The Urbanite – Jon Liedtke – June 18, 2014
The election is over. The Liberals earned a majority government, Hudak is out, Windsor lost representation… we get it.
Undoubtedly by now you’ve read all the opinions and columns about the provincial election, its importance and outcome, and how it’s going to affect your day-to-day life and pocketbook.
One of the things that’s yet to be discussed (as results at the time of publishing have not been printed) is the outcome of the grassroots Decline Your Vote campaign.
Local media darling and political animal Paul Synnott launched declineyourvote.ca, an education campaign geared towards in- forming Ontarians of their right to officially decline their vote in lieu of casting a ballot for a specific candidate.
And inform Ontarians he did…
A Google search for decline your vote’ turns up no less than 136 articles, endless tweets. and dozens of blog posts.
In the final weeks of the election, Synnott’s campaign was referenced in dozens of articles and on various platforms including Huffington Post, the Globe and Mail, Vice, CBC, and even Al Jazeera.
The day before the election, however, the proverbial shit hit the fan. A post to the popular link sharing site Reddit spurred users to discuss if the campaign was actually a right wing voter suppression campaign funded by conservatives, both big and small ‘c.
The story was picked up by Ottawa Citizen columnist David Reevely who decided to write what can only be described as a hatchet job in an attempt to capitalize off of the left’s cynical fear that the right actively tries to suppress voter turnout.
Instead of reaching out to Synnott for comment, Reevely relied heavily on the crowdsourced ‘investigation’ that the armchair activists of Reddit discovered, namely tweets that Synnott posted espousing right wing ideology, the fact that he’s friends with known members of right wing parties, and that in the past he’s managed a Conservative campaign; how salacious and revealing.
What will be interesting to see is the amount of electors who opted to decline their vote.
Declined ballots are recorded separately from spoiled ballots and proponents believe it sends a powerful message to the establishment; an increase in declined ballots reflects implies voters are unsatisfied with the options offered.
At the end of the day, the purpose of declineyourvote.ca was to increase voter turnout and while we know that Ontario voter turnout increased for the first time in 24 years, we don’t yet know if the number of voters who declined increased. If there are substantially more declined ballots than in years past, voter turnout could be even higher than currently reported.
As Synnott explained in a response to the Citizen: “[The] right to decline includes informing [voters] that [they] actually have to show up and vote, which increases turnout. Once you have that ballot in your hand, I have no control over what you might do with it.”
And no one can argue against the notion that increasing voter turnout is something for which we should constantly strive.
Jonathon Liedtke is the managing editor of The Urbanite, Windsor’s alternative newspaper. He is also a member of Windsor’s “Punk with Horns” band The Nefidovs, and as such, is committed to enhancing and sustaining the arts community.