If Germans can vote on the weekend, why can’t we?

Like it or not, there’s a possibility that prime minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government will be brought down on a confidence motion later this week, triggering an election that would likely be held in early to mid-November.

Under Canadian law, federal elections are normally held on a Monday or Tuesday, which at one time made sense.

Election timing is based on history more than anything else. Farmers might only be a small proportion of the population today, but at one time they were a huge part of the electorate. And until automobile ownership became commonplace in rural areas after World War II, there was often no such thing as a “quick dash into town” to cast your vote if you were a farmer. It was a day trip.

A Saturday election would be problematic as it might cause the farmer’s journey to extend into the Sabbath.

Sunday might be just the other half of the weekend for many modern-day Canadians, but at one time it was untouchable. Eaton’s would close its display window curtains on Saturday night so that any Sunday passersby would not be distracted from their religious contemplations by crass materialistic thoughts.

And, once in the early ’30s, when it was announced that participants in a cross-country air race would be arriving in Winnipeg on a Sunday, the city’s clergymen reacted with horror. Excitement? On a Sunday? How inappropriate!

Needless to say, a Sunday election was absolutely out of the question.

Thus, many jurisdictions opted for Monday or Tuesday elections.

Today, farmers are able to reach polling stations much more easily than their predecessors, and Canada is a much more secular place.

So why not change over to a weekend polling date, in recognition of the fact that the conditions that required weekday voting have largely dropped by the wayside, and that it makes little sense to hold elections when a large proportion of the population is unable to easily get to the polls during eight hours of the (typically) 12-hour voting window?

After all, German voters went to the polls on Sunday without much complaint, managing a 71-percent turnout that is considered low by German standards, but robust by Canadian standards. Australians and New Zealanders are also weekend voters — both countries normally going to the polls on a Saturday.

So, if we’re going to have an election this November, let’s at least make it the last one that we hold on a day more convenient to the dead than to the living. Next time around, let’s have changes in place to the Elections Act so that we have a Saturday election. (That goes for Manitoba, too.)

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About theviewfromseven
A lone wolf and a bit of a contrarian who sometimes has something to share.

One Response to If Germans can vote on the weekend, why can’t we?

  1. cherenkov says:

    I’d vote for that.

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