Election Thoughts

I wasn’t going to bother commenting on yesterday’s election this morning, because I was up late last night watching the very disappointing results, and as a consequence I am somewhat grumpy, sleepy and off my game.

Nevertheless, the discovery that one of my very close friends and a man I admire greatly did not choose to vote yesterday due to a combination of voter/general apathy, riled me up sufficiently that I felt the need to respond to some of these concerns.

1) Re: Not Voting

There is no excuse to not vote. Everyone should vote. It should be the law that you must vote, as it is in Australia, Brazil, Costa Rica, and many other countries that have legislated compulsory voting.

For heaven’s sake, your employer must ensure that you have THREE consecutive hours to cast your ballot on polling day. It took me about 20 minutes, including my unfortunate experience with incompetent electoral officers. You can also get ANY party to literally DRIVE your ass to the polls. They will pick you up, from your home, in a car and take you there. No public transit for voters, no sir! First class all the way, baby.

There are also advance polls in every riding, days before the election proper. If you haven’t voted, then you have failed to do your civic duty, and that is the end of it.

I personally recommend the advance polls, since it takes a lot of the pressure off. Last time I voted, there was the ominous feeling of “oh, I should vote for a party and a candidate I don’t believe in, just because my vote for a candidate I do think is worthy might create a situation where a candidate I loathe gets into power”.

Without the clamor of the masses drowning out your own political voice, it’s a lot easier to mark the X in the right box.

2) Re: Deal-breaking party platforms

Elections are not just about the party, they are also about the candidate. I have qualms about elements of the party platform I voted for, but the candidate in my riding who won my vote was the most active, the most involved, and the most passionate.

He did door to door personally on several weekends leading up to the election, and was at the GOtrain station talking to people and making himself available for comment at least four mornings that I was there.

To my mind that shows commitment, in terms of getting out on Saturday and Sunday and getting up for very early mornings, as well as coming out to all of the candidate debates and representing himself well.

The GOtrain visits also show him to be a strategic thinker, in that he went to a location that provided him with a captive, somewhat receptive audience and increased his public exposure with his white collar constituents (probably the group with whom he is least popular).

3) What do you do when every party sucks?

Either be ridiculous and form a new party, or join with the one that is least abhorrent to you, run for office, and work hard at transforming the platform until it is something you can be proud of.

There is no better way to register a complaint about how crappy everyone’s political ideas are than to have some of your own, and to demonstrate that they are feasable and worthy of implementation by getting off your sofa and involving yourself directly in the leadership of your riding and your country as a candidate.

4) Re: functioning multi-party democracy

Hmm. Is it really functioning if we only have 60% voter turn-out?

Personally, I think it is high time that they put the vote on the web.

Seriously, if I can do my banking and pay my taxes and vehicle fines and change my health card and passport address on line, why is voting the final frontier?

Could it be because if there was increased voter turn-out at the polls from the much-lamented 18-35 age bracket, perhaps the parties that consistently find their way into power would no longer be pulling as many votes?

Canada’s young voters are lazy, and busy, and have all sorts of reasons not to venture outside, off their beaten paths to vote – but they are constantly on the internet, registering their opinions and exchanging ideas and debating about the nature of our country’s leadership.

This has become an issue of the old-fashioned media that voting uses; we need to drag the polls into the 21st century. The only move they’ve made in this direction so far was back in early 2003, when they contracted CGI Consultants to conduct a study examining the “feasibility of developing and implementing an on-line voter registration system”. NOT an on-line voting system, JUST a place where you can change your freaking voter address online.

Which they have not yet implemented.

This explains why your voter registration card was mailed to your parent’s old house that they sold five years ago, rather thank your new address that you just updated on your driver’s license and property tax records last year. NONE OF THESE SYSTEMS ARE LINKED.

Amusingly, the Elections Canada website doesn’t even have an easy-access e-mail address available. If you go to the home page, there is a “Contact Us” section, which gives you a snail-mail address and phone/fax numbers, but no e-mail and no link to an e-mail form.

If you want to get to the form, you need to click on the right hand side bar on the splash page under “Chief Electoral Officer of Canada” (not an obvious choice), then the last link on the following page “Contact the Chief Electoral Officer”. Then finally, you get an e-mail form, but no e-mail address.

If you’d prefer to skip all of these shenanigans, and demand that the process of getting the vote online be advanced as a priority for the federal government, I can tell you that their actual e-mail is:

Please, I implore you to dash off a quick letter of complaint about the archaic nature of the whole process of voting in Canada. Toss something in about the mandatory voting, while you’re at it.

10 thoughts on “Election Thoughts

  1. I like your taxes analogy.

    It ought to be compulsory.

    And Advanced Polls? Love em! I did that this time and from now on I’m voting that way EVERY year!

  2. I didn’t get that he chose not to vote, but that due to circumstance, he wasn’t able. At least I think that’s what he said. However, I do agree that advanced polls are a great option.


    I LOVE voting. Erin and I went into the polling station, singing and dancing and laughing, and caused quite a stir. I get such a rush.


  3. I agree with the great majority of what you just said. But one thing I am *not* hoping for is online voting.

    As a web developer I am all too aware of how fragile and unsecure the web is, and I am not willing to risk my constitutional right to a free and elected government by putting the vote on the web. Any security that is created by a human can be undone by another human, and the chance for wide-spread fraud is too great to take the risk.

    Just take a look at the US areas that have instituted electronic voting – there is widespread concern that the companies contracted to build the voting machines have too much power, have inappropriate political connections and have built consistently buggy and completely insecure pieces of crap. This has produced a culture of mistrust with electronic voting, and I believe that mistrust would only increase with web voting, once the huge potential for vote tampering is better understood.

    Voting *has* to be a closed system, with no chance for interference from any outside influence, and that is decidedly what the web is not. It is open, and what little security exists, even on banking sites, is only a false veneer. It has been demonstrated time and time again that anyone who wants to get your password for any site in existence can get it, if they just try hard enough. They just don’t normally want to. But the chance to tamper with an election is too great an incentive for many groups of people to ignore, especially when they can do it from the comfort of their home office, even from another country.

    No matter what systems you used, current technology does not allow the guarantee of security. Even systems like the new Xbox360, which was built from the ground up on a secure computing platform, with security to stop bad code from being run built *right into the processor*, is now just weeks or days away from being cracked. Your average home PC is 100x less secure than the Xbox360, and being on the internet makes it 100x less secure than if it wasn’t.

    The number of possible ways of perpetrating voter fraud online are extremely scary – from basic subversion of authentication techniques (making sure that someone is who they say they are), to Denial of Service attacks that prevent whole sections of the community from being able to access the servers and vote, to back doors being exploited into the system that allows tampering with the database, to theft of voter registration lists, and the subsequent use of those lists from zombie farms of infected PCs that use those lists to jam votes into the servers, either getting votes through before legitimate people can vote, or simply jamming the server resources with so much traffic that they succumb, and go through another Denial of Service.

    Really, a pencil and paper is the safest option.

    It *would* be more convenient, I’ll give you that, but I’ve had one caller in a call-in show early in the campaign stuck in my head.. He was a recent immigrant, and talked about the severe struggles he had to go through just to be able to vote in his previous country, and how annoyed he was at all the bitching that was going on about having a “Christmas Election”. People who aren’t willing to walk around the block to their local school or church, and wait in line for a few minutes, deserve the country that everyone else picks for them.

    I am proud that, unlike the last few US elections, we always seem to get the vote counted quickly and accurately within just a few hours; with very little evidence of fraud, no hanging chads, broken voting machines or partisan court cases to slow the process down.

  4. Here’s one that confuses me: in voted in the Toronto Centre riding in the last federal election, I received my card in the mail and everything (possibly they came to my door and enumerated me, first, I disremember). Yet for THIS election, two years later, my voter registration card went to my parent’s place in Oakville. My only theory is that it is somehow tied to the fact that my father e-filed my taxes for me, from his address.

  5. Disclaimer: I don’t know who’s being referred to or anything about the situation. But what with advance polls, absentee ballots, and guaranteed time off work, there aren’t a lot of situations that would cause someone not to be able to vote. (Of course, there are SOME. Hence – disclaimer.)

    I too get a rush from voting. I’ll be sad if we ever switch to anything other than the golf pencil system — I like making BIG BLACK PENCIL MARKS. Take that, ballot!

  6. Compulsary would be good – though how much time would be spent chasing down people who didn’t vote? Would we be waiting weeks for results while they track down 90 year old Ethel from Yellowknife? But yes, much like Jury Duty – you should have to at least show up.

  7. Pipes, you & I have hashed this out on my LJ, but I’ll say it here too: I can’t get behind compulsory voting. If I don’t like any of the candidates enough to support them, I don’t want to be forced to choose one. And if someone else simply don’t care enough to inform themselves about the parties and issues, I’d rather let them sit the election out than force them to make an uninformed choice that will affect my life.

    Besides—if someone is truly determined not to vote, they’ll drop a blank ballot into the box.

    The likely result of all this will be that a few conscientious people will have an added incentive to think seriously about the options and cast an informed vote, and the other 35% of Canadians who don’t like the options or don’t care enough will show up and either a) vote with an empty ballot (in which case nothing changes), or b) make a hasty, uninformed decision (in which case we get a government chosen by yobs who don’t care how they’re governed).

    Besides, the low turnout is itself a useful statistic and an important political statement. A spoiled or blank ballot is simply registered as uncountable and is lumped in with ballots that are illegible or otherwise unusable for a variety of reasons. A low turnout, on the other hand, is clear evidence that a) too many Canadians are uninformed and uninterested, and/or b) the present options aren’t attractive to literally millions of people. In other words, it shows that something is seriously wrong with our democracy. If we make voting mandatory, we’ll paper over this important fact and deprive ourselves of valuable info about the state of the Dominion.

  8. You don’t have to be “forced to choose one”, just sign in, spoil your ballot and leave.

    People often forget there ARE options for “Y’all are fucked! I don’t want to vote for any of ya!”

  9. There was an e-mail to CBC Newsworld from a Florida citizen congratulating us on our “controversey-free election”.

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