Moving towards mandatory voting

Australia has mandatory voting laws since 1925, and could be the model for Canada.

I remember casting my ballot in the federal 2006 election and feeling a sense of pride for exercising my civic duty for the first time in my life.  It was just after my 19th birthday.

I researched the party platforms, taking into account what issues each party and each party leader wanted to tackle and the long-term future they envisioned for the country.

I remember taking the time to make an informed decision because voting is a sacrosanct part of our democratic institution.

So why is it that only 61 per cent of eligible voters bothered to cast a ballot in the last federal election in 2011?

It’s even worse at the provincial level, as only 58 per cent turned out in 2013.

Voter turnout in federal elections has declined steadily since 1984, save for brief rebounds in the 2006 and 2011.

WIth that in mind, the federal Liberal Party is beginning to float the idea of mandatory voting to party members and searching for grassroots input.

Deputy Liberal leader Ralph Goodale told the Canadian Press on Friday that while an interesting notion, mandatory voting bears more careful reflection. In the same interview, he added that democratic reform has been a major part of Liberal leader Justin Trudeau’s platform.

It’s not an unprecedented idea; Australia has mandatory voting laws since 1925.

And the notion of mandatory voting appeals to me, not just because it makes sense to ensure that people to exercise their democratic right, but because of the comedic value it could potentially produce.

After all, there’s nothing more frightening than an uninformed voter.

It takes a lot of work to be informed about the issues. There’s so much news and social media out there that it seems as if the average person can suffer from information overload.

But the onus is also on voters to be able to make an informed decision come election day.

But there’s no denying that responsibilities like jobs, relationships, finances and family can cut into that time that could be used to research party platforms and candidates.

Therefore, I think the electoral system could benefit with a few tweaks to the mandatory system.

At polling stations, there could be a separate booth for undecided voters. Once they get inside, they can pull a lever that would randomly make a selection.

Like a Vegas slot machine.

Or, Elections Canada could modify a dartboard that is divided up five different ways, each different chunk representing the NDP, Liberal, Conservative, Bloc, and Green parties.

The undecided voter could simply cast a dart and then cast their vote based on where it lands on the board.

All kidding aside, the Aussies really nailed it with their mandatory voting laws, as the voter must enrol to vote, and while they have to mark the ballot, they don’t actually have to make a choice.

Marking the ballot and depositing it into the box satisfies the mandatory voting requirement. Not a bad way for undecided voters to show their indifference towards any of the electoral candidates.

But failure to enrol to vote results in a fine akin to a traffic ticket. Don’t pay it, and the authorities will haul you into court, so trying the age-old trick of ignoring it won’t work.

It’s easy to understand why voter turnout is so low.

As mentioned, life gets busy. Who really cares about the election? It feels like nothing ever changes anyway? Does casting one, single, individual vote going to make a difference in a nation of 34 million?

The latter question is a column for another time, but the point is this: democracy isn’t something that we should take for granted, and everyone should feel a sense of civic responsibility to participate in the democratic process when an election rolls around.

Trevor Crawley is a reporter with the Cranbrook Daily Townsman

Just Posted

Interior Health is reporting a COVID-19 exposure at Selkirk Secondary in Kimberley. Bulletin file.
COVID-19 case identified at Selkirk Secondary in Kimberley

Interior Health is conducting contact tracing

The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League met for their AGM and announced a number of new initiatives, new awards and changes in their executive committee, as well as the starting date for the 2021-22 season. Paul Rodgers file.
KIJHL announces start dates for 2021-22 season

Season set to begin Oct. 1 with league still following all health guidelines

Calvin Dickson photo.
Severe thunderstorm watch in effect for East Kootenay

Conditions favourable for the development of thunderstorms, hail and heavy rain

The Independent Investigations Office of BC is looking into a Castlegar incident. File photo
Police watchdog investigating Castlegar incident

IIO: Woman sustained a reportedly self-inflicted injury

After being forced to cancel in 2020 due to the pandemic, the Wasa Triathlon is being organized for August. Bulletin file photo.
Information released for Gerick Sports Wasa Triathlon scheduled for August

In 2020 the COVID pandemic forced the Gerick Sports Wasa Triathlon to… Continue reading

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

Two hundred and fifteen lights are placed on the lawn outside the Residential School in Kamloops, B.C., Saturday, June, 13, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former Kamloops Indian Residential School earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Days after Kamloops remains discovery, Tk’emlups families gather to unite, move ahead

‘We have to work together because this is going to be setting a precedent for the rest of the country’

In this Saturday, May 29, 2021, file photo, people crowd the Santa Monica Pier in Santa Monica, Calif. California, the first state in America to put in place a coronavirus lockdown, is now turning a page on the pandemic. Most of California’s coronavirus restrictions will disappear Tuesday, June 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)
With COVID tamed, it’s a ‘grand reopening’ in California

No more state rules on social distancing, no more limits on capacity, no more mandatory masks

It’s hard out there for a billionaire

I’m sure you’ll be happy to know that while many, many people… Continue reading

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) is scored on by Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez, not pictured, during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Habs fall 4-1 to Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of NHL semifinal series

Match was Montreal’s first game outside of Canada in 2021

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

B.C. ambulance station in Revelstoke is expected to get a new system called the Scheduled On-Call (SOC) this fall. (Liam Harrap - Revelstoke Review)
B.C. ambulance changes could put Revelstoke residents at risk, warn local paramedics

Paramedics said to expect a substantial increase in ambulance response time starting this fall

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

Most Read