If you’re a voter in the Feb. 11 Whitby-Oshawa byelection and you’re dissatisfied with the status quo in Ontario politics, I have a better way for you to protest than not voting or declining your ballot.
Not voting gives silent consent to the current system.
The process for declining your ballot ignores the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Canada ratified in 1976, because you must do so publicly at the election poll.
Article 25 of the ICCPR gives every citizen the right and the opportunity without unreasonable restrictions, “To vote and to be elected at genuine periodic elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot, guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the electors.”
But to decline your ballot in Ontario, you must state publicly “I decline”, when the deputy returning officer (DRO) hands you your ballot and give it back to the DRO.
That means your ballot is not secret, everyone within earshot in the polling station knows how you voted.
Declined ballots are counted separately and apply towards campaign subsidies, which mostly go to the major parties and their candidates.
In the 2014 Ontario election 31,399 voters declined their ballots compared to 2,335 in 2011, the highest number since it become a legal option in 1975.
By contrast, The None of the Above Party (NOTA) for which I am the candidate in Whitby-Oshawa, provides a better way for electors to express their dissatisfaction with the status quo, without violating their right to a secret ballot.
NOTA supports the “3 Rs of Direct Democracy”: Citizen-initiated Referenda; Recall (or term limits); and electoral and legislative Reforms to bring about transparency and accountability, including the end of corporate and union contributions and partisan government advertising.
NOTA is a growing worldwide movement that, through various mechanisms, allows voters to protest the status quo and/or vote for candidates who believe in truly representative democracy.
In Poland’s 1989 election, voters were allowed to cross out the single candidate’s name on the ballot, often from the ruling Communist Party, defeating the prime minister and dozens of leading Communists.
In the Nevada 2014 Democratic gubernatorial primary, “none” won 30% of the vote, ahead of all other candidates.
In the 1976 Nevada U.S. House Republican primary, “none of these candidates” beat the two other candidates.
In NOTA’s debut in India’s 2014 election, it received 1.1% of the vote.
A NOTA candidate has been elected to Serbia’s parliament.
In its debut in the 2014 Ontario election, NOTA received just under 1% of the vote in eight ridings, 21% of all new votes for smaller parties and independents across Ontario’s 107 ridings, and 13% in four Mississauga ridings.
Ontario voters have been disappointed by mainstream party leaders who promised them reforms that never came.
Former Tory premier Mike Harris won a majority in 1995, in part by promising a citizens’ referendum law, which never happened.
As noted by auditor general Bonnie Lysyk, Premier Kathleen Wynne repealed her Liberal predecessor’s legislation restricting partisan government advertising.
We need to replace follow-the-leader politics with direct democracy.
Whitby-Oshawa can elect a voice that will make their votes really count.
– Vezina is the Whitby-Oshawa byelection candidate and leader of the None of the Above Party of Ontario, and co-author of Democracy Eh? A Guide to Voter Action