On June 26, 2009 Elections Canada released its report and related surveys 40th General Election Evaluations, assessing our last federal election held on October 14, 2008. It shows this was the lowest voter turnout since 1962 at 58.8 percent of registered voters, a trend consistent with that seen in other jurisdictions around the world. Reasons cited for not voting include being out of town, being too busy, apathy, and a dislike for all candidates.
The Evaluations look at the last election from various points of view including those of voters, candidates and election administrators. In addition to increasing voter apathy, as election rules become more complex, it becomes increasingly difficult to find and train workers to run the local voting stations.
The largest solution being proposed by Elections Canada is to set up electronic registration and voting, also known as e-voting. The survey of electors shows that 58% are likely to use the Internet for registration, and 54% are likely to vote using the Internet. One can only hope this hits a somewhat different demographic than that which is already engaged enough to vote.
Will Canadians be e-Voting by the next election? It is unlikely. On Friday the CBC reported that Elections Canada “wants parliamentary approval to conduct an electronic voting test-run in a byelection by 2013.”
While technological advancements are generally a good thing, I’m skeptical whether e-voting will encourage more citizen engagement in elections. It will be interesting to see if the down-ward voting trend can be reversed.