Monday, March 01, 2010

It Ought to be Illegal to do...Well, Everything

While not strictly a criminal law issue, there are fundamental links between criminal justice and the workings of a free and democratic society like ours...which is why I write this quick post.

Opposition NDP and Liberal parties in Alberta are proposing that the way to deal with voter apathy and record low voter turnout in our province is to make it illegal to not vote.

The worst part is that the proponents appear to think that this bullying to the ballot-box will somehow translate into votes against the current government?!?!?!?

I will be the first to tell friends and family members to practice democracy...not only on election day, but with donations of time and money, in community groups, on blogs, and anywhere else the opportunity arises. But when the government (and I view all MLA's or MP's as the "government") can only think to legislate inspiration and criminalize one's decision not to exercise a democratic right (because some are not just lazy, but seek to effect political change by refusing to vote) then for me democracy has already failed.

If a law were passed that punishes non-voting with a fine, then I would not vote (which would be a first in my entire "elligible for voting" life) and then challenge the constitutionality of such legislation...and likley win.

Perhaps I can make a suggestion to the opposition parties. If you want voter turnout (and you want those votes coming your way) give people a reason to vote. Inspire with leadership and policies that the people you seek to lead actually want. Disappearing voter participation is not the is a symptom of an underlying disease.

And it is obviously not a disease only of the current governing party.

Michael Bates
Calgary Criminal Lawyer


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