Well neighbours, we made it. Monday, October 17 2022 marks the start of the last week of the municipal election campaign, and the first day of voting!
Things are going to be different this year: the entire election is being held online. That’s a first for us. If you’re not very comfortable with computers, you can get help voting by going to the municipal office, I think at any point this week. You can call to confirm that they’re ready to help you, especially if you live north of the 401, because there are a few time slots for help at the Codrington Community Centre too. If you have any questions or concerns about how to vote, you can get more information about it here.
A 2017 study looked at the feasibility of adopting online voting federally. There are two primary reasons that we don’t already vote online in federal and provincial elections: because paper ballots are more secure (at least in theory), and because we tend to resist change. (That’s a topic for another day!)
Voting Through the Ages
Fun fact: we don’t live in a democracy. What we call “democracy” today was historically known as “aristocracy.” In a democracy, like the ancient city-states of Greece, participants drew lots; officials were chosen at random from among the eligible citizens. (Of course, only wealthy men were eligible, so the pool wasn’t that large.) Choosing your candidates by voting was considered aristocracy. Up until the French and American revolutions, that distinction was maintained; but while the revolutions were considered to be the common people revolting against oppressive hierarchies, the revolutionary leaders did not trust their general populace with leadership, and opted for aristocratic rather than democratic governance. Over time we’ve conflated the two.
It’s worth noting that the earliest democratic society was the Haudenosaunee, or the Iroquois Confederacy. Their leaders were chosen by the clan mothers, who could also demote a leader and veto declarations of war. Decisions were made by seeking consensus, with a threshold of at least 75% of support from clan mothers and 75% of the community.
Early voting in settler communities of North America involved all of the male land-owners standing around and raising their hands for one candidate or another. From the beginning, voter intimidation was a problem: everyone could see who you voted for, and if you voted for the wrong person you were likely to be threatened, beaten, or killed. Bribes and other influence were also common: major candidates were likely to be a voter’s military or industrial superior, or even their landlord, especially as more voters were enfranchised. American elections were sometimes carried out at or after a party thrown by the front-running candidate, where all of the voters were treated to dinner and plenty of drinks. Many, but not all, of these problems were addressed by bringing in the secret ballot.
Election fraud with paper ballots is very difficult to pull off. In almost every election these days, someone somewhere complains that someone else is cheating. But to actually cheat in an election, you’d not only have to fill out a fake ballot and get it into the ballot box, you’d have to do it enough times to make a difference, at enough polling stations to make a difference, in enough ridings to make a difference. And each of those polling stations has scrutineers whose only job is to make sure that doesn’t happen. The logistics of pulling that off is either impossible or not worth the amount of effort and bribes it would take! But all of the reasons it’s hard to fake an election on paper are also reasons why it’s a real pain to actually show up to vote in them, and voter turnout has been declining for decades.
Voting online can have HUGE benefits. It makes it easier for people to vote, which means that more people will vote, making the results closer to the actual will of the people. Nobody will need to take the day off work to stand in line in a voting station; and nobody will skip voting because of the challenges of doing so. The votes are tabulated by computers, so the results are instant: the moment voting closes next Monday, the results will be in! No recounts necessary. And while it’s theoretically possible to hack an online election, it’s also theoretically possible to hack banks and stock exchanges; internet security typically remains a step ahead of the hackers. Municipal races benefit from being small enough that it probably isn’t worth anyone’s effort to try to hack them; that’s why in Canada we’re trying out electronic voting at the local level before using the technology provincially or federally.
Voting in Brighton in 2022
You should have received your voting card by mail by now. If you have not, please call the municipality at 613-475-0670. If you have, then you have everything you need to vote! Sign on anytime this week, and remind your family and friends to do likewise.