Saturday, October 08, 2011

Low Voter Turnout

Voter turnout for the Thursday election in Ontario was the lowest it has ever been and it continues a trend that has been occuring for more than two decades.  This is not unique to Ontario as other provinces are experiencing the same trend, we are seeing it at the federal level and we are seeing it in other western countries where there are no laws making voting mandatory.

Seeing this trend I am reminded of the quote from Plato at the top of my blog.

Why is this trend occuring?

I think the main reason is that most of the populations of the western democracies believe politics is no longer relevent to their lives.  They see the political classes in their respective countries engaging in short-sighted partisanship where the short-term interests of the political players trumps the broader interests of the societies in which they exist and that dynamic remains the same regardless of which party is in power.

Such a situation in untenable.  It will eventually come back to haunt the societies that are experiencing it. 

So how do we fix the problem?

Making voting mandatory is one solution but it is just a band-aid.  It does not fix the underlying malaise that is the root cause of low voter turnout.  As well, some of the western governments that do not already have it are predisposed to reducing what they consider to be the unreasonable burden governments already place on their citizens.  Making voting mandatory would go against that predisposition.

The real solution is to make politics relevent again but that is easier said than done. 

However, it is necessary for democracy to survive.  I know many people believe democracy is the pinnacle of political development and that it will last forever but the same was believed of feudalism, mercantilism and communism.  History proved those beliefs to be false as they all collapsed under the weight of their own contradictions.  Democracy is not immune to this. 

If democracy is to survive those who cherish it will have to revive it by taking it out of the hands of the current political classes of the western world. Failure to do so will eventually cause democracy to suffer the fates of the political systems it replaced.  I am not smart enough to know how it will happen, wether it happens quickly or gradually, and I cannot say what will replace it but I do believe that it is inevitable unless we fight to save it. 

Then again it might already be too late.

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