Monday, December 20, 2010

Response to James Bow's "The Forgotten Bloc"

Fellow non-partisan James Bow writes an important article on The Forgotten Bloc - the 40 percent of the electorate who are non-voters in this country. I wrote the following response in the comments section:

James Bow’s comments are bang on, including the one to Robert McClelland.

[To Bow's question "Why is no party leader or policy maker going out and talking to the 9.5 million Canadians to ask them why they don’t vote?," McClelland responded: "Because non voters are generally imbeciles that are impossible to placate. So it’s simply not worth the effort."]

After voting at municipal, provincial and federal elections throughout my eligible years, the last straw for me federally was the election of Oct 2008 and provincially, the May 2009 election and failed referendum for electoral reform in BC.

I declared myself [at 58 years of age] henceforth to be a non-voter until substantive democratic reform took place. Having done so, I was surprised and sadly gratified to discover others coming out of the woodwork.

Let’s face it, if you’re a non-voter, the arrogance, derision and hostility of many members of the still voting public do nothing to encourage non-voters to self-identify. Attempts to explain why we don’t vote are brushed off as irrelevant because “if you don’t vote, you have no right to be heard or complain.”

We are labelled ‘apathetic’ when, for the majority of us, apathy is the antithesis of what we feel in terms of the state of politics in this country or the options provided at ballot box.

Many non-voters, including those among youth, are more, not less, involved in their communities and globally, working to effect change, than are most voters. This participation and engagement is discounted, yet is more meaningful given the state of our politics than a 15-minute act every four years. For some voters, that act may be the only participation in civil life they engage in. Yet it is non-voters who, as a bloc, are labelled ‘lazy’.

With all this and media types perpetuating the myths, no wonder this huge minority - which threatens to become the majority - remains largely silent.

[Cross-posted at Challenging the Commonplace]

Monday, July 5, 2010

Missing Story: Voter Turnout Plummets Among Eligible Voters Aged 45-74

Much focus - and blame - has been attached to the low voter turnout among young people.

I've written before regarding that misplaced blame. My point then was to shift it to where it squarely belongs, with Canada's politicians and their puppet-masters who work to maintain Canada's provincial and federal voting systems. The Single Member Plurality majoritarian system we have works very well for the two major parties, given it was designed in the 11th century, back when there were only two parties.

Times change and voters in democratic countries demand greater choice, as is their right; which means, in systems where there are political parties, voters end up with more of them to choose from. All countries but three - among the laggards being Canada -, have updated their voting systems accordingly; whilst Canadians get delivered majority governments - or 'minority' governments propped up by the other major party, which forms a complicit 'Official Opposition' - at the behest of the less than 40 percent, or a minority, of the electorate.

But let's put all that aside, shall we? Let's instead look at the numbers for voter turnout, as taken from Elections Canada's Estimation of Voter Turnout by Age Group reports for the 2004, 2006 and 2008 federal elections.

Jun 200437.0%44.0%54.5%66.0%72.9%75.5%63.9%
Jan 200643.8%49.8%61.6%70.0%75.4%77.5%61.6%
Oct 200837.4%48.0%53.9%59.7%65.6%68.4%67.3%

In terms of percentage points, there has been a much greater decline in voting among members of the electorate between the ages of 45 and 74 than among those between 18 and 34.

But far be it from me to suggest that anyone let these numbers get in the way of their blame-the-youth campaign!

[Cross-posted at Challenging the Commonplace]