Engaging the unengaged
Ian's Rural Ramblings
One thing about running a media business is that we can see what is engaging people’s interests. At least those people that are online that is. So, from that slightly limited perspective I can honestly say that politics, any kind of politics, town, county, provincial or federal rarely lights the social media flame on our sites. As a journalist I find that more than a little worrying.
We’ve just come out of municipal elections and the turnout was not great. I’ll go further, I think it was terrible. Candidates worked hard to engage people, door to door, at forums, at schools, at meetings, via the mail, via online, via signs and more methods that I’ve forgotten. Yet, the result seemed to be all about convincing the few that do vote. The non-voters don’t know, don’t care or is it something else? What will make the missing majority care or be motivated to use their vote? Nothing seems to have worked thus far.
Here’s a jolly idea. Why can’t elections be taken online? Some countries are doing it already. You can do it for some ballots like company shareholder votes. The technology is already there, and I think a good chunk of the non-voting electorate would swipe, tick, click or whatever to cast their vote. Apparently, Estonia is already leading the way. So why not? As very a cynical member of the press and humanity in general I think there are people in governments, parties and municipalities that are terrified of a large turnout to vote.
One may ask why a large turnout is scary to some of those that hold the reigns of power? Well preaching to the converted to get the supporting voters out, a long and well practiced technique to win elections, could become irrelevant. Party members could be swamped by unexpected swings. On the serious side, a sudden surge of former nonvoters, especially if they were organised by online campaigning and techniques, could sweep away decades of experience. How would one describe that? Chaos or a logical result of the application of pure democracy?
According to the CIA factbook, in 22 countries voting is compulsory. Some of these may be well known such as Australia but Brazil with over 200 million people, Belgium and NAFDA member Mexico are on the list too. I believe that the voting system will inevitably change. As to whether Canada will go down the compulsory route I think online may come first. It’s just a matter of when. To use a word that in my experience many politicians hate, taking elections online, would be a, “courageous,” decision.