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Make voting in federal elections mandatory, but put it on a Saturday or make it an official holiday

On this Victoria Day holiday Monday, I was reading some interesting Twitter tweets from Frank Graves, the President of Ekos Research, one of the polling companies here in Canada. He was discussing in part the poor voter turnout we’ve generally had in federal and provincial elections the past few years, in part the bad polling that totally misread the BC election. The sequence of his Tweets that caught my eye reads as follows:

There is one easy solution to fixing poor polling predictions, horrid vote suppression tactics and anemic youth voting—-mandatory voting…If everybody votes parties must market policies to all; suppression is muted,pollsters focus on modelling populations (not guessing turnout)..Australia has used since 1924 with good results (90% turnout and 80% support in polls) …It’s time! Even a sunset trial to get rid of the scourge of suppression and youth disengagement…Mandatory voting refocus polling on modeling entire populations rather than guess at turnout/ ignore non voters/more democratic+scientific….permanent campaign now spends huge resources , not on policy , but on figuring out who to target , who to get out to vote, who to keep home..

And in response to those who thought it would be heavy-handed to force people to vote:

I used to agree but sometimes inventory of evils outweighs modest sacrifice of personal liberty…you can spoil your ballot… when more people are staying home than voting we slip from democracy to oligarchy.

I don’t have a particular objection to this proposal for mandatory voting.  As long as the “spoil your ballot” to register disgust with the political process remains an option, I think perhaps it should be considered, because bluntly, I honestly don’t think switching to proportional representation or Ranked ballot or trying out “internet voting” is going to help any participation rates go up.

My only additional requirement would be that they put Election Day either on a weekend, or make it a national holiday to give everyone the opportunity to vote, rather then employers or employees fretting about the time off from work to go vote being used as an excuse not to.


2 comments to Make voting in federal elections mandatory, but put it on a Saturday or make it an official holiday

  • So how is Australia better as a result of mandatory voting?

    When people care, they vote. The fact is, large chunks of the population are ignorant about basic facts. I like to think those people don’t vote.

  • sm

    The holiday is a nice idea, just to get another holiday. However, there are lots and lots and lots of advance polls. Keep those along with the plan for mandatory voting and you will be fine.

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