Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Discuss: Re-Engaging The Voters (Part 1)

Sorry for the lack of action lately, Nation. Been a busy week, including a wedding in Edmonton (my black-sheep Liberal of a cousin, now in the U.S. working for some guy named Barack), some pneumonia-ish symptoms, and way too much work, both paid and pro bono - I'm looking forward to some nice, quiet blogging. :)

Today's discussion point is a 2-parter (second part tomorrow) - How to re-engage the voters.

Let's assume, for the sake of this argument, that the only problem with the system, the largest and most obvious symptom of which is low voter turn-out, is the direct fault of the political parties and system itself. People WANT to be engaged, but the parties and the system are failing them... so, what do we do?

Begin comments... now.


Duncan said...

I think it is important that Alberta realize that it is not a unique problem to our jurisdiction, and that simply adopting some of the changes present in other places that also have low voter turnout and general disengagement - like proportional representation and fixed election days - is not going to dramatically improve our situation.

In the short term some political finance reform will allow better competition and perhaps allow a new political party or parties to be formed and take hold easier. That said, you can make it more attractive for donors to give money, but honestly, it already is pretty attractive, financially. Also making it easier for politically interested individuals to run for lower offices, especially for those who haven't decided a final political home and won't enjoy the mentorship of a political party.

The short term will sadly be insufficient, and really the answer will have to come in a stronger sense of civics and frankly duty being instilled in citizens at a younger age. I'm conservative enough that I think parents have a large role in this, and shouldn't just shirk the responsibility to "Social Studies," but all the same 41% should speak something to a deficit in our current curriculum.

While I am well aware of the current interpretation of our constitution that does not allow it, but compulsory voting is something even my psuedo-libertarian mind is willing to entertain the notion that all citizens vote - or get a fine.

Anonymous said...

Require that any media coverage of a politician be no less than an uninterrupted two minutes. If it's less, it can't be shown.

This would eliminate the sound-bite mentality and require parties and candidates to fully develop their ideas and issues, and would work to keep news agencies from simply going for the outrageous clip that attracts viewers while debasing the entire process.

Also, rather than imposing a fine if people don't vote, give them a refundable tax credit of 25 bucks or something if they do.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Anonymous 12:27's first point. This sound-bite mentality, perpetrated by the media, is ridiculous.

This IS one of those (perhaps few) times where the "blame the media" thing sticks. Politicians are too often judged to be good or bad solely on the basis of being able to pass off a snappy comment that can be parsed into a 10-second bit.

Most decisions and policies are far to complex and layered to be dealt with in such a truncated way. If the story is important enough to tell, and a quote is important enough to get, let's get the full picture.

I would go even farther than the original comment and say that reporting on the news stories of the day should be required to go back and provide the context of the event the first time it was reported. I have seen firsthand where a story is revisited later, and key points of differentian were left out in subsequent "updates", thereby changing the context of the story and implicitly affecting public opinion.

I'm less concerned with mandatory voting. As I see it, if people aren't engaged, I don't want them watering down the value of my vote.

Kirk Schmidt said...

"This IS one of those (perhaps few) times where the "blame the media" thing sticks. Politicians are too often judged to be good or bad solely on the basis of being able to pass off a snappy comment that can be parsed into a 10-second bit."

This is one area where the internet should dramatically improve politicians. I emphasize *should*, as even though it has become a mainstream medium, it has yet to really solidify into a useful political tool.

Youtube, for example, allows a politician to actually give a message - an extended message - and yet, in most cases, unless it's "soundbytey," it largely goes ignored by the masses anyway. In fact, one could make the argument that just like I need SQL skills for my IT analyst position, a politician should be well versed in the quick sound byte, but be able to back that up later.

The internet should help in other ways, too. However, in a recent research note called, "Does Email Boost Turnout?" by David W. Nickerson of the University of Notre Dame (Published in the Quarterly Journal of Political Science, 2007, 2: 369-379), the author shows that new media (explicitly email in this case) that should be able to better explain messages and engage individuals, simple does not yield results.

I guess the question is - is this a media problem, or an attention span problem. As we move forward, especially in a global economy, problems are going to get far more complex, as likely are solutions, so if it's the latter, it's going to continue to spiral downward until people are ready to listen to the complicated problems and solutions.