The Election

May 3rd, 2011 by Potato

In my riding, both this election and last, 58-59% of people voted for either NDP or Liberal (the centre/centre-left parties). Last time it was 40% Liberal, so the libs got it. This time, 34% Liberal, 25% NDP, splitting the vote and letting the cons take it. The same for my parents’ riding: 49% lib, 10% NDP last time; 40% and 18.5% now, splitting the vote just enough for a con to sneak in. As you may already know from previous discussions on electoral reform, I prefer STV to PR, but nonetheless, have a read of the comparison b/w FPTP and PR at Fair Vote Canada.

Anyway, as you may expect I was disappointed by the con majority result. To be fair, I’m a curmudgeonly cynical old spud who’s managed to find fault with every government at every level, but Harper enjoys a special level of asswaditude. I had a list of things I didn’t like about the Harper government as long as my arm going into this but I think my discontent can be best summed up by one thing: a contempt for data.

The day after election day and naturally the papers are full of articles with titles like “what can we expect from a Harper majority” and I can’t help but think “who can possibly know?” It’s been a pretty ad hoc government so far, and the implementation of most of the election promises were explicitly not even going to be attempted for years. Likewise with the “now that the cons have a free hand with their majority…” articles: were they really all that constrained by the minority status of their government before?

Anyhow, as much as I’d like a better system than FPTP, I have to say how impressed I am with Elections Canada. This was the second year I’ve worked the election, and the procedures put into place for our elections seem quite well designed. The paper ballot system is elegant and nearly fool proof: there’s no conspiracy-theory allegations of manipulating the machines, and hardly any opportunity for failure. The votes are hand-counted at the end of the night in full view of candidate’s reps and any members of the public that care to audit the process. We usually have a count within an hour or so, and accurate ones at that: I’m not aware of a recount ever overturning the initial count. A small army of temporary workers are employed so that polling sites are well-distributed for convenience, and generally there are less than 300 electors per poll site so the counting job at the end of the night is not too onerous (I had about 200 yesterday, and it was a busy day with good turnout). There are many features in the process to ensure the sanctity of the vote: that the ballot put in the box is the ballot the elector was given, that only the elector marked the ballot, that it is anonymous, etc. It’s also well-designed to allow said army of temporary workers to carry it out: simple instructions, every document and envelope is numbered for reference, and flowcharts and checklists to follow to make sure everything is done right. After all, a great many workers are doing it for the first (and only) time, and even the experienced ones only do it once every few years, so it’s essentially always training day.

Personally, it was a good experience. Some decent pizza money for a day of moonlighting. It felt good to interact with people and feel confidently competent at a job. One of the downsides of research is that often I’m doing something no one else in the world has ever attempted before, and I’m in competition with the ones who have, so I have few resources to seek help or even confirmation if I’m doing something right — if there even is a right way. There’s a lot of trial-and-error-and-disappointment involved, which makes it hard to ever be sure I’m doing something right. And even though I’m a smart cookie, on the grad student/scientist scale I’m of somewhat average intelligence/competence. So it was a nice pick-me-up to be the one who knew what was going on: even my CPS was turning to me for help with procedures and to help solve problems (and she said I should be a CPS next time around). It’s also a nice motivator to remind me that clerical work and customer relations is not really what I want to do with my life.

5 Responses to “The Election”

  1. Netbug Says:

    Nice work. Thanks for running the election for us. :)

  2. Canadian Capitalist Says:

    I have to agree with you that on the Harper Government. The problem for me was that the competing choices weren’t very appetizing either. Hopefully, the Liberals can clean up their act. We need good competition for a healthy democracy and I don’t think the NDP are it.

  3. Potato Says:

    My CPS called today to thank me for my competence and to recommend again that I work as a CPS for the upcoming provincial election :) Not sure what I’ll be doing in October, but the call was a really nice thing for her to do, and a real ego-booster for me.

    I was hoping to also make a comparison in the 2nd last paragraph about the election cost: despite our labour-intensive system, from what I can see a Canadian election costs less per capita than a US one, but I couldn’t find a really good source for the US cost (just a few oblique references to $5B pricetags).

    CC: I’d have to agree for the most part. I thought they were better options, but largely in a relative sense.

  4. Jonathan Weisman Says:

    Having worked for candidates in at least 6 elections as a scrutineer, I applaud your accuracy. It’s a feature which depends on those who count. I’ve seen many inaccuracies. Recounts frequently result in changes in the numbers, but to be fair, they rarely amount to enough to affect a result.

  5. Ben Says:

    I’m glad my *new* riding was one of the few in southern Ontario that was smart enough to (re)elect the NDP. Thankfully there really isn’t a vote split here since the Liberals have no support, so it was really a CON/NDP race. I’m super disappointed that my old riding in North York has gone blue, I just don’t know what’s wrong with people today…