If the aim is to engage more of the electorate, getting citizens involved at a young age is a great idea. But the province’s plan to register 16-year-olds two years before they’re eligible to vote is missing the point.
The idea of providing high school students with a better understanding of our system of democracy is something that should have been done long ago.
With dismal numbers in last weekend’s municipal elections across the province, and turnout dropping routinely at both the federal and provincial polls, it’s time to take a long look at what role citizens want to play in government.
The current concept of electing candidates and essentially giving them the keys to the cupboards for three years has served us surprisingly well. But most people aren’t comfortable with the idea of voting in a benign dictatorship, which in many ways is what we do – at least at the federal and even provincial level. Rather, the electorate prefers to have confidence that it holds the hammer, ready to wield it on any government that pushes its luck a little too far over a term in office.
We also have learned to exercise our rights in other ways, exerting a collective will through the choices we make as consumers and in the causes we stand behind.
If anything, democracy seems to be thriving everywhere but at its most symbolic core – the ballot box. But why have we turned away from election days?
We think there’s more to it than oft-repeated excuse that people are “electioned out.”
Perhaps a better reason is that citizens want to feel like they are engaged and that they can contribute in ways that are tangible.
One of the inevitable changes coming to the way we pick our politicians is by allowing online voting. This is actively being implemented by jurisdictions around the country and already being done elsewhere in the world.
We’ve already seen with the last census that there are ways to engage citizens securely, and in a way that keeps individuals from being counted more than once.
It’s time for our democratic system to catch up to the rest of society.