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Ontarians should not be surprised at record low voter turnout in provincial election

Voting system, failure of Elections Ontario to inform voters of right to decline their ballot, too early fixed election date, and lack of key promises for more democratic elections and government, are likely reasons for decline

Friday, October 7, 2011

OTTAWA - Today, Democracy Watch called for democratic changes to Ontario's political system in response to the clear crisis of record low voter turnout in the provincial election.  Initial results show that the Ontario Liberals have won 53 of 107 seats with the support of only 18.4% of eligible voters.

“With just under half of eligible voters casting ballots yesterday, the lowest in Ontario’s history, 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 back up if the voting system is changed, if Elections Ontario does it job properly and informs Ontarians of their right to decline their ballot, if the fixed election date is pushed back to late October, and if the parties make promises to end undemocratic elections and government."

In addition to Elections Ontario properly educating voters about their right to decline the ballot (and disclosing declined ballot totals in election results), and making the fixed-election date later, the most important changes the Ontario 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 MPPs who switch parties in-between elections to resign and run in a by-election);
  • change the voting system so that the percentage of MPPs 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 MPPs 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 dropping lower and lower,” said Duff Conacher, Founding Director of Democracy Watch.

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
Duff Conacher, Founding Director of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179

Democracy Watch's Ontario Election 2011 page

To see details about all the loopholes and flaws in Ontario's government, click here


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© 2011 Democracy Watch