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British Columbians should not be surprised at low voter turnout in provincial election

Voting system and lack of key promises for more democratic elections and government are likely reasons for turnout

This release was covered by The Tyee on May 17, 2013

Thursday, May 16, 2013

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch called for democratic changes to British Columbia’s political system in response to the clear crisis of low voter turnout in the provincial election.  Initial results show that the B.C. Liberals have won 50 of 85 seats with the support of only 22% of eligible voters.

“With just about half of eligible voters casting ballots yesterday, alarm bells should be going off and questions raised about the legitimacy of the provincial government,” said Tyler Sommers, Coordinator for Democracy Watch.  “Voter turnout will go up if the voting system is changed and if the parties make changes to end undemocratic elections and government.”

The most important changes the B.C. parties can make to increase voter turnout are as follows:

  • pass an honesty-in-politics law that gives voters an easy, low-cost way to file complaints to the Integrity Commissioner, and gives the Commissioner the power to penalize misleaders (and requires MLAs who switch parties in-between elections to resign and run in a by-election);
  • change the voting system so that the percentage of MLAs each party receives more closely matches the popular vote percentages.

These two changes would give voters a reason to vote because they would know that voting for a specific party would mean a guaranteed result in terms of percentage of MLAs elected and promises kept.

In addition, if the parties strengthened provincial ethics, political finance, lobbying, open government, and whistleblower protection laws, voters would have more reason to vote because they would be more assured of good government no matter which party won.

“More and more voters know from their experience of the past few decades of elections that they are not going to get what they vote for, and are likely to get dishonest, secretive, unethical, unrepresentative and wasteful government no matter who they vote for, and as a result no one should be surprised to see voter turnout at such low levels,” said Sommers.

These problems exist in all the provinces and territories across Canada.  All of these changes should be made by the federal and provincial and territorial governments, and for their municipalities, before either mandatory or Internet voting are tried (because both of those have likely serious negative effects).

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Tyler Sommers, Coordinator of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179
[email protected]

Democracy Watch’s Democratic Voting Systems Campaign