Voter Turnout

(post by Jon – don’t blame Patti, and I’m not saying who I voted for or why)

We just had a provincial election in British Columbia.  BC politics is always weird, but this one was off the charts.  ALL major polling authorities had the Liberals (the most right wing party we have at the moment) getting annihilated by the New Democratic Party (the most credible left wing party). Pollsters gave a wide lead to the NDP, but on election day after the votes were cast the Liberals not only won, but gained more seats in an unprecedented reversal of pollsters predictions and now control almost 60% of the provincial legislature.

This guy must have kicked a bunch of dogs, ’cause he lost.

The other issue that has been talked about at length here is the voter turn out. On election night it was said that only 48% of eligible voters actually made it to the polls.  Later that number was revised to 52%, but still that’s not a lot of democratic involvement.

People blamed the media for overstating the NDP lead, which left people feeling that they didn’t need to vote. People blamed the pollsters and questioned their legitimacy. People flooded call-in radio shows with a wide variety of thoughts on why the vote went the way it did and why the voters are not turning out.  Veterans called in, enraged, to talk about what they fought for. People offered opinions on voting reform, making it easier to have people vote, and even making voting mandatory.

I don’t think we should make it easier to vote at all!

I heard someone speaking recently that stated that democracy was designed for an educated and enlightened people. And for the most part the educated and enlightened people make a point of voting; for this I feel confidence in our system. But what concerns me is that our society and education system is not turning out fully educated and enlightened pupils.  I’m not saying that teachers are doing a bad job. But teachers do face a challenge when it comes to teaching about the economy.

Think about what you know about the economy and how it works.  Now think about where and when you learned that information.  The economy is the pool water that we all share.  When the pool level is up we have enough room for everyone, even if we are not sharing fairly.  Some might have more water, and some might have less water, but all have water to swim in.  Some might take way too much water and intervention might be needed to make them be reasonable, but not at the expense of the total volume of water in the pool.  When the economy tanks, the pool gets drained and we all have less water to share. Picture being in a crowded community pool where it really is too crowded but everyone is swimming.  Then picture about 20 people trying to share a blow-up kiddy pool; doesn’t mater how hard you try, no one is swimming. That’s the economy.  There’s a lot of things that a government can and can’t actually do, but all that I really want is a fair playing field, then I can take care of myself and those around me.

Now think about teachers.  AS A GENERAL RULE (and I know someone is going to point out some great exceptions), teachers start out as students who are not taught about the economy, then they go to school and get their teaching credentials in an environment where socialism rules and the economy is ignored, then they go to work in a fairly safe microcosm of society where jobs are secure, pensions are livable, and the greatest interaction with the economy is buying a house or paying student loans, where interest rates go up and down for some reason. They don’t get involved in investing capital, suffering economic failures, reinvesting windfalls, hiring, firing, or anything else involved in building enterprise or driving the economy.

I don’t fault teachers for this at all, but it does leave a big hole in the education and enlightenment needed to decide who should govern. Most of the people that I know that know anything about the economy (and some of them ARE teachers), learned it through life experience or through involved parents that took the time to share what they know about the topic.

Stats show that people with more life experience are more likely to vote, which at this point means sacrificing some of your time, getting in your car, driving to some designated place, waiting in line, proving who you are and then casting a ballot.  I do not invite the day that youthful inexperience, who knows more about Angelina’s double-mastectomy than politics, can click on a link on their smart phone, authenticate with some digital ID and then cast a ballot for the Rhino Party cause they think it would be funny. I do invite the day that youth at the age of majority, would be willing to stand in line in the rain to cast a ballot for the candidate that they think is best for our society and economy. But regardless, I don’t care what the percentage is; if only 10% of the population is educated and enlightened about what is going on in the world, then I only want 10% to vote. (I am not saying that we should be all right-wing – a bird needs a right wing and left wing to fly.)

Here’s one of my suggestions: hire a special class of teachers specifically to teach about the economy, the marketplace and entrepreneurship, made up of retired successful business people.

What do you think about voter turnout or how would you address this issue? Do you think that young people today are actually prepared to vote for what is good for all?

~ Jon

Author: Patricia Culley

I'm the ringmaster of my own circus. Just trying to stay one step ahead of the monkeys.

4 thoughts on “Voter Turnout”

  1. As someone who works in the education system and comes from a family of teachers I am puzzled about where you got your opinions about teachers (and their knowledge of the economy) from. Teachers in the education system have as much access to economics as any other general arts or science post-secondary students and many do indeed take some form of it as part of their elected credits. In fact, we teach Economics and Business-Ed in the high school where I work and there are plenty of teachers qualified to do so. Unfortunately, it is not a provincially examinable course in BC and as a result students are inclined to pass it by on their way to UBC to become doctors or lawyers or whatever else their parents think is the most distinguished profession to brag to their friends about. If we, as a society, would like to see young people develop an understanding of economics, we first have to communicate with them that it is a meaningful hoop to jump though…and not just another elective in the way of med school.

    The second thing I’d like to address is the idea that teaching is a relatively secure profession. It takes between 4-7 years of substituting these days (as it did when my Dad entered the workforce) to get a permanent position, at which point you can be sure that you will be layed off for the next three years…unless of course you work in special education, which means you have your job on or near the chopping block for the entirety of your career. The teacher I work for directly has been given notice that her job may be chopped after twenty years of seniority and a coworker down the hall has had her job cut a year before her retirement.

    I’m also glad that it’s not EASY to vote, but I do think that moving away from manditory paper-based systems would make voting more accessible for the younger generation, particularly those people – like me – who have to change their address regularly, and for people with disabilities who are dependent on technology to navigate the world (I didn’t notice any braille on my ballot or auditory output mechanisms for people with language processing disabilities).

    There’s really no reason to conflate people’s level of intelligence and political awareness with their ability to use paper-based systems.

  2. I’m also not sure if it’s fair to assume that all young people are more informed about pop-culture than politics. I know very little about what’s going on with Angelina’s breasts but I’ve been observing economic trends (both statistical and anecdotal) for the past ten years that suggest that the BC economy looks less like a community swimming pool and more like the Colorado river where the water is plentiful near the top, evaporates the whole way along (drying out completely at the end), and is dumped again at the top where there is the infrastructure to sustain it. I’d imagine that the people sitting in the dirt at the end of the river with their mouths open find the reigning economic theories pretty unpalatable.

    Frankly, it’s difficult to get the students from poor or at-risk backgrounds to school at all in the neighbourhood where I’m working – we also have students driving to school in BMW’s mind you – and we simply haven’t put the resources into social development that would be necessary to get many of them into the building on a regular basis, much less have them graduate.

    Anyway, glad to have the opportunity to rant a bit.

  3. Jess, thanks for the comments… I love thought provoking discussions…

    It is often hard to make general comments about a large group of people without it being taken the wrong way. I’ll reiterate that there are a lot of exceptions to the generalities, but I will also point out that I work for the Fraser Institute that keeps stats on such things and because of those stats, spends a whole lot of money running an Education Program designed specifically to teach economics teachers how to teach about the economy. Though FI might be a hot point for a lot of different debates, the teachers that attend our workshops and use our material give very positive feedback. It is on the basis of these stats that I say that the vast majority of teachers are ill-equipped to get students ready to manage the economy. Not that we have the only perspective on what the economy is or how it works or even how to teach it. I’m just saying that its a topic that doesnt get covered well in high school.

    In post-secondary education it is an elective that is not taken or not taken too seriously by enough future educators (much less the rest of the population) to really change the above statistic.

    I’m not breaking this incredibly broad-brush, personal opinion, generality into specific geographic or socioeconomic groups, who all have their own issues and reasons for where they are at… I’m just taking the thought up as a whole.

    I’m not saying that paper=smarter. I just think that people who understand what is at stake are more likely to put in greater effort, enough to overcome small hurdles on the way to casting a vote, and those that really don’t care or really don’t know what the consequences are are less likely, so the ease of voting would have an impact on the quality of the end decision.

    Cheers, Jon

  4. I agree about making it easier for people to vote electronically I could see so many potential problems with that! I wonder where is the pride that we should be carrying that we live in a free democratic nation where we have the freedom to vote?! If you think we live in a swimming pool or a river crowded or at the end of it all … How does that affect ones use of using their voice?!

    I loved the swimming pool analogy. I often wonder why people who contribute NO to little water think they have the right to swim more then others? People who are at the top of the “river ” to quote the analogy by Jess tend to be working a lot harder and contributing a whole lot more. Just my opinion from someone who works 6 days a week to make ends meet and watches some that should be helping just help themselves to the pool/river and feel entitled and hardly contribute.
    Hope that makes sense. It’s early sat morning 🙂

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