Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Mandatory voting?

Alberta covers over 661,000 square kilometers, about seven percent of the land mass of Canada and is bigger than almost any half dozen European countries combined. On Monday only 41% of it's eligible voters participated in the election and less than half of them voted for the PCs. Yet due to our first past the post electoral system, that barely 20% of voters meant an overwhelming majority for Stelmach's government.

"Many of my acquaintances who lean toward the policies of the Green, NDP or Liberal parties have ceased voting. They say their votes would be wasted under the current first-past-the-post system." Edmonton voter Richard Rehman said.

"Had the seat count been determined by popular vote, we would see: PCs 44; Liberal 21; NDP 8; Alliance 6; Green 4. This would be a much more representative government," he added.

The low turnout was particularly stark among young voters, Alberta has a serious democratic deficit and it's only going to get worse.

In Australia's last election on the other hand, and in fact in all it's elections since 1924, voter turnout has averaged 94% to 96%. 1924 was when voting was made mandatory in Australia. Failure to vote results in a $20 to $50 fine.

It should be pointed out the law can be satisfied by showing up at the polling station, being handed your ballot and then handing it right back and asking it to be marked refused. For that matter nobody is going to follow you into the polling both and watch you write in Mickey Mouse as your candidate. You still have the freedom to deliberately not participate if none of the options presented seem palatable.

But democracy is popular in Australia with big election night parties and full pubs raucously following the results on the big screen the way Canadians only get excited about Stanley Cup Finals. Even the Calgary Sun endorsed the idea.

With mandatory voting and a mix of proportional and first past the post in the electoral system, combined with some much needed redistricting to address the deeply unfair advantage of rural votes over urban and Alberta's democratic deficit could be completely reversed.

Don't hold your breath.


The Slinky Vagabond Incarnate said...

Hahaha! What's that? Oh, I know. It's the sound of the white middle class voting for Hilary in Texas, Ohio, AND Rhode Island. I told you it wasn't over yet. I hear she's even considering proposals of letting Obama be her running mate. See you at work.

Cliff said...

Check out my previou post Justin. She still faces insurmountable delegate math.

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