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Is the cost of paper ballots is the price of democracy?

Dan McCaffery's picture
Tue, 11/28/2017 - 15:51 -- Dan McCaffery

Sarnia city council’s decision to go with electronic voting next year is a bad idea.

On the positive side, it will save some money. Reports I have read say the cost of continuing to operate with the traditional paper ballots would be more than twice as much as the new electronic system.

But I have little confidence that electronic voting would be safe. I fear hackers could wreak havoc with elections.

Even more worrisome than that is the fact that many older people will not be comfortable with it. These days, that’s a lot of people.

Large numbers of baby boomers either are – or soon will be -- senior citizens. I was reminded of that in July, when the federal government sent me a letter advising me that as a 65-year-old, I now qualify for Old Age Security. So there you have it, I’m officially old.

Mayor Mike Bradley suspects an electronic system is being implemented to reduce his base, but offered no proof that that is the case.

There’s no doubt that voter suppression exists in some jurisdictions. Certainly in the United States some members of the Republican party have done everything they can to make it difficult for minorities to vote. We know this to be a fact because one of the party’s bigwigs was caught on video bragging about it to a room full of GOP followers.

As I recall, they passed laws requiring voters to produce photo ID, something many poor black people don’t have.

So it’s not out of the realm of possibility that there’s a plot to keep older residents from participating in Sarnia’s election. However, until there’s solid evidence that that’s the case, I prefer to believe it’s simply a well-meaning but misguided attempt to lower costs.

I think Bradley is wrong about deliberate voter suppression but I fear he’s correct when he says the extra cost of paper ballots is the price of democracy.

Democracy is already under siege, both at home and abroad, thanks to social media scoundrels who spread misinformation all over the place. And with the so-called mainstream media being constantly ridiculed by people like Donald Trump, we now live in an age where no one trusts anything they read or hear. That can make it difficult to make an informed decision.

So adding to the chaos by making it more difficult to vote is the wrong way to go. I would like to see Canada adopt the Australian system, in which everyone is required by law to cast a ballot.

Of course you would have to have a box for ‘none of the above,’ but at least people would get off their butts and go to a polling station.

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