Rocket Science: encouraging voters

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Added: Wed, 10/09/2019 - 9:27pm
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Fred Ryan
Éditorialiste Invitée
Guest Editorialist

An apparently answerless question arises with elections these days, and in every
country with free elections : why don’t more eligible voters actually vote?
Since the 1980s voter participation rates have peaked and staggered backwards –
exactly during the time we’ve seen a massive shift in our communications from traditional media to digital. The shift to digital was to improve, not hobble, our ability to talk to each other, and yet here we are, as far as ever from our goal of universal participation in selecting our next government. 
Advertising experts claim they can sell anything – iceboxes in the Arctic, their
example. But they can’t convince Canadians that elections are vital? 
Forget the theory and all the hyperbole – it’s results that matter. Look through this
newspaper (or any other) : in the ‘80s and ‘90s a near-election edition would be filled with the political programs of each party and candidate in our riding. There would be biographies, convincing quotations, and the highlights of each party’s proposals for the coming era. Everyone would know the basics of this
election; they would know the details because the details would be on almost every page of every newspaper. 
Today’s edition has one ad from Elections Canada. Several parties have put in a single ad for their candidates. That’s it for speaking to Pontiac’s voters?  
Yes, the street corners are covered in posters ... promoting smiles. Few issues, no promises, no proposals – just lots of teeth. Over and over we hear that voters do not know the issues; many cannot even name the candidiates and the parties they represent. Facebook, we’re told, has the info. You have to dig it up. If, that is, you wish to look for it.
Elections Canada once presented the nuts and bolts of voting – where, when, how, ID needed, advance polls . . . over and over, so everyone got the message. Today we get a small brochure in the mail, while this newspaper’s office fields phone calls every day, asking for this information. Journalists report question after question from the public. 
Why is this situation better? We’re talking results, not images, digital-fashion statements and promises – all sales pitches made by the digital giants. Is it really better that fewer people know even less? That fewer people know voting hours and locations? That fewer people go out and vote? 
This newspaper, the Journal, has been asked by elections officials to donate space to inform citizens that Elections Canada is short of part-time employees. That’s a federal digital communications strategy?
All media must be utilized – of what value is targeted digital advertising if the targets, you and I, can’t even get a signal! Who profits from the millions once spent to inform Canadians here in Canada, now spent in California – with no improvement in results! 
Isn’t it time to re-think what doesn’t work?   Didn’t you say our democracy is suffering?