Fat Louis - September 2, 2014
An Odd Thought
Fat Louis

October nears and with it comes the day many Sudburians dread — Election Day. That’s right another round of municipal voting approaches and many of you are no doubt thinking “Didn’t we just do this?”

It’s easy to get confused. Elections — regardless if federal, provincial, or local — are occurring so often they are starting to blur together. They’re all basically the same anyway: a group of barely competent individuals run for office, lying about what they are going to do if elected, while another, larger and (hopefully) slightly-more competent, group shuffles in to various government buildings to reluctantly mark their ballots … democracy in action.

Sadly voter apathy is common. Turnout rarely exceeds 50%. Meaning that fully half of those eligible to vote will stay home. No doubt they’re all doing something more important — like watching reruns of American Idol.

It’s easy to see why people opt out of the whole election circus: nothing much ever changes. It doesn’t seem to matter for whom we vote. The results are, invariably, more of the same. (Northerners are especially sceptical — since some more populous part of the province {like the GTA} can so easily overrule us.)

Well, this election is different. For the first time ever Sudbury voters don’t have to leave the house to cast a ballet. Electronic, Internet-based voting has come to the north … finally. That ‘finally’ is important because this is the city that still can’t get the holiday shopping issue settled (it’s on the ballot again this year, along with store hours!).

No doubt some people — including one mayoral candidate — are wondering how we can trust our local government to mange implementation of e-voting? Sudbury’s not had the best luck with new ideas (heck, the city can’t get the roads right — something the Romans did 2500 years ago!) and our track record with technology isn’t the best either.

Let’s overlook the numerous ways Internet voting could go wrong and instead focus on whether this new development is a good thing? Maybe it shouldn’t be quite so easy. Pressing a few computer keys from the comfort of home … the ease of voting demeans it. Democracy is, after all, something people fought and died to guarantee. Should we really approach this civic duty wearing a bathrobe and fuzzy slippers? Then again why does clothing matter? If a voter wants to cast his ballot from home he can do it naked … so long as he (or she) weighs their options.

We can only hope the people take the process seriously. Sure some will vote after having a few beers. Others will press a key at random. Democracy isn’t exactly threatened by such. No doubt those opposed to Internet voting will argue otherwise.

For all its newness Internet-based voting is hardly revolutionary. The ballot choices will remain the same — limited. We’ll have a few options — Candidate A or Candidate B — but regardless who wins their hands will be tied from the get-go. Institutional inertia, limited funds, NIMBY protestors, even rival politicians conspire against real change.

This new method of voting is good in that any change is welcome when it comes to elections. The fact that it might increase public participation can only be a benefit. No longer will inclement weather, long commutes, or bad hair days dissuade voters. And, so long as everyone’s vote counts the same as everyone else’s, things will work out … more or less.

Be sure and vote come October 27 (advance polls run from October 14 through to the 24). Press a button from home or go “old school” and use a pencil to mark your paper ballot. The fate of the region — hundreds of thousands of people — rests on your choice. No pressure.