14 October 2004

Voter turnout and electoral systems

Located in the Swedish capital of Stockholm is an organization with an extremely useful website. It's called the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, or International IDEA. Among other things, it maintains statistics related to every parliamentary and (in some cases) presidential election virtually everywhere in the world. Especially noteworthy is this page presenting information on rates of voter turnout on a country-by-country basis. Analysing these on-going results indicate a definite correlation between electoral systems and turnout rates. Countries with a first-past-the-post (FPTP) system generally have lower turnout rates than those employing some form of proportional representation (PR). Now that Canadians are voting in such low numbers -- around 60% of those registered -- perhaps it's time for us to revisit our own electoral system with an eye to reform.

Two recent publications urge such reform: the Law Commission of Canada's final report, Voting Counts: Electoral Reform for Canada, and Steps Toward Making Every Vote Count, edited by Henry Milner. Now it's time to get the politicians on side.

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