Oct 9, 2014 Comments Off
The CBC reported today on the dramatic decrease in spoiled ballots during the most recent election. There were 1611 spoiled ballots cast in the New Brunswick Election and this is alarming because it is half of what was casted in the 2010 election and 1000 votes less than the record low. The explanation behind this significant drop is the electronic tabulators and the influence it had on a voter’s ability to cast protest votes.
A protest vote is a means for a citizen to participate democratically but express dissatisfaction for the choice of candidates by not selecting any of them. The electronic tabulators only counted votes of ballots that were filled out properly and rejected those that were not. If the tabulators rejected a ballot, the operators asked voters if they wanted to revote. New Brunswick voters interviewed in the article expressed a sense of violation when questioned about their choice. Wayne Anderson of Sackville opted not to revote but speculated that many persons did. The reason being that there is a certain stigma to casting a ballot that is rejected. The secrecy of the ballot is fundamental to democratic systems. Voters should not feel the need to explain their choice.
Elections NB submitted a 2007 decision by Ontario Superior Court of Justice concerning a recount where 96 votes were rejected because persons did not properly make their selection (Di Biase v. Vaughan (City), 2007 38388 (ON SC)). This decision criticized election officials for not activating the tabulators to notify elections officers when a vote was not properly received. However, it is not the place of Ontario superior court decision to impact the secrecy of voters in New Brunswick Elections. The use of electronic tabulators and the impact on protest votes and accordingly, the secrecy of the ballot is a legal question that requires an answer if electronic systems will continue to be used.