Equal Partners
by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners

By Roland Ezri

"Women are the backbone of all societies. They do a substantial part of the work, and play a major role in raising the future generation yet they are largely powerless. The decisions that count are made by men and foisted upon women."

Writings by Roland Ezri

The Ballot Box Deficit

In the 2008 U.S. Presidential elections 57% of the eligible voters bothered voting.  In the 2011 Canadian Federal elections 61% of eligible voters cast a ballot.

Voting is a privilege that is not accorded to many nations.  To arrive at our present democratic system, the British nation struggled for centuries.  Canada and the U.S. (which follows a modified system) benefited from the democratic system thus created.

Most of Europe until recently did not enjoy our freedom.  Germany and Italy were under the sway of brutal dictatorships. Only after the end of WWII were they were able to enjoy a democratic regime.  Portugal , Spain, and Greece only became democratic countries in the mid-’70s.

And yet, we take democracy  so much for granted in this part of the world, we simply forget to nourish it!  All it asks from you is to cast a ballot when an election is called!  I cannot begin to understand the existing ballot box deficit; it is slap to the face of our ancestors who spilled their blood to give us our present freedom.

If we are not going to do it willingly, perhaps it should be imposed on us. Before you get all indignant, let me remind you that the government, out of necessity, forces many things on us.  For example, you do not pay income tax willingly; you may not be interested in participating in a census; you’d rather speed, burn red lights, and park anywhere you desire without being ticketed.  But it can’t work this way for otherwise anarchy will reign.

And there are indeed many countries  where compulsory voting exist.  The two most typical examples being Belgium and Australia.  But they are not alone.


Belgium has the oldest mandatory voting system; it goes back to 1892!  Non-voters face a moderate fine; if they fail to vote in 4 elections, they can lose the right to vote for 10 years and they may encounter difficulties getting a government job.


Compulsory voting goes back to 1924.  You can go to the polling station, tick your name and leave without voting.  Failure to do at least that would attract a fine between AU$20 – AU$50; imprisonment is possible, but only if you don’t pay your fine.

Other Countries

In Greece, non-voters can have difficulty obtaining a new passport or driver’s license. In Italy the penalties are “minor;” for example, you may have difficulties securing a daycare place for your child.

In total, there are 31 countries where voting is compulsory; examples:  Austria, Argentina, Brazil, Cyprus, Honduras, Liechtenstein, Turkey, and Uruguay.

Besides doing your duty as a citizen, if voting is not mandatory in your country, why should you vote?  There are three main reasons.

Strategic Consideration

Voters and non-voters tend to fall into categories.  The most typical example comes from both ends of the age spectrum.  Seniors do not suffer from any voter apathy, and, accordingly, a large number of them vote.  Young people are famous for ignoring elections, and few of them vote.

The result are predictable:  Candidates,  will court old people and will do their best to meet their needs.  They won’t bother with young people, and will be deaf to their demands.

And it is ironic, for the very people who are at the end of their lives are catered to; the ones who have their whole lives ahead of them do not get the attention they deserve.

I will say that you reap what you sow, but I will certainly not be saying it with glee; rather I will say it with sadness.

Young people are clamoring for jobs, reasonable tuition fees, and help with the crushing debt incurred at the end of their studies.  And these are only some of their legitimate demands.  When they don’t get what they want, they demonstrate and demand that their rights be met.  How about marking your ballot with an X; but before that, starting  a dialogue with the politicians:  You get my vote if you give me this and that.  You have a powerful weapon, use it!

Legislators love this voter division; it’s divide and conquer without making any effort!  All they need to do is focus on the voters and forget about the non-voters.

Parliamentarians are also handed another arrow to add to their quiver:  The now famous “getting the vote out.”

There was a time when immigrants voted in great number for the Democrats in the U.S., and the Liberals in Canada.  On voting day guess who got  a lift to the poll, and was advised that she will not be forgotten if a problem arises?  The born and bred Canadian or American was not forgotten on purpose; the candidate simply didn’t know she existed since she chose not to be a part of the electoral process!

(This process now tends to reverse itself:  More immigrants are voting Republican or Conservative; the end result remains the same, these parties will still court the immigrants for they participate in the election).

“Getting the vote out” phenomenon should disturb us all to no end.  It allows the politician to play the system like a concert pianist will play his piano!  Many an MP (Member of Parliament)   sitting today in the Canadian Parliament got “his” voters out on election day.  Ditto for Congress in the U.S. or for that matter any country that doesn’t have mandatory voting.  Indeed, those who seek elected office relish the fact that they have some control over the process. And you know what:  I don’t blame them, I blame you the voter who sat on your hands on election day!

One last point:  Politicians in many countries that do not have mandatory voting will not fight for it. Why should they?  It works in their favor!

Accuracy of the Results

I will next discuss polling and contrast it with the result of elections where voting is not compulsory.

Assume the following result of a poll:  “Between March 5 and March 15, 2009, using a survey of 2,650 adults, it was determined that the President had an approval rate of 60%.  A survey with this sample size and a 100% response rate would have an estimated margin of error of plus or minus 5% 19 times out of 20 of what the results would have been had the entire population of adults  in the U.S. been polled.”

What does that mean?

To determine how popular a President is, you can’t ask the whole population, that would be totally impractical!  Instead you select a representative sample to get the answer – within constraints – to your question.  What are the limitations?

You accept a sampling error which will arise from estimating the result by polling only a part of this population.  In the above example, the sampling error is 5% which leaves you with a confidence level of 95%.  Put another way, you might say:  “I do not trust completely (100%) the final result, my confidence in this result is 95%.”  And this in most cases is good enough for the parties concerned.

This question is bound to come up?  If we repeat the whole process using different samples, do we get the same result?  We should, but within a certain range.  Again, using the above example, if we repeat the process 20 times, our results (for 19 surveys) will fall within a range of, say, 57% – 64% ; the 20th will fall outside that range.  Why is that? I do not know.  How is that process conducted and why 20 times ( it is obviously not repeated 20 times!).  Again, I confess my ignorance.  I am not a statistician.

Despite these shortcomings, sampling is a valid method for determining certain characteristics of a given population.  However, there are a number of rules that should be observed.

1. The sample should be large enough, otherwise the results will not be reliable.  The smaller the sample size, the larger the sampling error. (On the other hand, a large sample with a sampling error of  say 1% would be prohibitively expensive and would defeat the purpose of sampling).

2. Time and place are very important.  You would not survey only New-Jersey and project the results for the the whole of the U.S.!  You would not say that the President had a 60% approval rate in March 2009, and that therefore this applies to all of 2009!

3. Some of the people in the sample will  have no opinion, or simply could not be reached; an adjustment is made to compensate for that; however, this remains a serious limitation.

4. It should be a totally random sample (akin to a lottery draw).  This is the most important rule for it is randomness that allow you to express an opinion on the whole population. Every item in the population should have an equal chance of being selected.  A “chosen” sample is worthless.

In an election where the population is not obliged to vote, the final results will, to a certain degree, be flawed.

If, say, 40% of the population has not voted, a disturbing question remains unanswered:  Will the result be the same if  non-voters would have voted?

I have already argued that only certain segments of the population vote.  That the candidate focus only on the people that favor him and his party.  Randomness is lost here, and “choosing” is taking place.   This would be anathema to a pollster, and yet is acceptable in an election!

In a country where voting is mandatory, the whole (or almost) population freely choose.  It’s a dream come true for a pollster, the “sample” is very large, it includes virtually all of the population.

The way we do it now simply yield inaccurate results; and yet we rely on that to be properly governed!


The individuals who govern us take upon themselves an awesome responsibility.  Why do they do it?  Society gives people with leadership ability a carrot; if they are willing to accept this heavy  load they will wield power.  And that does the trick.  There are no lack of able leaders who are ready to serve.

But power cuts both way, it goes to the head of that person!  There are in a democracy safeguards against abuses of power, but they are never sufficient.  There is continually abuse of power in the form of corruption, nepotism, sexual and financial scandals, questionable decisions, spreading of false rumors, and the list goes on.

What I am saying is that democracy is fragile; the people in power are always looking for loopholes in the system that will allow them to break certain rules, without getting caught, of course!  They are humans after all, and they may have the best of intentions in doing what they do, or so they see it.

Does that mean that you should spend sleepless nights worrying about the end of democracy as we know it?  Not at all. Just be alert of what is going on in the corridors of power, and vote faithfully.  Encourage the people around you to do the same; but don’t  stop there; if possible, talk and write about it. With the internet, the whole word is your forum!

The ballot box is a surprisingly powerful weapon.  Use it!


Compulsory voting around the world

Elliot Frankal






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