The Now Coquitlam editorial “Online voting opens a new can of worms” (July 10, 2009) notes that “Online voting is being proposed by Elections Canada as one possible solution to low voter turnout”.
Though I agree with the comments for the most part, I suggest that there is a fundamental error in the very notion that this a “solution,” which is that “low voter turnout” is even the problem.
The idea seems to be that “all we have to do is make it easier or more convenient and more people will vote!”, apparently based on a premise such as “if only more people would vote, our democracy would be healthier and more robust!”
It is a sad irony that it is where democracy is at its lowest ebb that people are willing to risk harassment, imprisonment, beatings, torture, bombings, and death as they strain for even small steps toward the democratic freedoms that are so much disregarded and taken for granted in places, such as ours, where democratic freedoms still thrive.
Ease of voting, and convenience, are not the issue. Compared to so many other places it’s already trivially easy to vote here. We need to ask ourselves, why, when in those other places people will go to such effort, and risk so much, why do so few vote here?
I would agree that low voter numbers are symptomatic of low democratic engagement, and that artificially increasing the numbers implies increased voter participation, but participation does not equate to democratic engagement. I submit that this is the problem we need to address — to improve our democracy we need more true engagement.
Rather than just more people voting, we need more people voting who read past the headlines, who listen past the sound-bite, who examine the candidates, evaluate leaders on what they really say and what is their true track-record, who look past the superficial, the manipulative, and the spin, and cast their votes carefully. We need more voters who examine the platforms and policies of all contenders, and not short-circuit the process with ill-informed preconceptions.
In achieving this we will truly foster a more robust, healthy democracy, even if the absolute number of voters diminishes — which brings us to the article’s concluding comment : “…If you’re too lazy to spend 15 minutes on democracy, you should probably just forget about the whole thing.” It’s a bit blunt, but on point, I think: let those who can’t be bothered to take their responsibilities seriously stay home. Let the decisions be made by those who are willing to make the effort.