Don’t like your choices for council, mayor?
Run, encourage good candidates to register, then vote
By Kris Scheuer
What if no one voted in the next election? What if we boycotted the election as a political statement and thumbed our noses at the whole lot? What would happen then?
Sure it has never happened yet, but you have to wonder what is at the root cause of why more people don’t go to the polls.
Voter apathy is nothing new, as anywhere from 36 to 47 per cent of those who have the legal right to elect a provincial rep choose not to show up to the party.
In the 2006 Toronto election voter turn out was a lousy 39.3 percent across the city.
Some circumstances appear to shift this such as in ward 26 where there was no incumbent and 15 candidates ran. In that ward, voter turn out was 52 percent, which was the highest anywhere in the city that election.
So why do so few eligible voters exercise this right? Is this because citizens don’t care who is elected? Or is it a political statement? When we don’t vote are we trying to send a message “why bother to cast my ballot when none of the candidates vying for my vote represent my views?”
So why is Toronto’s voter turn out is so low? What motivates you to vote? In Australia, one of a number of countries that have adopted compulsory voting, voter turnout averages at 95 per cent. According to the Australian Electoral Commission’s website voter turnout nationally since 1901 ranged from 50-78 percent until 1924 the year mandatory voting was passed. The next year, 1925 the voter turn out shot up to 91 percent and has been above that ever since.
So is that the answer? I don’t know if mandatory voting leads to informed voting or if people just show up because otherwise they are fined.
In some cases, the reason people don’t vote comes down to the fact they aren’t politically savvy and feel they can’t make an educated choice. If that is the case, it’s not too late – the next city election is Oct. 25. Think about the issues important to you and talk to candidates running in your area.
If none of these candidates appeal to you, consider making a run for it yourself or convince other qualified people to register.
Some are advocating for better ballots in fact a campaign has started to educate people and generate debate on a different form of voting system.
Fair Vote Canada with a chapter in T.O advocates for electoral reforms as well including proportional representation (at the provincial and federal levels) so political parties get a number of seats close to their popular support. So if Party A’s candidates get 16 percent of all votes cast across Ontario they would get about/or exactly 16 percent of the province’s seats.
Others want the province to change the Municipal Elections Act to allow all Torontonians the right to vote in city elections. FInd out more at I Vote Toronto.
Non-profit, non-partisan Student Vote encourages young Canadians, not yet of voting age, to get in the habit of casting ballots by educating them about parties, candidates and elections. There are mock elections where votes are tallied and students get in the habit of voting from a young age.
In 2006, a group of volunteer civic activists lead by Dave Meslin hosted City Idol recruiting 100 people to “audition” as city council candidates in front of live audiences. This was reduced down to 21 finalists and then four were “endorsed” by the organizers. The ideas was to encourage people to register in the city election and get engaged in the process and vote.
What will change lower voter turnout in Toronto?