If Ontario’s chief electoral officer has his way, we’ll be voting on a weekend or on a holiday in the next provincial election in Ontario.
In a report that proposes a number of changes, the chief electoral officer, one Greg Essensa, figures that a weekend or holiday election would provide easier access to polling stations at schools and keep children safe.
I’m not really sure where this is coming from.
I’ve voted in polling stations in neighbourhood schools many times in the past and I’ve never had a problem accessing the voting location; just follow the arrows to the gym and cast a ballot!
As for the laudable goal of keeping children safe, I don’t recall any concerns being raised by school boards in the past about security issues in schools that are utilized as polling stations.
In fact, voting patterns indicate that the majority of votes cast occur in the late afternoon and evening, long after students have gone home.
If the intended goal is to make elections more efficient by increasing voter turnout, these proposed changes could, in fact, have the total opposite effect, namely, lower voter turnout.
A Statistics Canada survey that was released in 2016 that examines Canadians’ reasons for not voting in the 2015 federal election might be instructive.
That election, which swept the Trudeau Liberals into a majority government, actually had an unusually high voter turnout, but the StatCan report also attempted to explore the reasons given by those who chose not to vote.
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Small percentages of the non-voters cited things such as poor health, mobility issues or improper voter ID documents as their reasons for not casting a vote. But the two most common explanations, by almost one in three non-voters, were no interest in politics or just being too busy to vote.
One has wonder just how changing voting day to a weekend or holiday would improve those numbers.
Those who are subject to political apathy aren’t likely to care when election day is because they’re disengaged from the political process, and those who claimed to be too busy to vote, will be even more busy on weekends and holidays with travel, shopping, household chores and an endless list of other excuses.
Fact is, there’s no quick fix for electoral indifference.
Proposals to change our first-past-the-post voting method have been routinely rejected by voters.
Politicians are hesitant to discuss policies such as mandatory voting or incentives like tax breaks for those who do vote.
While some jurisdictions enjoy 75, 80 or even 95 per cent cent voter turnout, we continue to suffer from embarrassingly low voter turnout.
If we’re satisfied with the status quo about how elections are conducted, so be it.
But, if we have an appetite for electoral reform, we need to stop nibbling around the edges and attack the issue head-on.