We’ve Never Been This Bad Before
The voter turnout last night in the Canadian Federal elections is estimated at 58% to 59.1%. It breaks the all-time record low of 61% in 2004. This excludes the 1898 referendum on the prohibition of alcohol, where only 44.6% of people showed up.
To put that in perspective, more people voted when they had to go to the polls in their horse and carriage through the snow than they did today, when they can vote online (in some provincial/municipal elections) in the comfort of their home.
It also means that the current minority government was chosen by less than a quarter of the Canadian population. This government will now make choices for the other 75% of the people in Canada.
Blame the Youth of Course
Voter apathy is a major issue in Canada, but the youth are the most to blame. A 2006 survey by Elections Canad, Explaining the Turnout Decline in Canadian Federal Elections, indicated that voter turnout is about 20-30% lower for youth,
It is due in large part to a drop in youth voting patterns that show that overall turnout numbers are declining. Concerns are being raised that this is not a “life-cycle” effect that will amend in time, but that young people who do not vote are in fact embarking on a lifetime of self-imposed disenfranchisement.
Alternatives Abound. But Who Would Choose Them?
One proposed solution is an option found in Russian elections. They have an option to vote “none of the above,” which has been selected at least twice ahead of all running candidates. Who would have thought we would be learning how to run a democracy from the Russians, but there it is.
Another option would be mandatory voting, as in Australia, Belgium, Luxembourg, Brazil and Greece, and 28 other countries.
Voting was compulsory for all free men in Athens. Perides said 431 BCE,
We do not say that a man who takes no interest in the business of government is a man who minds his own business; we say he has no business here at all.
Jehovah’s Witness and other similar groups with religious restrictions on voting would be exempt of course. Serena Williams, for example, is not voting for Barack Obama.
Fifty dollars is not going to send you to the bank, but it’s enough to encourage people to do the right thing.
Or, Just Put Alcohol Back on the Ballot
That might sound like a harsh punishment.
But what over 40% of Canadians don’t currently realize is that their lack of choice is going to cost them more than $50 for the next few years.
Something also tells me that a referendum on alcohol prohibition today would result in significantly higher voter turnout, especially for the youth.
Let’s see if we can convince someone to add that to their party platform next time around.