Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Forced To Vote?

I heard this being discussed the other night on CTV (I think, maybe it was Global News) but anyway, the topic has come up in regards to obligating Canadian citizens to vote, or perhaps face paying a Fine for not doing so. I'm not sure if they mean federal (MPs) or legislative (MLAs etc) or what.... but what do you think about it?

Here is an article from the Canada Free Press

The article states that Australia has compulsory voting and the fine is $20 for not voting. Most australians apparently support this. 20 bucks doesn't sound like much, but my concern is what happens next? How high could that fine go? Could people start getting fined for not voting at every level of govt?

I noticed that the article talks a lot about Alberta's low voter turnout in 2008. I can tell you right now that I did not bother voting in that one - I had moved but they still had my voter card registered at the school near my old house across town. I tried to vote at my children's school but I was turned away. I do not drive and was not going to take a bus that would end up making it 1.5 hours journey there and back just to sign a card in a city where the vast majority votes for the same party anyway. It was the same rep for both of the  two schools I could have placed my vote in, so it ticked me off that I was turned away from the one a block from my house. It's not like I would have messed up the ridings lol. We only have 2 reps for MLA and one for MP so.... what's the big whoop about where you plllllace your bet, I mean, vote?

I just skimmed the article I linked to, but I didn't notice them listing another possible reason for a low turnout --- the same I mentioned above --- PCs coming out in a very big lead year after year. If the vast majority of the vote comes out PC, and the others are always far behind, is everyone going to rush to the polls to make sure the PC party gets in? Maybe it's laziness and an expectation that the PCs are going to win in Alberta by a landslide anyway so a lot of people don't bother to vote. Who knows...

Perhaps we should get more people involved, but fining them? Do we really want to go there? What do you think?

For example, in past Alberta elections, PCs took 61 seats in 2004 (compared to 17 Lib, 4 NDP, 1 AAP) and 72 in 2008 (compared to 9 Lib, 2 NDP). I can guess that people who support parties other than PC would be the ones rushing to the polls every year to try to get their numbers up here, or doing the opposite of thinking it's pointless so they don't even bother.

The CFP article gave PEI as an example of a very high voter turnout, but when you look back at their elections history, the tide swings back and forth between Lib and PC. In 2003, the popular vote had 23 PCs in the lead, and 4 Lib. But in 2007, the popular vote was completely opposite with 23 Lib and 4 PC leading. In 2000 it was 26 PC, 1 Lib, and in 1996 it was 18 PC, 8 Lib, 1 NDP. In Alberta there is less back and forth... but I will be interested to see what happens in the future with the WildRose Alliance gaining strength and popularity, or at least making more people take some interest. With the voter turnout be higher with a new player in the game?


  1. I like how Heinlein did this in Starship Troopers (the book, NOT the movie). Military service was not manditory, but in order to be able to vote, you needed to have serverd in the military.

  2. A big reason they make you vote where you are registered is to make it more difficult for people to go around voting multiple times at multiple polling stations. There are some other reasons to assign people to the polling station closest to home. Like if you don't have your voter card or ID, you can get people to vouch for you. This is of course more easily done at the station closest to home.

    Back to your original question, I do not support mandatory voting. You can't make people care about politics, and a lot of people who don't vote don't care about politics. They don't follow the news, they don't care about public policy, many can't even tell you a major policy difference between the parties. Forcing the people who don't care to vote to cast a ballot is not going to improve the final outcome (and I'm talking in general, not left wing/right wing).

  3. That's what I was thinking about too Ice: People just going to the polls and checking off any old name just to register their vote and avoid a fine. Does having a higher voter turnout after making it mandatory mean that all the people took interest and actually educated themselves on each name on the list? Or did they go in and mark their X on the first spot just for the heck of it? Enough people as it is vote without having a clue about the system or the people in it, so what could happen with mandatory? Sheesh?

    As for the points about voting at the wrong station, I can see that. Had not thought of that. I had my original card that came in the mail and brought along my photo ID (passport) and a piece of mail from my old house address and my new (utility bill) to show that I had moved..... but nope. I got kicked out lol.

  4. How easily Canadian politicians and bureaucrats reach for the "lash" when it comes to convincing Canadians to do something!

    Why not,instead of punishment,use enticement? Say,every Canadian who votes gets a receipt,and then can receive a $500 or more extra deduction from his income taxes?

    Canada is still stuck in an 18th century mentality, punish the peasants until they do what we want, but never is a REWARD suggested!

    Try an incentive instead of punishment, you might be surprised at the result.


  5. I dislike mandatory voting for the same reason that I disagree with taxpayer subsidies for political parties: it takes the market out of politics and breaks a connection of engagement between voters and the parties; parties will no longer need to create policies that motivate voters nor will they need to GOTV. In my opinion it will emphasize a shift to personality based politics and 10 second sound bites.

  6. This is a tricky one...Are you sure the fine in Australia is $20, I was under the belief it was $200...perhaps i am wrong.

    I attended a talk by an executive member of the elections Canada organization, a non-partisan organization that simply assists in the voting.

    We discussed this, and came to no real conclusion. I guess in Australia, people are used to voting, so perhaps pay more attention in the political process. I agree that if we were to suddenly implement a fine, people would go and tick of any odd box, and we may ed up with the marjuana party from B.C in power...which could prove to be scary haha!

    Alternatively, i dont agree with the last comment by ejm entirely. Although I understand the reasoning bhind what you are saying, I feel that people are not completely engaged in politics right now anyway! Less than half the population vote, and when you look at the demographics of that percentage, many of them are 65=, so the government often looks after the needs of that demographic group over say that of the 18-25 year old age group. (which has a voter turnout of approx 30%)

    Lynn I also find your comment about a reward interesting! I ever thought of that! Although it could be used in the same way as a it could have the same consequence. People just show up and vote for ay old party just to receive their award.

    Just my two cents

  7. Mandatory voting is an irresponsible idea. In a democracy, we depended upon voters to make an informed choice. The people who show up at least feel that 1) the process is important and 2) they have an opinion. Dragging in the uninformed and less willing is clear folly.

    It takes quite a lot of work to become truly informed these days. A lot of the issues are extremely complex. Majority votes by the uninformed can lead to very bad outcomes, especially if their knowledge is based on sound-clips and propaganda.

    We already have too many voters in Canada who just want to protest, so they pick the Greens or NDP or whatever, without really thinking that they are casting a vote for who will ACTUALLY govern the country.

    BC got Glen Clark that way and we were all horrified. 45% of Quebecers have decided that they do not even want Ministers or government MPs. They want to simply oppose and demand.

  8. An incentive rather than punishment is an interesting idea, but I guess as others have pointed out, it could be abused just the same either way. Perhaps if the incentive was lower ($50 instead of $500, making it more like a charitable donation deduction) it would help a bit for those who can't be bothered to go mark an X on a piece of paper just for a tax deduction...

    But the whole idea of forcing people to vote bothers me. Sometimes I have not liked my PC rep at all and did not want to vote for him, even if it made sure that the party gets more seats. If I think my local MP or MLA is a total arsewipe, why should I be forced to go out and vote for him? If I pay my taxes up the wazooooo every day, week, month, year, why should I be faced with a possible penalty for not voting?

    A fine for not voting, if it's low, could even backfire with so many people ticked off about it, they would rather pay the fine and cause an even lower voter turn-out than expected. It's hard to say. But either way, in a free society, proclaiming how wonderful the country is etc etc, and then turning around to force it's citizens to vote or face a fine is just bananas-crackers-crazy in my books!

  9. Sam - I am not sure about the aussie fine. the Canada Free Press article is the one that lists $20 as the fine amount. So if they got it wrong, I blame them LOL

  10. Hahaha Sounds good!

    Ya L and Kez i agree with both of you. Perhaps we try one method and see how it plays out, and if it backfires we realize we made a mistake?

    Who knows lol



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