Editorial: No easy answers to raise voter turnout

Opinion Nov 13, 2014 Hamilton Mountain News

The disgustingly low voter turnout in October’s municipal election has spawned a search for something, anything, that could result in more people taking the time to actually vote.

Unfortunately, it would be charitable to call most of these notions “half-baked.”

Why not pay people to vote? Brilliant. Incumbent council members getting to decide how much money to give to electors to show up at the ballot box. What could possibly go wrong?

How about making voting compulsory? Well, if it is enforced, it does indeed increase turnout, but if it isn’t, or the consequence of not voting is too low, the it’s ineffective. It also seems a little odd that in a political system based on the citizen’s sovereign right to choose would then turn around and eliminate the voter’s right to make no selection at all.

Internet voting has got to work, right? Wrong. While there have been some promising results, there’s currently no clear trend. Ajax, which had all residents cast virtual ballots saw a five per cent increase in turnout over 2010, where as Burlington, which only had partial internet voting, saw a 3.5 per cent drop in turnout. Certainly not the panacea proponents make it out to be.

(Then there are the security concerns. Online voting companies and advocates downplay the risk, but if hackers can infiltrate some of the world’s most sophisticated computer systems, changing the results of a purely virtual election would be a piece of cake.)

Could changing to a ballot ranked ballot make a difference? Possibly, but that would be a side-effect rather than the main aim. It’s designed to ensure one candidate has the “support” of at least 50 per cent of voters and to try to curb strategic voting (although, in truth, it may lead to even higher rates of the practice).

OK, so is there anything that can be done or is it all just a waste of time?

Yes, but it’s going to be a lot harder than tinkering with the electoral system.

For too long much of the political debate and action, at all levels, has been largely focused on inconsequential matters. Citizens seem to be fed up with their elected reps ignoring the greater needs of society in order to focus on small projects that are easily completed, or minor issues that can be quickly solved and counted as a win. No one seems to be willing to seriously make the tough decisions needed to tackle the city’s infrastructure debt or deal with Hamilton’s impending financial crisis. Why? Because it’s a lot easier to punt it down the road than risk losing your seat by making an unpopular decision, like raising taxes to pay for improvements, even if it’s for the greater good.

It’s no wonder that almost two-thirds of Hamiltonians stayed home on Oct. 27.

 

[poll id="186"]

Editorial: No easy answers to raise voter turnout

Opinion Nov 13, 2014 Hamilton Mountain News

The disgustingly low voter turnout in October’s municipal election has spawned a search for something, anything, that could result in more people taking the time to actually vote.

Unfortunately, it would be charitable to call most of these notions “half-baked.”

Why not pay people to vote? Brilliant. Incumbent council members getting to decide how much money to give to electors to show up at the ballot box. What could possibly go wrong?

How about making voting compulsory? Well, if it is enforced, it does indeed increase turnout, but if it isn’t, or the consequence of not voting is too low, the it’s ineffective. It also seems a little odd that in a political system based on the citizen’s sovereign right to choose would then turn around and eliminate the voter’s right to make no selection at all.

Internet voting has got to work, right? Wrong. While there have been some promising results, there’s currently no clear trend. Ajax, which had all residents cast virtual ballots saw a five per cent increase in turnout over 2010, where as Burlington, which only had partial internet voting, saw a 3.5 per cent drop in turnout. Certainly not the panacea proponents make it out to be.

(Then there are the security concerns. Online voting companies and advocates downplay the risk, but if hackers can infiltrate some of the world’s most sophisticated computer systems, changing the results of a purely virtual election would be a piece of cake.)

Could changing to a ballot ranked ballot make a difference? Possibly, but that would be a side-effect rather than the main aim. It’s designed to ensure one candidate has the “support” of at least 50 per cent of voters and to try to curb strategic voting (although, in truth, it may lead to even higher rates of the practice).

OK, so is there anything that can be done or is it all just a waste of time?

Yes, but it’s going to be a lot harder than tinkering with the electoral system.

For too long much of the political debate and action, at all levels, has been largely focused on inconsequential matters. Citizens seem to be fed up with their elected reps ignoring the greater needs of society in order to focus on small projects that are easily completed, or minor issues that can be quickly solved and counted as a win. No one seems to be willing to seriously make the tough decisions needed to tackle the city’s infrastructure debt or deal with Hamilton’s impending financial crisis. Why? Because it’s a lot easier to punt it down the road than risk losing your seat by making an unpopular decision, like raising taxes to pay for improvements, even if it’s for the greater good.

It’s no wonder that almost two-thirds of Hamiltonians stayed home on Oct. 27.

 

[poll id="186"]

Editorial: No easy answers to raise voter turnout

Opinion Nov 13, 2014 Hamilton Mountain News

The disgustingly low voter turnout in October’s municipal election has spawned a search for something, anything, that could result in more people taking the time to actually vote.

Unfortunately, it would be charitable to call most of these notions “half-baked.”

Why not pay people to vote? Brilliant. Incumbent council members getting to decide how much money to give to electors to show up at the ballot box. What could possibly go wrong?

How about making voting compulsory? Well, if it is enforced, it does indeed increase turnout, but if it isn’t, or the consequence of not voting is too low, the it’s ineffective. It also seems a little odd that in a political system based on the citizen’s sovereign right to choose would then turn around and eliminate the voter’s right to make no selection at all.

Internet voting has got to work, right? Wrong. While there have been some promising results, there’s currently no clear trend. Ajax, which had all residents cast virtual ballots saw a five per cent increase in turnout over 2010, where as Burlington, which only had partial internet voting, saw a 3.5 per cent drop in turnout. Certainly not the panacea proponents make it out to be.

(Then there are the security concerns. Online voting companies and advocates downplay the risk, but if hackers can infiltrate some of the world’s most sophisticated computer systems, changing the results of a purely virtual election would be a piece of cake.)

Could changing to a ballot ranked ballot make a difference? Possibly, but that would be a side-effect rather than the main aim. It’s designed to ensure one candidate has the “support” of at least 50 per cent of voters and to try to curb strategic voting (although, in truth, it may lead to even higher rates of the practice).

OK, so is there anything that can be done or is it all just a waste of time?

Yes, but it’s going to be a lot harder than tinkering with the electoral system.

For too long much of the political debate and action, at all levels, has been largely focused on inconsequential matters. Citizens seem to be fed up with their elected reps ignoring the greater needs of society in order to focus on small projects that are easily completed, or minor issues that can be quickly solved and counted as a win. No one seems to be willing to seriously make the tough decisions needed to tackle the city’s infrastructure debt or deal with Hamilton’s impending financial crisis. Why? Because it’s a lot easier to punt it down the road than risk losing your seat by making an unpopular decision, like raising taxes to pay for improvements, even if it’s for the greater good.

It’s no wonder that almost two-thirds of Hamiltonians stayed home on Oct. 27.

 

[poll id="186"]