Thursday, December 22, 2011

Disenchanted, Disengaged, Disenfranchised

In the most recent Ontario general election voter turnout was at an historic low, only 49.2% of eligible voters actually bothered to cast their ballots. This was despite a concerted effort by Elections Ontario to make voting easier and more convenient than ever.
The following was included in a late summer media release:

“It’s now easier than ever to vote in a provincial general election” said Chief Electoral Officer Greg Essensa today at a media conference held in Toronto. Stating that making voting easy was the core driver for Elections Ontario, Essensa took attendees through a review of the voting options available, highlighting the More Days More Ways approach which gives voters more flexibility than ever before to choose how, when and where to vote. 

On election day, most voting locations:
Will be wheelchair accessible, as indicated on your Notice of Registration Card.
On election day, all voting locations:
Will have magnifiers, Braille ballot templates and other tools to assist voters who are blind or with vision loss.
Will provide pens and pads to help electors who are deaf, deafened, or hard of hearing to communicate.
Will provide the elector the opportunity to book a sign language interpreter paid by Elections Ontario through the Canadian Hearing Society's Ontario Interpreting Services to be with you at your voting location.

During the 15 days preceding election day:
In returning offices and satellite offices, assistive voting tools will be available that feature:
Audio headphones
Tactile buttons
Large keypads marked with Braille
A "sip and puff" device
If you have restricted mobility:
You may transfer to a more convenient voting location within your electoral district. Contact your Returning Officer to make arrangements.

Almost $92 million later, it didn't seem to work. In fact, its almost axiomatic (for me) that whenever a big government (like Ontario's) institutes a program to fix a problem, not only is the problem not fixed, but it is often made worse. Such was the case here. Obviously "ease" of voting was not preventing people from voting in this election. It was something more fundamental. Why did 67.8% of the population turn out to vote in 1975, dropping to 49.2% in 2011? Was it more convenient then? Hardly. So the answer must be something else and I suspect the answer is incentive. No, I'm not suggesting that we pay or reward people who vote. Nor would I suggest that people be coerced to vote, as they are in Australia. I'm suggesting that people need a reason to vote, a reason to believe that their ballot may change what is, after all, an entrenched system.
There is some evidence for this. In 2008, Obama's election was a spike in the usual US voter turnout, maybe because people were under the misimpression that an Obama victory would change things. US turnouts seem to be far worse in percentage terms than Canadian federal elections. Ontario turnouts resemble the US.
The upcoming US election will be interesting, or not, depending on who is chosen by the GOP. If a razor blade will be needed to separate and distinguish the policies of Obama and the GOP candidate, then look for a low turnout. That's what I'm predicting.     


  1. Yeh, Ron Paul would shake things up. But, I have no faith in the GOP. I think they want to actually lose the election hoping that the Dems will take the blame for the coming Depression, if it happens.

  2. I doubt that the GOP "thinks" like that. It almost sounds like there is a conspiracy to lose. I think the depression is already here, unemployment will remain high, productivity will remain low, and the great "deleveraging" will continue. This could take many, many years. Just remember who controls the "stats". Economic stats are manipulated and published at the whim of one arm of government or another. The real truth is always a casualty.


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