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A Lesson in Voting

Two countries at opposite ends the seesaw tottering between democracy and one-man, one-party rule, provided a lesson last month to Canada on how to make sure that the votes of an electorate are clearly, fully, accurately, and speedily recorded and counted in an election or referendum.

Iraq was one of them, Ireland the other.

In Iraq it was a simple process. There was only one candidate. He received 100% of the votes cast. And voting was mandatory. There were no spoiled votes.

In Ireland it was also a simple process. There were two choices. Accept or reject full participation in the European Union. Acceptance would open the way for ten other countries, mainly former members or satellites of the Soviet Union, to become members of the European Union. Two-thirds voted for acceptance, one-third for rejection. And voting was not mandatory.

What made the Irish referendum unique was that in seven constituencies where electronic voting took place, not a single ballot was spoiled. There were no hanging chads, no pregnant dimples, no appeals for recounts.

The use of electronic voting machines eliminated the possibility that voters could purposely destroy their own ballots. Even if they attempted to do so by choosing both options, yes and no, the machines promptly displayed an error message. As a result, not a single spoiled vote was recorded in the 270,124 votes tallied in the seven selected constituencies. Normally between 700 and 1,300 spoiled votes could have been expected.

The lesson from Iraq was that mandatory voting works.

The lesson from Ireland was that electronic voting works.

Voting should be a mandatory civic duty in Canada.

Electronic voting should work successfully in Canada.

For further reading see Democracy in Canada


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