Seduced by technology’s ability to facilitate the mundane tasks of daily life, many Canadians are finding the act of going out and voting too disruptive. With the exception of a slight uptick of around three per cent in the most recent federal election, voter turnout continues to decline.
What can be done to compel more people to take part in this fundamental function of a healthy democracy? Elections Canada is now exploring the possibility of “e-services” such as internet voting. Yet, as we wade into considerations of altering our voting practices, we must ask ourselves an important question: In addressing the participatory deficit plaguing our democracy, should our primary focus be on making voting more convenient?
In its report on the 41st general election, Elections Canada is careful to identify its core mandate: to ensure that Canadians can exercise their democratic right to vote or to run as a candidate. Note that its mandate is not to increase voter turnout. Nevertheless, the federal agency wants to meet Canadians’ expectations of convenience by exploring new options such as internet voting, and it is seeking approval to experiment with this method in a 2013 by-election.
As Marc Mayrand, Canada’s Chief Electoral Officer, states in the report:
Today, government services are expected to be more convenient. Electors and candidates alike look for services that are available wherever they happen to be, when they want the services and on their own terms. Meeting their expectations requires new approaches.
This consumer-oriented mentality has its merits. However, taking responsibility for enacting broader societal change does not. As Mayrand pessimistically adds, “Apathy is a societal issue largely beyond Elections Canada’s control.”
While Elections Canada’s work to improve the mechanics of the electoral system is important, it is the larger problem of voter apathy that needs to be addressed. When it comes to tackling apathy, new technologies that facilitate convenience are no panacea.
Full Article: Should We Think Twice About Online Voting? | The Mark.