New ideas on how we vote

Meet­ing in South Dildo sug­gests peo­ple an­tic­i­pate, want change

The Compass - - EDITORIAL - BY AN­DREW ROBIN­SON TC ME­DIA ed­i­tor@cb­n­com­pass.ca

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

AN­DREW ROBIN­SON/TC ME­DIA

Bon­av­ista-Burin-Trin­ity MP Judy Foote lis­tens as a group dis­cusses elec­toral re­form at a meet­ing in the South Dildo fire hall.

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