Low voter turnout is a common problem in many democratic nations, including local, provincial, state and national elections in Canada and the U.S.
When voter turnout is high, elected government officials can justifiably say that they represent the will of the people. On the other hand, when voter turnout is low, it can be argued that the elected officials are only representing the will of a select minority: those who actually made it to the polls to cast a ballot.
I suggest that we consider multiple strategies to address this problem.
The first would be to implement compulsory voting. This means that citizens who do not exercise their right to vote would be penalized in some way, typically through the application of fines.
In Belgium, where voting is compulsory, voter turnout is typically over 90 per cent. On the other hand, research has shown that in the United Kingdom, where voting is optional, adults are more likely to vote on a reality TV talent show than they are to vote on who should represent them in government.
Another strategy would be the adoption of e-voting technology for casting ballots, and the possible adoption of internet voting. This could increase voter participation among young people who have grown up with technology as an integral part of their lives.
They use the internet and mobile devices on a daily basis to conduct the rest of their business, so why not include technology as part of exercising their democratic right to vote as well?
A further benefit could be mobile apps to provide voters with more information about the platforms of each of the candidates.
This way voters could make more educated decisions.