Monday, January 16, 2006

Canada's electoral system hopelessly flawed

There is an article in today's National Post that certainly reinforces my disgust with the voting system, recently expressed here and here.

Laura Lind writes about her experience training for a job on election day at the polls:

Next week's election is projected to cost $276,500,000. If you're as shocked as I was at the cost and want some of our taxpayers' money back, you can work as a polling clerk for Elections Canada.

Elections Canada needs close to 170,000 people to man the polls next Monday. It's a one-day job that pays $152.85, plus $35 for attending a 2 1/2-hour training seminar. At this late date, most of the training sessions have been run and positions filled, but there is still a chance that some polls may need clerks.

I applied in December, and was called in to take a training course last Wednesday. When I arrived for the training, I was told I would be working as a deputy returning officer, which meant I would get a bump up in pay to $185.25 for a 12-hour day, and would be running an Elections Canada polling station! Within minutes I was drunk with power.

[..] My high-level training included watching a video and flipping through a manual. Our seminar leader, Barbara, said, "We want you to feel real comfy" running your poll. Maybe it's just me, but I don't feel "real comfy" listening to 2 1/2 hours of phony, folksy Dr. Phil lingo.

[..] I stayed awake and watched the movie and learned what to do at a polling station if someone shows up to vote in a clown suit. I'm not making this up. In Canada, in our cities, apparently, a lot of clowns vote.

Clowns are eligible to vote if they are on the voters list, we discovered. Another difficult situation is when someone is not on the voting list and starts yelling. Christine, the actress playing the deputy returning officer in the video, had no problem dealing with the angry man. She told him to go register at another table.

[..] . . people who want to vote don't need to show identification. All they need is a name, address and to be on the voters list. If they don't have that, some combination of identification, proving their address, signature and name is adequate. So, theoretically, Americans with a magazine subscription to a Canadian address and a library card could vote in the federal election.

[..] Under the current system, potential voters just have to take an oath that they are Canadian citizens. If they don't want to take an oath -- because MAYBE THEY'RE LIARS! -- they just have to make a proclamation.

If you catch people cheating or trying to vote twice, you're supposed to ask them to leave or call the police. I thought as a deputy returning officer I might at least be able to hit them with my government-issue ruler.
And on the subject of Canada's electoral system, why is the current return of $1.75 per vote to each party receiving more than 2 percent of the vote not an election issue? The following pledge was included in the Conservative Party's 2004 election platform, but is strangely absent from their current platform. See Andrew Coyne for more details.
The current legislation also includes massive public subsidies for political parties, forcing taxpayers to support political parties whether they want to or not. The legislation provides the parties with subsidies of about $40 million per year, divided among them based on the results of the previous election. The Conservative Party believes there must be a better way than merely replacing suspect corporate and union donations with forced taxpayer subsidies. Instead, we will encourage Canadians to voluntarily support the political process through a check-off system on their income tax form.
Because of Bill-C24, there is even more incentive for parties to secure votes, no matter the cost. It is no wonder talk of mandatory voting has lately been promoted with great zeal by some statists.

No Party is getting an extra $1.75 because of me and I'll certainly not be "lending" Jack Layton my vote.