Voter turnout calls for changes

Ontario’s Oct. 6 election yielded a voter turnout of 49.2 per cent. It’s the lowest turnout in recorded history. These results are a disappointing drop from the 52.8 per cent turnout seen in the 2007 provincial election. It points to issues in the electoral system.

Canada’s first-past-the-post system is problematic and lends itself to the popular belief that some votes are wasted. The popular vote isn’t accurately reflected in the allotment of seats at Queen’s Park.

Premier Dalton McGuinty’s government won with only 37 per cent of the popular vote and the support of only 18 per cent of Ontario’s eligible voters. Kingston and the Islands MPP John Gerretsen won with 48.8 per cent of the popular vote.

In an attempt to appeal to the broadest number of voters, parties try to govern from the centre, causing the major parties to campaign with similar policies. It’s difficult to differentiate between ideologies.

With no particular swing issue this election, there wasn’t much to inspire voters to get to polls. An alternative electoral system should be reconsidered. Mixed-member Proportional representation allocates seats based on the party’s share of the popular vote. It would allow parties that receive few votes per riding to nonetheless receive a seat in legislature.

Fringe parties would have a say in policy-making, and a threshold requiring a certain percentage of votes to receive a seat prevents an excess of parties in legislature.

If voters felt better represented by their electoral system, they’d be more likely to participate in the process.

The referendum to change Ontario’s electoral system to a Mixed Member Proportional system in 2007 failed to pass with 63.15 per cent against the change. This year’s voter turnout urges a revisiting.

Voting is a right as well as a privilege, but the process should be made as easy as possible. The three days of advanced polls on campus was a commendable initiative from the AMS. While the polls were valuable, they were too early — even before the televised leaders debate.

Put a voting booth on campus. Student voter apathy is a major issue. It’s worth reorganizing city polls to include a Queen’s station on election day. The Student Ghetto is a densely-populated area, where most occupants don’t have access to personal vehicles. This makes getting to off-campus polling stations difficult.

Implementing online voting should also be considered. It would eliminate the “too busy” excuse. There would be kinks at first, but that’s to be expected with any change of that magnitude.

As voter turnout continues to dwindle, it’s clear that changes need to be made to the system.

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