Tuesday, September 9, 2014

UPDATED: Star Readers And Mandatory Voting

In response to a recent column by Susan Delacourt discussing mandatory voting, Star readers weigh in with their usual perspicacious observations, the majority in favour of a less radical solution to the problem of low voter turnout. Here is a small sampling of the responses:

Re: It's time for mandatory voting laws, Insight Aug. 30

Mandatory voting attempts to address only one symptom of Canada’s corrupt 12th century first-past-the-post (FPTP) electoral system under which most voters do not cast a ballot for a winning candidate. Mandatory voting will not correct this, but merely result in more votes which do not count to elect anyone. We will still have false majority governments that hold 100 per cent control over the House of Commons with much less than 50 per cent of the popular vote.

To fix our broken democratic system, we must go back to basics and change how we elect our MPs. We must modernize our electoral system to ensure representation that is in close proportion to the actual votes cast. Proportional representation (PR) shifts the balance of power back toward the people and away from political parties. It’s like flipping a switch that shines the light on us.

Fraudulent robocalls to deter voting would have no impact under a proportional electoral system because votes cast matter more than the arbitrary boundaries of ridings. Each enlarged riding would have multiple MPs.

When voters believe that their votes really matter, they will naturally vote in larger numbers, without being coerced into doing so. This is evident in the 80 plus countries that have successfully implemented an electoral system which achieves some level of proportionality.

At least ten authoritative public studies have been undertaken in Canada on electoral reform, including the comprehensive 2004 Law Commission of Canada Report on Electoral Reform, commissioned by the Liberal Party of Canada. Each study recommended that Canada’s FPTP electoral system be replaced by one providing equal effective votes for citizens and proportional representation in the House of Commons.

The neoliberal fiefdoms of the U.K., U.S. and Canada still use FPTP because they can manipulate it to retain control over governance. Mandatory voting will divert our attention away from implementing an effective solution to Canada’s democratic deficit. Canadians must not let themselves be led astray.

P. E. McGrail, Brampton

Why does Susan Delacourt resort to mandatory voting to increase voters’ participation when a perfectly democratic and rational approach would provide a valid reason for people to vote?

Proportional representation would make every vote count, decrease the polarization of Parliament, reduce the frequency (and costs) of elections and the need for by-elections. Canada would then join the majority of democracies in the world.

In a multiparty, pluralistic society, FPTP is a bankrupt system that most often silences the voice of the majority of the electorate. Vested interest are the reasons for Canada sticking with it.

It is time for the media to support rational and well informed demands to change the present system at all levels of our government.

Bruna Nota, Toronto

If it’s true that “four of every ten Canadians” chose not to vote in the last federal election then it would be a great mistake to compel such uninterested people to cast a ballot. Do we really want to count the votes of those who are forced (by law) to vote and probably represent the lazy, uneducated and could-care-less class of citizens?

The results of such mandatory legislation would certainly have serious, unintended consequences.

George Dunbar, Toronto

UPDATE: Lori Turnbull, an Associate Professor at the School of Public Policy and Administration at Carleton University, offers her views on mandatory voting here.


  1. Mandatory voting will not solve the low voter turnout issue. Some form of proportional representation is better than the outdated FPTP which really was designed for only two parties contesting for power (one of them would have to get a majority to win). With more than two parties, that is not the case at all. We end up with a situation where a minority of the voters could elect a majority government if the votes split in certain ways. FPTP is really at best an outdated, or at worst, a really poor method to elect a government.

    Even educating students in school about their civic duty to vote would be a better solution. Did not read the original article but if Delacourt did propose this, it is one of her weaker articles/ideas.

    1. The majority view seems to be that low voter turnout results when people feel their vote doesn't natter, Anon. Some form of proportional representation would seem to solve that problem.