It's by-election day in Ontario! And while it's tough to say how it will all work out in the five ridings going to the polls today, I will say that despite the jokes I've previously made on Gang of Four, it's neither unlawful nor immoral for Kathleen Wynne to have called an election for August 1.
While tuning in to Global's Morning Show this morning - which I hate-watch merely because it accounts for the 10 minutes of my day before I leave for work - I was granted a rare moment of insight from the show. The comments was made that with the rain this morning, and that if it persisted, the already predicted to be low voter turnout might be lower because... People don't like to vote in the rain. And then it hit me, does it really matter when we hold an election? Because clearly there's a whole segment of people out there who are basically looking for any reason not to have to vote.
I've opined before about my desire to see the efforts put into getting out the vote be instead applied to encouraging all those who never vote to just check out the system, as they obviously want. The right to vote should be for those who take it seriously, have a passion for the issues, and not just be a chore that you have to scratch off your to-do list for the day. That's why as much as I joke about the super-villain like shrewdness of Wynne's by-election scheduling, I also seriously believe she's invited a unique opportunity for conversation: in a world where some people literally risk life and limb to vote, why do Canadians bank on any excuse - rain, summer vacation, voter fatigue - not to vote?
Part of this conversation concerns online voting, which will be part of the Guelph municipal election advanced balloting in 2014 after a 7-4 vote in Monday's council meeting. Even supporters for online voting can't drum up much of a guarantee for increased voter participation as Nicole Goodman, a research consultant working with the city on internet voting, said that she thought it could offer a "modest positive impact"in voter turnout. This after the matter came to council based on a survey of 600 where 48 per cent said they were more likely to vote if voting online were an option. On a side note, thanks to Councillors Ian Findlay, Bob Bell, Todd Dennis and Andy Van Hellemond for having the presence of mind to realize that trusting our democracy to the same system that brings us fake Nigerian princes, penis enlargement methods and all the easily accessible gambling you can bank on, is a bad idea.
Still, why is it so problematic for so many people to take 10 minutes out of their day, go to their polling place, mark an 'X' next to the person they want to vote for and go about their business. Polls are open 12-13 hours, you're lawfully entitled to two paid hours off from work in order to vote, and let's not forget the proliferation of advanced polling now, which itself was a response to the complaints of busy lives not offering enough time to vote on Election Day proper. The method of voter suppression used by Pierre Poutine is positively low-fi as compared to what someone of similar intention and a bit of extra technical skill could get away with if the system is even partially online. Now I'm hardly a Luddite, but I just don't trust computers with my democracy.
None of these are easy questions, , but as sure as I know that internet voting is a bad idea, I'm sure that after the novelty's worn off we'll be back at square one so far as voter turnout goes because it's not a matter of ease of participation, but a matter of engagement. Which brings us back to the by-election, everyone's ticked at the Liberals, and everybody thinks they have to go, but considering that someone has to run Queen's Park, who will it be? Andrea Horwath has likability on her side, but she's leader of the NDP and a lot of people are till stung from the last time they were in charge. The PCs have the lead right now in the provincial polls, but then everyone remembers that that would make Tim Hudak Premier. So what is a voter to do? I guess we'll see tonight.