Mandatory voting — why not?

Proposed internet voting won't work, and furthermore, it shouldn't even be considered.

B.C.’s Chief Electoral Officer announced last week that the Independent Panel on Internet Voting has been struck. The esteemed panel includes an East Kootenay presence, Lee-Ann Crane, CAO of the RDEK.

The panel will look at the possibility of online voting, including a hard look at technology, cryptography, internet security policy, and electoral administration,

The primary reason internet voting would even be looked at is the appalling drop in voter participation in this province and across the country. Participation at the polls has dropped a good 20 per cent in less than a generation, and yes, that is troubling.

However, I am going to go out on a limb and say internet voting won’t work, and furthermore, it shouldn’t even be considered because the only thing that will truly allow a vote that cannot be tampered with at all is mandatory voting.

I can see you recoiling in disgust now – mandatory voting in a democracy? But consider this — mandatory voting is in place in many jurisdictions around the world including liberal democracies like Belgium, Australia and Switzerland. And it’s working. Australia’s voting participation sits at around 95 per cent.

But before we delve further into the ins and outs of mandatory voting, let’s discuss why internet voting makes me so uncomfortable.

When you vote, it’s you and a pencil and a ballot. That’s it, that’s all. There’s no one close enough to see how you vote, no one standing beside you to make sure you vote how they have instructed you — it’s just you and your pencil.

Internet voting does not allow that. Period.

No matter how you encrypt your program, no matter the safeguards in place, you cannot prevent voter coercion from taking place inside someone’s home. You cannot prevent a husband standing over his wife’s shoulder as she casts her ballot, or vice versa. You cannot prevent one politically aware person from holding an election party, logging in for each person and suggesting they vote for a certain party. And that, in a nutshell, is the problem with internet voting.

And besides, I’m not sure the voting rate goes up much if you can vote on the internet. It’s not that difficult, especially in a small city like Cranbrook or Kimberley, to get to a polling place. It’s just not. And there are advance polls as well. I don’t think being able to vote at home is going to get those who are not inclined to head to the ballot box politically engaged.

Australia has had mandatory voting in place for almost 80 years. Voter turnout of those registered to vote in Australia was as low as 47 per cent (we’re almost there, Canada) prior to the 1924 compulsory voting law. In the decades since 1924, voter turnout has hovered around 94 to 96 per cent.

Technically, it’s not mandatory voting but mandatory attendance at the polls since no one knows who voted in a secret ballot — we’re back to that ‘you and the pencil’ thing. The punishment for not showing without a valid reason is a fine, so yes, there would be some administration cost.

But look at the gains. A government truly elected by the people, and a people truly engaged in the democratic process.

Yes, there will be people casting ballots having not truly done any research on the candidates, but I bet that happens now too. And nobody is saying you can’t deliberately spoil your ballot in protest once you do attend the polls.

I’ve always said you shouldn’t complain about your government if you don’t vote. Nobody listens to me, of course. Everyone complains about their government. But mandatory voting would make sure everybody votes as well.

Carolyn Grant

Just Posted

‘Beauty amongst such tragedy:’ B.C. photographer captures nature’s trifecta

David Luggi’s photo from a beach in Fraser Lake shows Shovel Lake wildfire, Big Dipper and an aurora

Crews planning controlled burns for Meachen Creek fire

B.C. Wildfire Service hoping to conduct planned ignitions on Sunday to help containment lines

Court sides with developer in Jumbo ‘substantially started’ dispute

Resort developer successfully argues 2014 decision that halted the project was unfair

Meachen Creek fire changed little overnight

Mayor reaches out to thank community; evacuation alert notices are being delivered door to door so no one is missed

Kimberley resource, tourism industry braces as wildfires rip through forests

Tourists are still filling golf courses and shops in Kimberley, B.C., but… Continue reading

‘We will not forget:’ Thousands attend funeral fallen Fredericton officers

Hundreds of officials marched in the parade, which included massed band, several police motorcycles

B.C. man designer behind Canucks’ retro jersey

Jeremie White was 20 years old when he told Canucks assistant GM Brian Burke he had a design

Lions give up late TD in 24-23 loss to Argos

B.C. falls to 3-5, fumbling away last-minute chance in Toronto

Eagle tree cut down legally a 1st for B.C. city

Planned eagle preserve ‘a first for City of Surrey’

McDermid Creek fire registered at 70ha

A wildfire burning approximately 6 kilometres west of the Morrissey area is… Continue reading

Smoky skies like a disappearing act for sights, monuments around B.C.

Haze expected to last the next several days, Environment Canada said

Smoke scraps Nelson’s MS Bike Challenge

The annual fundraising event cancelled its cycling Saturday because of poor air quality

Canadians react to death of former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan at age 80

Nobel Peace Prize-winning former UN leader died early Saturday following a short illness

Most Read