Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Ezra's Wrong: Low Voter Turnout Isn't a Good Thing

Ezra Levant should have stopped immediately after his critique of Elections Canada's get-out-the-vote ads.

He had Elections Canada on the ropes: their GOTV ads were in fact, excessively political. Encouraging youths to vote is one thing. To lead them to vote in any particular direction or another was not just plumbing the line, it was outright crossing it. In retrospect of this information, the limits the Fair Elections Act would place on Elections Canada's freedoms to publicize voting -- restricting it to information on when and where to vote -- becomes much more reasonable.

Then Levant went entirely off the tracks: low voting numbers are a good thing. What?

Well, Levant's argument isn't 100% unreasonable. One of the ideas he uses to justify the argument is that lower voter turnout reflects lower numbers of low- or no-information voters participating in the electoral process. That, he suggests, is a good thing. And about that he isn't wrong.

He's not right, either. The best solution to the problem posted by low-information voters is to inform them. Not all of them will accept this; many of them will wilfully reject it.

Where he is absolutely wrong is the idea that declining voting numbers reflect voter satisfaction. The right to vote, Levant insisted, is not an obligation to vote, especially if they're satisfied with their political representation.

Yet nothing is more dangerous to democracy than complacency. Complacency is ultimately how democracies are lost. Complacency is the weakness that crooks and despots exploit in order to subvert or replace democracy. (On the other hand, the dangers of complacency are also present in the matter of voter ID -- are we really so complacent that we're content to let someone who may well be a non-citizen or non-resident vote on someone else's mere say-so?)

Low voter turnout isn't a good thing; it's a bad thing. It's a signal of a wavering of the relevance of democracy: the only political system under which freedom and justice have flourished; perhaps the only political system under which they can.

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