Martin Regg Cohn: Need to enhance low voter turnout? Sorry, Ontario, there’s no miracle remedy

There’s still time for a post-election post mortem on our voting system.

The dismal, abysmal voter turnout of 43.5 per cent on June 2 was traditionally and embarrassingly low for a provincial election. However the remedy shouldn’t be fairly so easy.

For all of the dejection, this needs to be a time for cautious reflection — not reflexive rhetoric about treatments that will finally lack democratic assist.

Within the aftermath of the June result, critics of the present system jumped in with questionable conclusions in regards to the causes and cures for low turnouts in Ontario elections. They claimed the low turnout diminished the democratic legitimacy of Premier Doug Ford’s victory, as a result of solely a fraction of the eligible voters supported him and so many have been turned off — an argument that applies equally to the opposition events, by the best way.

For proponents of proportional illustration, it additionally proved to be an irresistible alternative to make unproven claims that their various voting technique may spare us such despair. If solely Ontarians upgraded to a superior type of democracy, the speculation goes, they’d be extra democratically engaged.

Embedded on this unexamined premise lies an unsupported panacea — that proportional illustration is the folks’s selection as a result of it one way or the other displays folks’s preferences.

However what if it’s not essentially true? What if the proposed democratic reform of proportional illustration lacks democratic roots?

When final examined within the 2007 provincial referendum, it flopped: solely 36.8 per cent of voters backed a hybrid model referred to as “combined member,” during which driving outcomes are topped up with occasion lists of politicians to higher mirror the provincial vote, with 63.2 per cent preferring to stay to the established order.

All these years later, proportional illustration continues to be lagging in reputation: Mainstreet Analysis discovered that it misplaced out to a “ranked poll system,” which ranked greater as the popular selection of Ontarians.

The truth is, 35.6 per cent need the proper to rank their decisions on a poll. Underneath this technique, in case your most popular candidate is eradicated, your vote doesn’t go to waste — your second (and third) selection on the poll is mechanically reallocated, immediately digital runoff, till the winner will get a minimum of 50 per cent of the overall solid.

Proportional illustration landed in second place, backed by 34.3 per cent of these polled by Mainstreet. Sure, that’s an in depth second, effectively inside the ballot’s presumed margin of error (3.1 per cent 19 instances out of 20, with a consultant pattern of 999 Ontarians surveyed).

However the present electoral system got here an in depth third, with 30.1 per cent preferring the established order often called “first previous the submit.” That’s virtually a statistical three-way tie, suggesting the general public is deeply cut up about any fast repair.

Apparently — heretically for true believers in proportional illustration — youthful voters want the ranked poll possibility by an excellent greater margin: 43.2 per cent of these aged 18 to 34 want the digital runoff, versus 39 per cent favouring proportional illustration.

Don’t inform that to the small band of Canadians who’ve discovered faith on proportional illustration, and for whom electoral reform quantities to a reformation. To them, proportional illustration is the reply to apathy, the purest type of enfranchisement, probably the most Solomonic system for allocating votes each which approach.

Whereas I’ve all the time been sympathetic, proportional illustration stays a tough promote. Most individuals are unpersuaded of the alternate options, are too preoccupied by extra urgent points, or just don’t observe politics carefully sufficient to care.

That’s why the ranked poll is a neater, fairer, and extra achievable tweak to our constituency system, wanting rebuilding our total democratic edifice. It lets folks have their say immediately digital runoff, in the identical approach that political events elect their leaders with second or third ballots till somebody will get greater than 50 per cent of the vote.

All that stated, there may be little proof that the present electoral system is the disincentive that critics appear to suppose it’s. Seems it’s the politicians, and their events, that flip folks off.

Requested why they didn’t vote, 45.8 per cent instructed Mainstreet they didn’t suppose the candidates have been “meaningfully totally different.” One other 15.6 per cent stated the marketing campaign lacked “any that means.” And an additional 20.4 per cent didn’t suppose their vote “mattered.”

That provides as much as eight out of 10 eligible voters who have been too turned off to trouble turning out. One other 8.8 per cent “forgot to vote,” and an additional 9.3 per cent “didn’t have time.”

Say what you’ll in regards to the imperfections in our electoral system, these polling numbers converse volumes in regards to the failures of our politics and politicians — from all events — to inspire voters. However let’s not let the folks of Ontario off the hook fairly so quick.

When requested for his or her response to the report low voter turnout of 43.5 per cent, totally 72.6 per cent of these polled described it as “too low.” Which implies a lot of those that didn’t vote weren’t pleased that so many didn’t vote.

That’s democracy, during which the individuals are all the time proper — even once they’re wrong not to vote.

Martin Regg Cohn is a Toronto-based columnist specializing in Ontario politics and worldwide affairs for the Star. Comply with him on Twitter: @reggcohn


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