The Law Society of Upper Canada bencher elections are well under way and it seems for the first time in the almost 14 years I’ve been writing about law in this country, that there’s a certain energy and, maybe, even enthusiasm for this year’s poll.
The combination of online voting, which opened on Monday and runs until April 29, and this apparent increased interest in the election, will hopefully lead to a few more lawyers actually exercising their franchise. In the 2007 election only 33.1 per cent of eligible voters cast their ballots. The numbers have been going down over the years: in 2003, 36.7 per cent voted and in 1999, 38 per cent did.
It’s not that the issues for the profession were fewer or less pressing over the years, so perhaps it was the strain of getting the ballot into the envelope and then mailing it that led to the decrease in voting. So the LSUC decided to embrace technology and offer online voting. No need for filling in paper ballots and then remembering to actually send them off to be counted. Now, a few minutes in front of your computer (where you are most of the time anyway) and you can have your say.
That’s all good, in my opinion. But it is the first year, so there will be a few bumps along the way. A number of readers let us know that the e-mails from Computershare, the company running the online election, which contained their voting access information have ended up in their spam mailboxes. Chances are quite a few votes are now lost that way so next time the LSUC will have to be sure to come up with a way of sending the info out without it getting automatically expunged. That choice should be up to the members to do that manually!
The online polling has met with fairly good feedback from the candidates I’ve spoken to, many of whom are also optimistic that it will increase participation. But quite a few of them have also noted that a full month is a really long time for the voting to be open. When ballots had to be mailed in, it made sense, but online, voting is instantaneous. Deadlines tend to motivate people to action, but giving too much time before a deadline just means people put it on the backburner and then forget about it.
It also seems that it’s not clear that you can vote for just a few benchers and don’t have to pick 40 candidates if they would prefer not to. The pressure of trying to pick 40 may also drive some voters away, so a bit more of an obvious heads up on that front would probably help too.
So I do think there are a few bugs to be worked out but we’ll have to wait a few more weeks to see if the new system has proven to be more successful in getting people, particularly young lawyers, to vote.
But get out there and vote . . . for benchers and for MPs in the upcoming federal elections.
Follow the bencher elections on Law Times' dedicated election web site.