TE-BO: The Election Trail – 2 – Democracy in the Modern World

The week has been many things as Spring approaches – planting my first ‘veg and herb’ garden, a new exercise regime, home bread making … all motivated after watching the ‘Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s‘ British ‘River Cottage‘ Series, including the most recent ‘River Cottage Australia’ series shown on Fox ‘Lifestyle’ over the last two months – all riveting stuff if you love food and like to see others cook it.

There was also a new laptop to tame and setup – i.e. ‘Windows 8’ and all the old user software to be reinstalled, and we all know just how exciting setting up a new computer can be – like formatting a ‘C’ drive, or a visit to the dentist knowing what is to be dealt with.As a consequence of the food and exercise pledge – some of the other negatives during the week fell away – i.e. WordPress.  They have been difficult in helping with the setting up of this new blog.  I have not been able to get the ‘Contributors/Authors’ registered as I would have liked as with the previous blog,  and the WordPress ‘help and support’ believe in a ‘response a day’ policy that never answers the questions in a way that make it simple. The back and forward was frustrating and in the end I have conceded defeat.

Now settled into a newer routine, one where Blogging priority has taken a bit of a back seat, I can now return to finish the blog below started well over a week ago.

Democracy in the Modern World:

the-eyeball-opinion6The AEC [Australian Electoral Commission] updated their final electoral data a week or so ago for the upcoming Sept 7th election.  It makes for interesting reading and research.

There is no argument in the obvious stat showing our aging population – in fact all Western Governments have shown concern for decades over how to deal with the oncoming problem.  Here in Australia is was the motive behind the compulsory Superannuation under Keating introduced in the early 90’s.

AEC Age DemographicsThe data highlights the aging population like no other.  Of all 14,712,799 registered eligible voters, and there are still an estimated 1.2 million of eligible voters not registered, some 47% are aged 50 or over.  The largest demographic group of all the age groups is in the over 70+ category at 14.2%.

The full AEC data is presented at right: [courtesy of the AEC website linked here – click image to enlarge in a new window.]

What the data also gives is an insight to just how our democracy is a fallacy belief beyond what democracy is supposed to represent.  We already know and understand:

  • the one vote, one person, and equal value, is no longer a true representation of our society and how our Democracy works,
  • the equality of our Democracy is not spread evenly across all demographics under the two party preferred voting system,
  • the will of the people is not truly acted upon by our elected Representatives,  who show their first loyalty is to the Party they represent,  and not the people,
  • the connect on moral behavior and integrity of those serving in Government, is akin to a sense of entitlement as opposed to a sense of responsibility to those they represent.

Some further observations and opinions about the AEC Table data above are made below:

  • In the 18-29 age demographic, some 18% of the voter pool,  my belief is that less than 40% have any real interest in politics, or interest enough that they can explain any political parties policies relating to any issue outside their interest, i.e. welfare, paid parental care, child care, 1st Home owner grant and a few other relative ‘what else can I get from the Government’ type issues.   Walk outside this area to more National issues, i.e. Immigration, National Debt, Economic Management, Revenue,  Land Care and Resource Management,  Retirement, and many others, their knowledge base is limited as is their genuine interest.
  • The 70+ demographic does not differentiate between those above 80 and beyond.  Many of these 80+ voters are incapacitated and medically challenged.  It would be difficult to have a debate with many because of their own concerns with getting by on a day-to-day basis – i.e. living with their medical conditions including, blindness, deafness, dementia, and other debilitating conditions.  It is a harsh thing to say – but many are impacted and it renders them incapable of making informed choices about current Leadership choices apart from how they have voter throughout their whole life in a Party context.   How many even want to vote is a question that I would ask each and every one.
  • That leaves us with the real voters, the 30-69 age group and some 67.3% of the total eligible voter pool.   This age demographic represent the major taxpayers on the Nation,  the wealth of the Nation is largely contained to the over 50 demographic, i.e. 47% including those 70 and over.   These 67% of voters are the voters most likely to be ‘not’ influenced during an election campaign based on any policy announcements made during a campaign.   They have their beliefs and a Party will have to make a real mess of things before they will change their mind.

Now let’s walk down the path to see where modern democracy has arrived.

  1. Firstly – the Voter turnouts/registrations:

This USA table shows shows where voter turnouts from the 60’s has trended in the modern era.

The lowest voter turnout in the US modern era was in 1996 with 49% – this was Bill Clinton’s 2nd Term election where he polled 49.2% oh the vote compared to Bob Doles 40.7%.  Ross Perot was the Independent candidate and he polled 8.3%.

Clinton won 379 of the 538 electoral votes and was given a strong mandate that was overturned by the the Monica Lewinsky affair late into his second term.   Bush’s 1st term victory had a 50.3% voter turnout and perhaps indicated just how Americans had turned off politics.

Obama’s two election results have seen the voter turnout return to the 57% level – above the 55% average since 1960.   The 2008 and 2012 turnout numbers are the highest since 1968.   So to put is distinctly as possible, over the last 50+ years, America’s Leadership has been elected by less that a 60% average of eligible voter turnout.

The Canadian election demographic has a few more stats – total population verses registered voters, and a ‘TE-BO’ added column showing the percentage (%) this number represents to demonstrate the aging population issue.

Since 1962, voter turnout has fallen from near 80%, to 60% levels over election since 2000.

Canada came from a much higher level of participation compared with where the USA were in the 60’s, near 80% compared with the USA at 63%.   Canada’s average voter turnout over the period is  just over 70%.

The Canadian voter population grew 140% over the period, against the USA voter population growth of 93%.

The UK data is also interesting and reflecting the same diminishing voter turnout as the USA and Canada.   Not to the same extremes as their 1960 numbers held up until the late 90’s before it fell away when Tony Blair won his second term.

In the two elections since the turnout has lifted from below 60% to the mid 60% levels.

The Voter population grew by 21% over the period, against a Canadian growth of 140%,  a USA growth of 93%, and an Australian registered voter population growth of 180% – i.e. 1961 Australian Election had a registered voter population of 5,246,033 against the 2013 number of 14,712799.

The smaller growth in the UK numbers would reflect on their immigration policy more than anything else.

  • Australia:  Australia have compulsory voting – and the only comparative data showing voter interest drop-off is the informal vote registration.   The 2010 election had the highest ‘informal’ vote count ever at just under 10%.  It was higher than the total 1st preference vote for The Greens. Add the estimated 1.5 million eligible voters not registered to vote and that number balloons well above 20%.
  • Summary: The Nations researched above represent some of strongest of Western Democracy’s, three of which have the Westminster system in play.  Australia is the only Nation with compulsory voting.   All have an escalating voter turnout and/or voter registration problem.  To quote a phrase from the Wikipedia Canadian Voter turnout site,

When low turnout is a reflection of disenchantment or indifference, the election may not be an accurate reflection of the will of the people. Low turnouts can lead to unequal representation among various parts of the population. In developed countries, non-voters tend to be concentrated in particular demographic and socioeconomic groups, especially the young and the poor.

  1. Electoral Refunds:
  • Australia have had compulsory voting since the early 1920’s – about the same time that they have had electoral vote refunds for MP’s who stand for election.   The history since 1984 on electoral refunds in Australia can be read using this link.   Conditions for eligibility can be read here – suffice to say that a candidate needs to poll a minimum of 4% before they become eligible for the current refund rate if $2.48 per vote.
  • The USA Electoral vote refunds began in 1976 – read conditions here – the current vote refund is $3, and has been that amount since 1996.   There was a $91 million limit on Presidential spending for the 2012 election – read more here.
  • The Canadians had a similar policy, in 2009, the refund was $2.04 per vote if 2% of the vote was received – read more here at the Canadian Government election website.  An overview of the Canadian Electoral Vote refund policy can also be read at the Wikipedia source linked here.
  • In the UK – the policy is similar with some limitations on electoral funding – their policies can be read using this link.
  • Summary:

The spend during the 2012 US election was estimated at $3 billion – far in excess that the $91 or so million as outlined above.

A list of the cost of Australian Elections since 1901 can be read here – the 2010 election cost $161 million.  Part of that cost was the electoral refund ($52 Million) made to Political Party’s and Independents.  In 2007 it was $49 million.

Political Party’s are a business, and they have a Legislated mandate that establishes ‘cash flow’ on the electoral cycle.  It is akin to the Church and the congregation of followers who donate their ‘hard earned’ on a regular basis.

Elections are supposed to be about electing the best candidate – that was so long ago, now it is about who has the biggest funds pool to draw upon to pay for the advertising.   Money corrupts and the progress of our modern democracy is nothing like it was meant to be when it first started.

If you trust your Local Member, if you know your Local member, and if your Local Member is someone that puts your concerns before that of the Party they represent then you have a head start on every electorate where a major Political Party Member represents you.

So when it comes to vote in September,  it is your chance to make a statement.   To accept mediocrity is to donkey the vote based on the Party Leader,  to vote democratically one needs to understand the strength of the Local candidate you want to vote for.   If no candidate gives you peace of mind in that they will do the right thing by you and your fellow constituents,  try something different – vote out of your comfort zone and send a message – vote ‘None of the Above’.

In doing so will add to the $millions saved by the increased informal vote – you will in time force the Parliament to look at the voter responses and force them review why the electorate has rejected their right to cast a vote.  Politicians are too comfortable in their way of life.  The protest vote is about the only way you as a single voter can make a statement.

Why should the choice be ‘the lesser of two evils’ … why can’t it be ‘the better of outstanding candidates’?

the-eyeball-opinion6 […EYE-BALL…]

This entry was posted by TE-BO - [The EYE-BALL Opinion].

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