I am away from home for work which means no gaming for me (need laptop upgrade, stat) and as such am going to touch upon everyone’s favorite topic. Politics. Even more exciting, CANADIAN politics. Canada had it’s federal election and had an interesting outcome – the same as the last federal government – a minority government. For my American friends, Canada has more than 2 political parties and as such during an election there is a very good possibility that one party doesn’t achieve a full mandate. This basically means that they cannot do anything without the support of at least one other political party to get anything passed. For the record, this is good government in theory. In the USA there is such a polarization – you are a Democrat or a Republican, and one party wins and that agenda is pushed forward for 4 years. The problem when looking at the American system is that I am sure the citizens of the USA aren’t just Dems or Pubs but rather a wide range of ideals and personalities. Being forced to accept one or the other as a government every four years is consequential. Since we have a minority government again in Canada, that means the “ruling” party can’t pass anything unless they get the other parties to buy into it – meaning a wider range of Canadians, in essence, need to agree to it. The bad part of a minority government is that stalemates can often occur where nothing gets passed. I’ll take a larger pool of opinion needed in my government over an agenda shoved down my throat anyday.

Tuesday was the official election day, and I was asked by a friend last minute to be a scrutineer for the candidate he was officially representing. Again, not quite sure how it works in the USA but a person running for political office is allowwed one scrutineer per polling station. This person, after the votes have all been casted, gets to review all the votes (with the other scrutineers from other candidates) and agree on official ballots, spoiled ballots, etc to make sure the count is fair and accurate. After the polls closed I sat dilligently through the vote reviews, added my two cents, and watched the candidate I was helping out with get blown away.

I had a couple insights with the polling stations I was working at (I covered 4 in the area) and politics in general.

1.) It was a lower income area, and the voter turnout was attrocious. In the polls I was overseeing it had around a 35% voter turnout (compared to the equally embarrassing 60% turnout nation wide). I wonder if this was the product of being a lower income area where people already feel helpless enough in life, that having any sort of political impact isn’t a believable thought. On the grander scale, I would like to think that those in the worst of positions in society would have the higher turnout hoping to make a direct impact in their lives through their government choice.

2.) Voters don’t win elections, people who organize voters do. Little tip here – if you get a phone call from a candidate’s organizers, and say you are going to support them, you go on a list. During the election day scrutineers also check to see WHO has voted (not what party they voted, but if they did vote or not). We get a list of our polling areas and who is supporting our candidate, and by the end of the day, if you haven’t voted, you should get a phone call with a friendly reminder that it is election day and what time the polls close in your area. With the poor turnout as discussed in my poll areas, I did just that. Out of all the people who hadn’t voted yet, and who had indicated they supported our candidate, I was able to get an extra 10 voters to remember to go vote. Out of 50 phone calls (in one hour). That is a high % of extra votes. If I had 10 other organizers, and able to make the 500 phone calls we would have put another 100 votes out there. Multiply that by 100 organizers, or an extra 2-3 hours, and you can swing an election that way.

3.) Don’t vote for a candidate if you don’t know what you are voting for. I hate pro-voting campaigns for the simple fact that it is near impossible to make a fully informed decision as a voter. While I dislike ever saying “don’t vote”, I still think an uniformed vote is equally as bad as not voting at all. If you can’t make an informed decision go insert a ballot anyway – but SPOIL it. Choose all the candidates. Or none. That is called a “protest” vote and if the 40% of people in Canada who didn’t vote inserted a protest vote instead that would give a clear mandate to the government to change the electoral process. I think the best way to educate people who aren’t political savvy is a very simple one. Get rid of lawn signs, get rid of advertisements on TV. Take that money that the candidates would have otherwise invested in “cheap and easy” political tactics and publish a “Political Record”. A simple guide that lists the major political issues and gives each candidate an official, non-partisan forum to put down ON PAPER their view and what they will do to “fix” this issue. This would give a simple overview for voters to understand what they are voting for, but more importantly, give some accountibiliy to the candidate themselves. Obviously in this case a candidate who answers vaguely will look a lot stupider than one who gives specifics. This should help clean up the political garbage that gets spewed out there, both in negative campaigining, wasted money/trees on campaign signs, and political rhetoric I am so tired of hearing.

For the record I did my joint major in Political Science/Economics and the same problem 15 years ago with the electoral process are present today. Also, I am not a Libertarian – this was the most funny part of the night. When I toke my oath of secrecy to be a scrutineer they gave me the wrong sticker. I didn’t even notice and just stuck it on. Awful funny to even think there would be a Libertarian scrutineer in the first place (and there were no Libertarian candidates either – go figure!) but once I caught it I wore it anyway for a self chuckle throughout the night.

2 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Good article, and great tips. My longest standing beef with voting is uneducated voters. On the other side, I cannot trust politicians. I’m apathetic towards voting because I cannot find anyone that shares my values, anyone who I believe is competent despite disagreeing with me, anyone who I think will actually listen to the people they ostensibly work for, or anyone who I can trust to do the right thing.

    I vote anyways, but if I cannot bring myself to choose evil, lesser or no, I offer a write in or some other variation on “none of the above”. Even so, I’ve never thought that my stated opinion made its way into the consciousness of the politicians. My perception is that such spoiled ballots are completely ignored.

    …if indeed such votes for “none of the above” were actually collated and given voice, that might indeed make for a nice vote of “no confidence” in the choices presented to us.

    I would welcome a “paper record” of candidate competencies and positions, especially if it’s accompanied by an absolute ban on other advertising. It’s about time voters get some real information… while some may still choose ignorance, at least the information would be out there.

    Bottom line, I will not use my vote to rubber stamp an agenda, or help an incompetent buffoon fail upwards.

  2. As a fair side note I used to be heavily into politics. It was my major in University and I allied myself with a major Canadian party and worked through several elections, several big wins, and was personally rewarded on several fronts for my “work” on elections. I could diatribe about all the back room stuff (which is often as “dirty” as you would imagine) but instead will take my overview philosophical viewpoint on the matter.

    When I was young, and entering into politics, and considering my early “successes” I could see that besides how poorly things are done there is an opportunity for “change”. So I played by the rules and worked up support and had that free thinking view that if I could somehow get into a position to make that change, I could, for lack of a better word, “change the world”. Other youth in other parties shared the same “change” viewpoint. We would sit down for beers and we would discuss that while we all supported different political parties we could at least all agree on the same thing – that the system needed to change – and that if we kept at it we could make that change from within the system. The people around that table were all brilliant (myself excluded, of course!) and it was a good feeling to know the country was in good hands.

    Of course, along the way you realize that all politicians in a political party format who have that view learn one, seemingly insurmountable obstacle. In order to get into power to make that change, you have to bend to the will of those who hold the power. Most times someone who goes through that process is no longer the same person when they get to that position where they could enact change. The system itself roadblocks change at every corner.

    So, I quit that naive utopian dream and just focused on business and life, and treating people good instead. I don’t know if I would have been the same person today if I had followwed through on the attept to change the system, but I am definitely happy with who I am now.

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