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Do we really need to vote? Every time?

Forums Discussion Forums General Discussion Do we really need to vote? Every time?

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    Vivian Unger
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    I know all the arguments for voting. I’ve made them. But that was back when I had a dream of one day having representation.

    Now I have a Green MLA and a Green MP. I have attained that Shangri-la. Little did I consider what I would do if it proved disappointing.

    I put a lot of volunteer time into helping both of them get elected. What has it gotten me? Neither one of them has done a thing for PR.

    Tonight, I have developed a new plan for future elections. As soon as an election is announced, I will let all the candidates know that I will only vote for a PR supporter. But it’s not enough for them to say to me, “Oh yes, PR is good, I support it, blah blah blah.” Or even to say it in a candidates Q&A when prompted by a Q.

    No. It needs to be in the flyers that they distribute door-to-door, or on their website, or other campaign materials. Or it needs to be something they bring up themselves, unprompted, at those candidate Q&As or interviews. They need to stick their neck out at least that much.

    I’ll vote for any candidate who does that, no matter whether the polls say they have a hope in hell.

    And if no candidate in my riding does that? Then I won’t vote.

    That’s my new rule. I’m tired of these people jerking me around and dropping me like a hot potato as soon as they get elected.

    Mark Henschel
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    Isn’t the business-as-usual modus operandi of elected officials to turn their backs on their electorates after their election?

    OK… too cynical? Yeah. there are some good ones with their hearts in the right place… some of the time.

    But seriously…

    I think not voting — and more importantly training voters by example not to vote — is a slippery slope down which we are already sliding with uncertain footing. If we can avoid not voting, that would be good. But I agree that in most cases some institutional (electoral) changes are necessary to take us up the path towards nirvana.

    The simple fix to not voting is to incorporate a “no” into our electoral language… a “none of the above” choice. Even where the most articulate and productive electoral system — STV — is in use a NOTA choice is a useful, informative “word” on the ballot. And after all voting is part of a dialogue we (aka “us”) are having with the political classes (aka “them”). It behooves us in a representative democracy to express ourselves a clearly and completely as possible… it avoids misunderstanding and closes loopholes. But we’d have to get that implemented and it might be as hard to do that as it is to acquire an actually useful electoral system.

    All is not lost… in some cases. In Ontario, for instance, one can officially decline one’s ballot. This is a very deliberate electoral act quite distinct from making ballot errors (intentional or un- ) or other protests. It may not be as fun as grabbing your ballot, ripping it to shreds and jumping up and down on the fragments whilst screaming “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore”… and then running like hell out of the poll.

    There’s a procedure — a ritual — to declining your ballot that you can make as theatrical as you like… so long as you accept the ballot, tell the officer that you are declining it and hand it back. The declined ballot gets handled separately from all other ballots; it’s distinctly articulate… which is what you want.

    With a little organization declined ballots can be more particularly articulate. During the Ontario ER referendum in 2007 I mounted a very modest campaign to have declined ballots say “Yes” to electoral reform but “No” to MMP.

    Moving on to the more general issue of the “say anything to get elected and become cloth eared later” representative I just want to say that PR is not the answer if it is party-centric and, more particularly party-functioned (which is why I will always say “No” to MMP). The only way to obtain representation that responds to your overtures before the election and will respect you in the morning is to have candidate-centric elections… which necessarily means intra-party choice on the ballot and mandates that approach the unanimous as opposed to being content below the 50% mark.

    A rep who is elected in large measure on the representations she makes to the electorate and with a significant mandate has an evident obligation to walk her talk.

    Hope this helps.


    • This reply was modified 4 months ago by Mark Henschel.
    Mark Henschel
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    Vivian: I composed this reply to a comment of yours on The Tyee but when I hit “post” the thread had been closed. So not to waste a good rant, here it is:

    —   —   —

    You assert here that, “With PR, all sorts of candidates with disparate viewpoints can get seats in parliament.

    and in another comment in this thread you also state, “We vote for our representatives, not for party leaders. Don’t punish the candidates!

    I’m afraid I find these statements problematic for the cause of sufficient electoral reform and mutually inconsistent.

    Not all “PR” works the same way or is created equal. Where the system is party-centric and party-functioned — seats are made to match popular votes (regionally or nationally) and on direct party votes — any diversity of opinion would be seen only as diversity in party opinion. While we may not see many Green Party candidates elected they’re there in our legislatures. The party has a voice.

    But as far as diversity of candidate opinion goes when the vote is by party then there is an effort by the parties to put up candidates who are “good little soldiers”. These are not individuals who will naturally step up and voice their own opinions. Therefore, it seems logical that under a party centric system we will see a number of opinions constrained by the number of parties.

    On the other hand were the system to be candidate centric instead, the number of distinct opinions might be closer to 338. This is not to diminish the importance of association of like-minded representatives to work together.

    Our present system represents the middle ground in this regard. Choice of candidate and party care conflated on the ballot. On any given marked ballot there’s no way to determine whether the voter chose on the basis of the candidate or the party. Would it have mattered if the candidate was a yellow dog? Or did the quality of the candidate enhance the appeal of the party for the voter sufficiently for her to change her vote? In Canada in that vacuum of intent the parties have grabbed power for themselves at the expense of the individual candidate… and the voter (hence a democracy where the power is concentrated at the centre-top… in the PM office and his party’s backroom). I would argue that this is a significant factor in our democratic deficit. It will only get worse if our vote becomes a formal vote by party.

    And it’s no mystery why parties who feel disadvantaged by the current plurality system… or actually are… support MMP, a system that either blatantly hoes the party-priority row or more subtly undermines voter choice through the retention of single-member districts and their interaction with the “proportional” half of the “mix”.

    A vote for a candidate of a party is always a vote for the party but it is also a vote for the qualities that the candidate brings to the table — qualities that group does not itself possess like knowledge, experience, critical thinking, perspective and even the other qualities that seem to always be used to divide us: race, gender, age… To faithfully capture that level of diversity the voter needs to see multiple candidates for each party on their ballot and be able to meaningfully choose between them.

    A candidate-centric vote empowers the candidate (relative to the party and absolutely) and empowers us. Not all PR does this and most — particularly the ones put up and supported by the parties — do not. That should be a deal breaker for citizen stakeholders in this democracy.

    The NDP vows to implement MMP if they form government. That’s a deal breaker for me.

    • This reply was modified 2 weeks, 2 days ago by Mark Henschel.
    • This reply was modified 2 weeks, 1 day ago by Mark Henschel.
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Forums Discussion Forums General Discussion Do we really need to vote? Every time?