected?”

A prime example of the “me” generation and mentality, is in our local grocery stores. Self Serve checkouts. (ok this is a topic that could go on its own so I’ll try and keep it brief to my point.) No one gets a discount off of the price of their groceries for using these machines over a cashier. Yet people will gladly go to one of these things and in effect do someone’s job for them, for free. Surprisingly enough, I’ve told a few people this, and they shrug at me. But when I turn around and say, “how about I come to your workplace and do your job …. for free, how are you going to be able to provide for your family then if you’ve been replaced by a machine, with no benefit to you at all, other than unemployment.” And the answer is always the same, “That will never happen. Why do you care?”

I care because I can see where grocery stores (in this example) are forcing people to use these contraptions by short staffing the stores on purpose, and laying off staff. All the while pocketing the savings in labour costs built into the price of the goods being bought. If you think that goods will be cheaper at Safeway and Save On should they get rid of their cashiers and replace them all with self-serve, you’re on another planet. Their margins will increase significantly. But as I said, I digress.

That cashier is a productive member of society. That self serve checkout is a machine. It doesn’t give back to the community. It doesn’t vote. It doesn’t have kids in school and extra curricular activities, its a freaking machine. That cashier spends money in businesses, the machines eat money, but other than the occasional lube job and repair, don’t contribute one dime to New Westminster. Yet we are being conditioned to merely accept these things, as ways to “speed up the process.” While with me, I give people crap for using them. If people are willing to accept things like self serve checkouts, and not see the bigger picture, its just another sign of how short sighted a society we live in. I would bet if enough people demanded prompt friendly HUMAN service at the Safeways and Save Ons and not enough people used the self serve checkouts to make them worth while, that they would go away and that the store would staff its store properly. But people aren’t willing to stand up for that. Its about what people are willing to accept.

They want the quick, easy, convenient way. And that same mentality is creeping into our voting system and politics. People don’t want to get involved in the process. They don’t look at voting as a privilege or a right that over the past 144 years many Canadian men and women have fought and died for to preserve and protect (actually longer than that if you back to the war of 1812.) We are conditioned by the media and even our own government to take things for granted. That way, when your medicare premiums double, and wait times triple, when HST is shoved down your throat, when wages are frozen and enshrined rights are taken away, people just sit back and say, “oh well, what can we do?” And then they talk about changing the electoral system.

Its not the electoral system that’s broken, its the electorate and the engagement of the electorate that needs to be fixed.

22 Replies to “Electoral Reform? Try a reformed electorate”

  1. Dave,

    Good post, and you are on the money. There is too much blaming the system for a passive electorate, and not enough blaming the electorate. We politely request that people vote, if it isn’t too much trouble…

    But I want to comment on your digression: “self serve checkouts”. This is the reason I won’t go to the new Save-on Foods in uptown. By the design of the place, they almost force you to self-serve. They create the idiotic impression that it is “more convenient” or “faster” to scan your own purchases, when nothing could be farther from the truth: these people are professionals, they know the code for roma tomatoes or cilantro without looking it up, they know how to efficiently move good across the scanner and into the bag: and I am supposed to think I can do it better and faster?

    And Jimmy gets a little richer while one more person gets unemployed.

    1. Its now permeated out at the airport at Canada Customs. When my wife and I returned from our Jordan / Italy adventure, there was some carnival huckster steering you towards the "self clearing" kiosks, "Look people no lineups, step right up." Hmm. Canadian re entry point, and you have the choice of going through an automated process? In the name of convenience. No offense but we pay some big $$$$ for national security, and I'll be damned if I'm going to use some self serve kiosk at Canada Customs, then have to clear with a customs officer anyways, just to put some customs officers out of work.

  2. I suspect that the "self-service checkout" thing should be a separate topic. For now, I'll just point out that somebody somewhere is employed to design and build those machines, to fix the various bugs in the software, to make improvements to them, and to design and build their successors. Yes, cashiers may well eventually go the way of typing pools, but I'd be very surprised if anyone has done a proper analysis of the overall number of jobs lost and gained, and the relative value of those jobs.

    Personally, I think that reforming the electoral system is one of a number of things that would help improve voter turnout. Ultimately, turnout corresponds to voter engagement, and electoral results where people can see that their vote had an effect certainly can't hurt.

    To me, the biggest problem is that we seem to have moved further and further from electing a representative towards electing a prime minister. Most of the MPs that do get elected are forced to vote as their party tells them most of the time, so they don't get to do much "representing" of their ridings, or at least not publicly.

  3. I agree that reforming the electoral system will significantly help with turnout. I've met numerous voters who simply feel there's no point in voting, that in most ridings the decision is already made and their vote is "wasted" if not cast for whichever is the dominant party in that riding. Now it could be argued in this most recent election that statement holds a lot less validity, but overall most ridings are fairly "safe" for one party or the other.

    Some form of proportionality or ranked ballot would most definitely make voters feel more engaged. They may not be the dominant party, they may not get all of their ideas implemented, but they are more likely to feel someone is actually speaking for THEM in Ottawa or Victoria. Would we have perpetual minority governments? Likely. Is that a bad thing? Hell no. The deadlock with Harper was he attempted to govern a minority as if it was a majority. With a system in which a 5% swing in polls means only a 5% swing in seats, where there is no point in grandstanding or pushing for a new election because it really won't matter, the standings won't significantly change, politicians will have to *gasp* cooperate and find consensus. I've always believe no one, and I mean no one, not even any party I might support, should have the unchecked power of a majority. And most definitely we do NOT want to move down the road towards a two party state like down south, I like the multitude of voice, ideas, and different parties keeping each other on their toes, THAT is good for democracy.

    I also agree with Chris, I would like a system that better empowers representatives over parties. It's one reason I liked STV, you're ranking/voting for PEOPLE not parties. Because as Chris said, we're electing representatives, we don't vote for a president/premier. My political leanings in New West are no secret, and in this past election I endorsed Peter and Fin, not necessarily the NDP (though I am quite fond of Jack as well). I wish more people would get to know their local candidates and take that in to account, but I also wish more local MPs/MLAs would stand up against their parties/leaders more often.

    1. Well I know Fin, Dawn and Peter quite well, and for that fact Jack as well. In New West, I vote person not party. As I said, I disagree with aspects of both the federal and provincial NDP platforms. But then I'm a unique person and can't be boxed into one specific political spectrum, as are most people in the electorate. In BC, we had the opportunity to address the issue of electoral reform in 2009. And by and large, the citizens said NO. Those same citizens that took the time to go out and vote. There's a prime example of my point. The citizens had not one but 2 chances (2005 and 2009) in BC to change our electoral system, and both times rejected it. So what does that tell you about those who don't vote, won't vote or can't be bothered to vote? It tells me that no matter what you do, or how you alter or skew the system to somehow try and engage these people, they choose to remain disengaged. That in itself is that particular voter exercising their democratic right, by choosing not to vote. We could always go the way of the Aussies and make it illegal not to vote.

      But I don't think that that would work towards increasing engagement at all. Simply put, those that don't vote, won't vote. They can talk about their not being any choice etc, but at the end of the day, if you poked and prodded them, they more likely than not couldn't tell the difference between a marxist communist and a Conservative candidate.

      1. Dave, Thanks for respecting my views on politics. Many good points in this post. Not much more to say about the system.
        As for technology over jobs, or machines over man/woman. At least they have made investments in terchnology that assures profits and the viability of a competitive business. A which will grow and create more jobs.
        My pet peeve is the the gas stations who at one point offerred "Self Serve" distribution of their product at a discount. (except Coquitlam). and you paid more for "Full Service". Now though they have lost the meaning. Full Service means they pump your gas! What happen to the check your oil Sir? Wash your windshield? Why is this my Pet Peeve, they have provided no technology to eliminate jobs, jobs which were entry level for our youth. Anyway, price fixing, gouging petro companies have never been my favourite corporate citizens.
        Our garbage collection has gone the way of technology with new pickup service. We now have to sort and drag out containers to the curb….. just like scanning your own food. Again, no savings to the consumer in spite of claims of savings in cost…… ? Lets hear your comments on this!

        1. I suppose you're asking me if I support the city's new waste disposal system? This may sound like a cop out, but I haven't looked at what the right side of the spectrum likes to call "the cost benefit analysis" of it. I suppose that from NWEP's perspective they like it. Perhaps from CUPE's perspective, they may not like it if its resulted in lost jobs due to technological change. New West seems to be on some kind of green kick the past while. (So much for my council ambitions huh?… lol) I'd like to see some numbers in terms of cost savings in regards to the new waste disposal system in New West. I gather that the dump rates charged to the city in terms of waste tonnage have gone down. But as you know, John, civic politics is a bit foreign to me. And though I have asked both Peter and Fin and before that Dawn to try to extend the day by 2 hours, and the week by a day, I haven't been successful in finding the time to dig around on things like that.

          1. I guess thats's the issue. There has been two articles in the paper verifying the savings in garbage collection. The point is when other City's can offer a savings to the Taxpayer, they do. The savings come form reduced fuel and….. Labour. In New West they jack up our rates… we pay for the technology….. they scoop up the extra cash to employ more staff. Our left leaning city council sit back and take credit for us having the second highest taxes in the Lower Mainland. That is why, like Chris states, your union thinking brain can't, dig around things like that…… Too bad our city can't be run like a business instead of freely dipping into overstrapped taxpayers pockets. Maybe when we stop allowing Unions and Developers paying candidates to be elected thereby creating conflicts for the councillors they paid for, will we be able to have a free vote… There that's the political side of my brain working.
            Don't get me wrong, I am in favour of reducing waste….both Garbage and Fiscal waste,. before the "Twist Doctors" take a shot at my logic.

          2. I do laugh at the left leaning council bit. They were duly elected, but don't worry John, you'll have your shot in a few months. For the record, it wasn't that long ago that I was offiside with the "left" leaning councillors over the issue of the Walia affair and attempts to relocate the Windsor liquor store to 8th Ave and 12th St. But as I stated, municipal politics aren't necessarily my strong suit. I'm not entirely enamored with some of the decisions made by the City. But this is starting to get into blog creep. So I'll end it there.

  4. This was a confusing article, so I'm not sure I completely got the gist of it. I think it states that our current voting system is not the source of some of our problems, such as electorate not voting. I suppose this might be partially true, although its hard to believe that over the long term our current system doesn't erode the general public's confidence in the system.

    What I couldn't get from the article was what is so good about our almost 150 year old voting system and why this system should not evolve with the times… and be able to better represent the diversity of opinions which exist in our society today… Somehow those old empire builders in Charlottetown (or wherever our system was chosen) just happened to pick the right system from the start and it should last for eternity.

    … on second thought, maybe our antiquated system does have a lot to do with voter apathy.

  5. Let me simplify it for you Andrew. The article refers to calls for electoral reform. It refers to voter apathy as being at times media driven. When I wrote it, I was remiss in a couple of things. First, not mentioning that those who say that they don't vote because of the electoral system, in BC, not once but twice had their chance to change the electoral system and how we vote. Both times, the people that took the time to go out and vote, voted to keep the current system we have. It was close in 2005 and a total resolute NO vote in 2009.

    The article also looks at external influences to voter apathy, such as the media, groups like the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and others, who go out of their way to mock our legislative system and the people that work in it, elected or not. Its how these powerful groups portray people as almost being "at the trough" as the only reason one would run for office. They then extend that viewpoint and image to elections in Canada. And finally, there's the people who themselves don't vote. They'll leave their houses to go do groceries, banking, school, work, go out for dinner, go dancing, go drinking, go on vacation, etc. Then turn around and talk about not being bothered to go out and vote, claiming there's nothing to vote for, or that their voice isn't heard. Well, as someone who ensures his voice and opinion is heard loud and clear, and looks at it as a responsibility to be that way, I look at the excuses of those who don't vote and simply say… "don't whine and complain." Have a look around the world. People in the Middle East are fighting for and in a lot of cases dying for the right to vote. And yet we have people here who publicly state that "I'm not going to vote until I can do it from my computer" or some other silly nonsense like that.

    Whether people want to admit it or not, we are a collective society. In short, not everyone has everything exactly the way they want it. Those who choose not to vote and use the reason that "there's nothing to vote for" are utopian in their view of the world. But more to the point, those same people want to change the electoral system or talk about changing it, yet won't get off their butt to actually go and do it when they had the chance as they did in 2009. I must point out that its your opinion that our system is "antiquated" that there is no facts showing that the system is in fact broken. If it was, people would have shown up in droves during the 2009 election and voted for STV. Instead, those that voted, voted NO loudly and clearly.

    Perhaps now that Elizabeth May has a seat in the house of commons, thanks to the scorched earth strategy of using every green party candidate and resource her campaign alone, at the expense of ridings like New Westminster Coquitlam, the issue of electoral reform will come up. My own personal view, it won't. Because first of all, she got what she wanted. And don't think for a minute that the entire Green Party campaign wasn't about her and her alone. Just ask Rebecca Helps… as in Helps get Elizabeth elected while neglecting the riding she supposedly was a candidate in. And those people in New West Coquitlam who donated to Ms. Helps campaign, only to be used and thrown to the side, to get May elected.

    My point is this, I think that May was more effective in the role as barbarian at the gate, then she will be as an MP. She had more press time, more sympathy and empathy from Canadians when she was on her tirade about why a party with 5% of the popular vote wasn't represented in the leaders debate. Note, the Green popular vote dropped to 4%, but she won a seat.

    1. I do agree with your statement of the importance to get involved in the public discourse. There are many ideas and points of view out there, and we all benefit from taking the best of these ideas (right-left-middle) and putting them into public policy. I find it frustrating when people to not want to discuss issues publicly and important issues are allowed to evolve without a public debate. There is great satisfaction to be had when one does take part in the public discussion, even if the outcome is not always in your favour.

      I still maintain that I don't think you've made the case that our current electoral system is a good one. Just because electoral change has been rejected on two recent occasions doesn't mean that first past the post is a good system. A case could be made that the rejection of the recent proposals for electoral reform was more a symptom of a non-engaged public, who didn't bother to inform them selves about a more representative yet more complicated system which required them to be more involved in/aware of public issues in order to vote. But that debate is now old and is not on the table any more.

      In the meantime, I would only encourage people to participate in our current system, because its the only one we got… and taking some responsibility for the world we live in is the right thing to do.

  6. I us to really love following federal politics. This is exactly why I hate it so much now.

    Yup, Fin is In, and being on the opposition you can be sure for the next 4 years our ridding will get DIDDLY SQUAT, but Fin will be In, and working towards his golden taxpayer funded parachute.

    Now with regards to the referendums we've had in the past, it was simply a modification of how votes for people are counted and represented. It had nothing to do with reforming what we're voting for. We still vote for a person who claims to represent the wishes of the riding constituents.

    So what about Brosseau then ? Those people didn't vote for a PERSON they voted for a PARTY. And now with all the scandals relating to her I'm sure there is going to be a lot more voter apathy next time around now they realize how they were DUPED.

    Your reasoning with the automated clerks is the union labour part of your brain talking, and I consider it to be a tangent, and has very little to do with voting or electoral reform.

    We all know, that when the conservatives are going to table a bill that is actually good, and might actually represent the wishes of our riding, Fin will stand in opposition, toting the party line.

    And that when your vote for a person become meaningless.

    We get to vote again in 4 years, but our elected reps will vote many times on many issues. Why can't I have my say on each issue rather then a persons election promise ?

    Thats the reform I want.

    1. What "scandals" are you referring to Rick? The ones being generated by the media themselves. Its weird that there hasn't been a single interview with any constituents in the riding that Ms. Brosseau represents, its just talking heads spewing nonsense like Monday Morning quarterbacks with nothing else to talk about. Funny they don't talk about the kamikaze campaign tactics used by Elizabeth May to get HERSELF elected at the expense of the majority of Green Party candidates' campaigns, such as Ms. Helps who was too busy campaigning for Ms. May to bother campaigning in the riding that she was running to be a candidate in. I haven't seen you or anyone else set their hair on fire about that one. But yeah, feel free to attack Ms. Brosseau. And so what if the people in Quebec voted NDP or perhaps for Jack himself. You will find a lot of conservative voters who voted for the party, regardless of who the candidate was. Example, High Flying, Big Spending Russ Hiebert. He of the $600,000 travel expenses to fly his family back and forth across Canada in business class. He won his ridiing going away, by over 10,000 votes. You think every single person in that riding voted for the Jet Set MP from South Surrey White Rock?? I don't think so.

      I think that people will find the tone of the House of Commons to be vastly different than it has been in quite some time. What the people of Quebec did was elect a lot of Common people to Parliament. Young, common people. Students, bar managers, and other people from a variety of walks of life. I think your views on the ability to vote on every single bill as a citizen are out there to be nice. Can you say democratic constipation. I know that FIn and Peter's constituency offices are open, take calls from constituents and views of the constituents on a variety of subjects. As I said, we live in a collective society, where pretty much its about greater good, majority rules etc in terms of politics. But I don't think you'd be happy with any form of government that doesn't rule exclusively by referendum. And people are already talking about voter burnout from 4 federal elections in the past 7 years, 2 (and perhaps 3) provincial elections in the same time period, 3 municipal elections in the same period. But you would want to referendum every single bill coming through Parliament???? I would dare say that your opinion on this topic is a distinct minority. Besides thats why we have government and parliament. And elections. Which by the way, I can state that the elections above, all of them, I have worked on in some capacity. I put my money where my mouth is when it comes to being heard.

      1. The scandals revolving around Brosseau include her being a parachute candidate, being in Las Vegas during the count, and embellishing her scholastic credentials. Nothing new with parachute candidates. They do that to us out here all the time. But I do consider her absence and resume to be newsworthy of an elected MP. Regardless of political stripe, the media did good checking.

        Unlike yourself I do not draw the same conclusion with May's campaign strategy. While they have lost a substantial amount of total votes, and federal funding, they do have someone in the house. In battle sacrifices must be made, I think choosing a relatively easy evergreen riding was a good campaign decision, and she was awarded the victory she and her party deserves. A single seat.

        The big story of the election was Quebec, and the utter destruction of the BQ, while I don't think it has much to do with peoples sentiments of separation, they obviously wanted some change, and the status quo of a provincial federal party with no chance of majority has got to get at the electorate. As usual, the media portrayed the west as being the deciding factor. And once again, we were not. Quebec stole the show.

        Dave, thanks for pointing out Hieberts expenses. That is a perfect example of why the system sucks. I wonder how much Finn's racked up already taking econo ? Why do we need physical representation in this day and age of internet and SKYPE ?

        As for your notion my views constitute democratic constipation, I would have thought it to be democratic diarrhea. Canada is a vast country. And what works well in the East, doesn't work at all in Quebec or work well in the west and north. I'm not talking about a referendum for each bill, I'm talking about getting rid of the whole system as it stands. No more business class or econo on the taxpayers dime. Why are the majority of MP's in the east regulating the west coast fisheries to extinction ? Finn doesn't have a chance to save a single eulachon ! And if he put forward a candle fish bill, none of the Conservatives elected in our region will support it ! If after all your years of putting your money where your mouth is and your still not being heard, someone has sold you up the river ! Democracy is 100 % free my friend ! I would never pay to be heard !

        Yes, I am defiantly in a minority, I stand among the free.

        1. wait a minute Rick.

          "But I do consider her absence and resume to be newsworthy of an elected MP."

          Is this the same Rick who said (on this very Forum):

          "As I've expressed before the elitist notions that one need certain "qualifications" other then those required by statute in order to hold public office is an affront to the freedom that so many have fought and died for."

          LINK: http://www.tenthtothefraser.ca/2011/01/18/neil-po

          1. YES !
            And your argument is a STRAWMAN !

            She didn't need to LIE about her credentials to get elected !

            That particular riding would have elected a well dressed monkey wearing a orange NDP button on his lapel !!

  7. As a relatively young person, I have no trouble navigating a self-serve checkout. I've noticed it's the older middle-aged people who get upset at the machines and walk out in a huff as though they are entitled to their own grocery-slave to take care of them. Having worked as a Safeway cashier, I know these workers are forced to recite a script to every customer, including: a greeting, asking if they have their discount cards, asking if they want carry out service and finally a farewell. I think it's an insult to humanity to force a person to say this list of things to the hundreds of customers they process a day. The only thing it results in is an extremely insincere person who is reciting a script out of fear of the dreaded secret shopper who will report the employee if she doesn't follow the rules.
    Try shopping at Donald's at the River Market if you want to be rung up by a real human being. My experience is those employees are not forced to be friendly and are not forced to recite a script. The result is that they actually seem genuinely interested in talking to their customers.
    As for me, I'm perfectly happy using the self-serve checkout at Safeway or Save-on because, call me crazy, I go to the grocery store to simply buy groceries, not to bother some poor cashier with trite conversation. So next time you strike up a conversation with your cashier take a look in their eyes and see if they really want to be having that conversation for the hundredth time that day. Ask yourself if that's really a human experience. Ask yourself if it's the same as communicating with a (self-serve) machine.

    1. You know Dave's point about these self serve checkouts has nothing to do with voting or voter reform.

      However, it does bring up the point, that if these chain stores have the ability to put in these "self-serve" machines, certainly our government could install "self-serve" voting contraptions to be used at the electorates convenience.

      But I can see that might be taking away all the unionized vote counters jobs. ?

      1. As a software developer, I'm worried about about trusting the job of *counting* our votes to machines. Entering our votes on machines would effectively just allow the people writing the software to write the election results.
        It's actually impossible to guarantee a fair election where you don't have pieces of paper that people have either written their vote on or at least seen their vote written on available to be counted by hand.
        Those "self-serve" voting machines have actually been decertified in some states. The simple fact is that the certification authorities don't really know enough to certify them in the first place.

        About the only thing worse would be allowing voting over the Internet…

        There's no point in increasing voter turnout if you can't guarantee that the votes people cast are actually reflected in the results.

  8. Hey Dave, good post and ensuing discussion. I missed this when it came out as perhaps I started to tune out federal politics like many after the election.

    Regarding electoral reform, the merits thereof notwithstanding, I think it is unlikely to happen, the reason being the same apathy that leads to low turnout. In other words, if people are too busy or distracted to vote, they will never invest the mind share needed to learn a blizzard of new rules.

    I think it’s unfair to blame "the system" or the politicians themselves for low turnouts. Canadians have to look in the mirror for answers on that topic. It's inherently hypocritical for someone to say "politics in Canada is failing to engage me" while failing themselves to lift a finger to change it. It's a cop out.

    The most sensible explanation I've heard for low turnout is that non-voters believe direct impacts on them will not vary significantly from party to party. That is hard for us passionate “partisans" to hear, but let’s face it, no matter who is elected, the sun will rise, the markets will open, Tim Horton’s will be open, the doctor will be in, the buses will run, kids will go to school, and the great Canadian society we enjoy with its multitude of benefits will remains largely intact. In other words, our much maligned politicians have done a pretty good job over the years keeping things rolling.

    So let’s not lament that the more politically engaged are going to the polls and that large numbers trust everything to turn out fine. The policy differences hotly debated now are often ones that will only have real world effects in the longer term, requiring foresight and deeper thinking on the issues. How many people really think through the consequences of raising or lowering corporate income taxes by 5%, for example?

    One angle on the debate I think needs attention is the public vilification of politicians we hear in the media and the public square. I have not yet met a politician from any party that has not made great personal sacrifice to run for office. It's a tough life. This is why so few people run. It's not uncommon to hear of hundreds of resumes pile in for a plumb job down town. But when a federal or provincial nomination opens up in a riding, you might get 2-3 people interested, if that.

    People like to complain, but not many step up, even when the opportunity is wide open.

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