Bernard Mendelman: Casting a shadow on how we cast our votes

I sincerely hope that the candidates you voted for won and they will honour all the campaign promises that they have made.  If you believe that then I have some swampland in Florida to sell you.

The following column appeared in The Suburban on November 8. 2017 —— As I have since the day I became eligible, I went to the ballot box to cast my vote last week. I consider being allowed to vote is a privilege of living in a democratic society, but I must admit I find the process stressful.

My voting poll was not within walking distance, so I had to drive to it and search out a parking spot. Then I had to walk in the pouring rain to a building that I was not familiar with. There was a large line up waiting to vote. I hate interacting with strangers, especially standing near someone who kept exalting his political preferences. In this day and age the voting booths still have hand-lettered signs.

After an hour until finally reaching my turn in line, I next had to produce identification and wait for the two booth supervisors taking their time to find my name from a long list of pages. They then handed me a ballot and pencil to mark my candidates behind a hidden area before stuffing it into a slot in a displayed box.

The Quebec government allows certain citizens to make it easier to vote but I’m thankful that I don’t fit into any of those categories. If you have serious health reasons that confined you to your domicile you could have voted there by applying for permission. Electors living in a residential or a retirement home could have voted in an advance poll at their facility. Citizens living outside of the Province could exercise their voting right by postal ballot. Inmates in Provincial or Federal detention centres could also have voted by mail.

Today we do almost everything electronically. I buy clothes and specialty food online. I peruse restaurant menus online and then make a reservation at the chosen restaurant online. Even the candidates up for election solicited my vote by email, made their appeal for my vote on their Facebook page or by robot phone messages. Yet, I still had to schlep myself to a polling booth to cast my vote. It’s such an antiquated outdated system. Isn’t it about time for voting to be handled electronically at the voting booths and even from our own homes?

Many countries have adopted online systems, but we in Quebec over the past number of years have not kept up with the times and our voting system remains archaic. Many Quebeckers just don’t bother voting, especially younger ones. Someone once said that we live in a country which produces citizens who will cross the ocean to fight for democracy but won't cross the street to vote. I believe voting would be greatly increased if it could be done on a format such as a website on a PC, a tablet, or a mobile phone.

So what’s stopping us from voting electronically? It’s the suggestion by many that electronic votes could be hacked, manipulated, or stolen. This particular fear doesn't make much sense. Electronic voting, with improved supervised software would not be any riskier than paper voting. Elections have been stolen with paper ballots as they could be with virtual ones.

At least our system is still better than that in Ancient Greece democracy where you dropped a black or white pebble into a large urn. I wouldn’t have liked to be the guy carrying all those pebbles into the polling station and then separating and counting them.

I sincerely hope that the candidates you voted for won and they will honour all the campaign promises that they have made. If you believe that then I have some swampland in Florida to sell you.

Meanwhile I would like all the candidates who have plastered the surrounding landscape with their banners, posters, and photoshop pictures (none of them look that good in person) to remove them tout suite. They’re an eyesore and are distracting my driving.

I won’t end this column with any political jokes because over the years I’ve seen too many of them get elected.

— By Bernard Mendelman

— AB

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