En­gag­ing the un­en­gaged

Ian's Ru­ral Ram­blings

The McLeod River Post - - Points Of View - Ian McInnes

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.

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