Electile Dysfunction

Yeah, I’m writing about the election, but I’m not talking about politics.  “Election but no politics?” you say, “Russell, you must think we’re fools!”  First of all, I would never think of you as a fool (unless you put effort into it), and second, I’m talking about the mechanics of the election, not the politics of the event.  So fear not!  There will be no political analysis (or whining).

Onwards!

Need-to-Know Basis

There is an acronym used by marketers: SEO.  It means Search Engine Optimization, which is a fancy way of making sure a web page can be found on Google and other search engines.  The simplest trick is knowing keywords used when users are searching for a site.

I originally wrote this post on election day (Tuesday May 14, for those who missed it) when I realized that I had misplaced my voter information card, so I did not know where to cast my vote.  I opened my web browser and Googled “where do I vote”.  Nothing.  “where do I vote victoria bc”.  Nada.  “Where to vote”?  No results.  I tried a dozen combinations of search terms.  None of the search results told me what I needed to know.  The only Elections B.C. page that came up was their voter registration page, which did not contain what I needed to know.

My next step was Elections B.C.’s website.  Oddly enough, there is a page called “where to vote”.

When I searched that exact phrase on Google, that page did not show up.  Google does not know that page exists.  Anyone using Google will not know that it exists.  So how does this relate to SEO?  Elections B.C. does have page to help find voting stations, but Google could not find it.

Elections B.C. has a tough job.  They need to ensure that voters do their part and vote, especially younger voters as they have not been showing up for last two elections.  However, lazy and/or nonexistent SEO is not going to help.

I expect laziness from the government, but an organization dedicated to how B.C. residents exercise their democratic rights cannot afford to be lazy.  Voter turnout has been low for years, and Elections B.C. is not making it easier for voters to get where they need to go.  Speaking of low voter turnout…

The Non-Vote

Approximately 52% of eligible British Columbians went to the polls last Tuesday.  That’s 1% more than the previous year, and the number may increase: there are still ballots to be counted from those of us who went to the incorrect voting station.  Regardless, 1,629,422 out of 3,116,626 is not a great turnout (data courtesy of Elections B.C.).

Such low numbers make me wonder if low voter turnout is indicative of a larger issue.  The most common reasons to not vote I hear are that:

  1. “There is no candidate in my riding that meets my values”
  2. “I don’t believe in the political system as it currently exists”
  3. “I don’t know how the hell the political system works”

The last one is by far the most common, but I’m not soap-boxing about why people don’t vote.

An election is an opinion-voicing mechanism: say who you want to govern, but it does not capture the opinions of those who do not vote.  There is no empty circle where I can mark “abstain”, nor explain why I did not vote.  Mind you, I doubt anyone wants to go to a voting station just to say “no”.  So how could Elections B.C. measure the non-vote?

My father and I discussed the issue, and we reasoned that the voter information card mailed to every eligible voter in B.C. is the best space.  Postage is already paid, so why not use it to gather feedback?  Hell, just look at all this blank space:

Blank space.  So much blank space.  Oh, and whited-out important details: sorry, cyber-stalkers!
Blank space. So much blank space. Oh, and whited-out important details: sorry, cyber-stalkers!

Is it as easy as that?  Probably not, but that’s the best my father and I can come up with.

What do you think?  Comment below about how you think the non-vote could be measured!

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2 thoughts on “Electile Dysfunction”

  1. “Measuring the non-vote” is a worthwhile concept, and your proposed solution seems valid as a first step. Inevitably some people will either not get their voting card or not take the time to even send it back; but some information is always better than no information.

    An idea I’ve toyed with in the past is to offer a small tax credit for voting. The BC government already ships out thousands of climate action rebate checks, and the ‘electoral rebate’ could be included in them. It might give people motivation, but there’s something slimy about “paying” people to be involved in their own decision-making – like paying your spoiled kid $10 just to take out the garbage. What do you think?

    1. I like the idea of some kind of election incentive. A tax credit could, if kept free of political wrangling (e.g. “our platform is to raise the electoral rebate!”), be the solution to the non-vote. I have heard of some countries that make voting mandatory, though I do not know how those countries enforce it or punish non-voters (a tax credit of some variety might work). Regardless, reward is usually more effective than punishment. Perhaps adding more information gathered to voting would provide incentive (where taxes should be spent, etc) in the sense that people can voice their opinion in a more direct manner than to their local political representative.

      Of course, one of the issues that voter turnout is contending against is voter information. I ran into several people who had little concept of how the political system works, and I’m not sure if I agree with that as a reason to not vote because I recall that we learned about Canada’s political system in Social Studies 11 and know that information about politics is available online. Anyway, I wonder those who don’t understand the system would vote even if there is an incentive, especially because a tax incentive might imply more work on a tax return (even if it isn’t that much more effort). Then again, depending on the incentive, people may seek out information about the system instead of waiting for it to tell them about itself.

      So, I like your idea, but am unsure how effective it would be in ending some of the other reasons for not voting.

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