Monday, July 27, 2009

Preston Manning: Reforrrmm needed to fix “democratic deficit”

Preston Manning is glad that Canada’s electoral muckety-mucks are concerned about declining voter turn-out, "Canada’s democracy deficit" and suggests "open primaries" as a way of fixing the problem. My response to Preston:

Dear Preston,

I don’t know about open primaries or other reforms but I don't buy your initial premise. There is no "problem" with so-called "low voter turn-out". The 59% turn-out in the last federal election was excellent. It certainly doesn’t represent a "democratic deficit" and neither do the other quoted turn-out numbers of 51% and 41% for BC and Alberta respectively.

People don’t vote for a wide range of reasons but my guess is general apathy counts for the greatest numbers - they don’t vote because politics is not really relevant to their lives. They’re not tuned in to the various party platforms and so it doesn’t matter to them which representative or party is elected.

So whatever the voter turn-out and whatever their reasons, in a free society people are entitled to their apathy, to be left alone if they so choose. Everyone doesn’t have to be a political junky - and thank God everyone isn’t. Moreover, people who are unaware of the issues and party platforms have a duty NOT to vote - as their votes would only add random noise or, worse, distortion to the process.

Why not treat election results as a statistical sampling of voter preferences and not get anxious about voter turn-out? Let’s face it, a sample of 30%, 40% or more is a very LARGE sample. The daily polls which attempt to predict election results in the run-ups to elections typically consist of one or two thousand respondents.

So let’s not tinker with the system with a goal of enhancing voter turn-out. This could ultimately lead to idiocies as in Australia where voting is compulsory or to hokey proportional representation schemes. Both would be big mistakes.

So please don't encourage our electoral officers. Instead, spend your time and energy tackling some of the real democratic deficits such as unelected senators and regional inequities in seat distributions.


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