New ideas on how we vote
Meeting in South Dildo suggests people anticipate, want change
When the next federal election roles around, perhaps you won’t need to worry about finding time to cast your ballot or dealing with the advance poll.
Already, there are voters in parts of Canada familiar with online voting through municipal elections. Now the federal Liberal government is following up on an election promise to investigate electoral reform. Online voting is just one of many potential changes under consideration.
Last Thursday in South Dildo, local MP Judy Foote met with a dozen constituents to get some feedback on the matter. In small groups, they tackled a few questions and afterwards shared with the room what was said.
“For me, it’s meant to be a listening exercise in that my job is to glean as much information as I can — to find out what my constituents think about the electoral process and whether or not we need to reform it,” Foote said, noting too people can submit their comments online as part of the process.
There was near unanimous agreement in the room about the need to introduce online voting to make it easier for people to vote. That said, it was suggested people would still need the paper ballot, particularly seniors who might not be computer literate.
Security was brought up as a concern with respect to moving the voting process online. One man compared the situation to how people have become so used to online banking. He couldn’t recall the last time he had to go to a bank and said if they can alleviate public concerns and offer a secure environment to manage money, surely government can do the same for voting.
Reaction to mandatory voting as an option was mixed, with some questioning whether it’s worthwhile to compel people to vote through law. One person said they initially struggled with the idea of a mandatory vote in a democratic society. That per- son did feel differently when they took into account how we are required by law to file our income tax and complete the census.
A woman at the meeting suggested there would need to be an increased push in the schools to inform students about what’s at stake in elections. She said doing so in elementary school would benefit the electorate down the road.
The group that discussed the merits of Canada’s firstpast-the-post voting system indicated there were positive feelings about it, given it’s relatively simple and tied to democratic principles. It did however identify flaws, mentioning the system limits the likelihood of coalition governments, which have worked in other countries.
On the question of what the public is looking for from an electoral system, one man said people would support proportional representation if it were introduced in Canada.
In that system, a political party’s representation will roughly equal the percentage of the popular vote it obtains in an election. Last fall under the first-past-the-post system, the Liberals formed a majority government with just under 40 per cent of the popular vote.
A need for improved inclusivity was also identified, particularly for people with disabilities.
Asked whether she expects changes will come before the next federal election in 2019, Foote said it could happen under the right circumstances, adding there’s a lot of work still to come.
“We’d like to see it happen for the next election,” she said. “Can it? A lot of things will play into that, and this is what we’ll find out. This is why we’re doing the consultation process early in the game — so that if we need the time to make it happen, we will have the time to make it happen. It requires legislative change, so all that of course would have to happen.”
We’d like to see it happen for the next election. Can it? A lot of things will play into that, and this is what we’ll find out. Judy Foote
Bonavista-Burin-Trinity MP Judy Foote listens as a group discusses electoral reform at a meeting in the South Dildo fire hall.