Unintended consequences of making voting easier

Like me, Contrarian reader Stan Jones voted at one of the continuous advance polling stations his riding (though presumably he did so sans caméra).  These polls were among the innovations Elections Nova Scotia introduced to combat flagging turnout, by making it easier for people to vote. They proved popular, but as Jones points out, they had the unintended consequence of lessening the analytical usefulness of poll-by-poll returns:

[I]t does seem to complicate poll-by-poll analysis, since it looks to me as if all those votes are reported with the Returning Office as the poll, rather than some district poll.

For example, in Yarmouth, some 1,660 votes were recorded at the RO, about 19 percent of the total. Another 685 were recorded at the two scheduled advance polls. In all, 27 percent of the votes can’t be associated with a particular area poll.

This didn’t matter too much in Yarmouth, where Zach Churchill copped 82 percent of the votes cast—as Jones points out, he had more votes at the advance polls than the second place finisher, Tory John Cunningham had in the entire district—but it would make analysis more difficult in ridings where the vote was closer.

Jones thinks the relative compactness of the Yarmouth riding may have increased take-up at the continuous poll, aided by some special factors:

Lots (and lots) of people were on Main Street in downtown Yarmouth for the street hockey tournament during the election and the RO is just a block off Main Street. It was easy to drop in to the RO between games (that’s what I did). It might also have helped that the Yarmouth Corral (a very popular local mobile food truck) was parked right across of the RO during the tournament – I had a pulled pork sandwich right after I voted.

Truly, all politics is local, right down to the pulled pork sandwich. Turnout in Yarmouth was 65 percent, versus 59 percent province-wide.

In the ridings I checked, a significant portion of the ballots were cast at riding offices, continuous polls, or scheduled advance polls where they could not be tied to a geographic location. In Sydney-Whitney Pier, where the contest was thought to be close, 30 percent voted in non-geotagged polling stations.  In vast Guysborough-Eastern Shore-Tracadie, 20 percent; equally far-flung Victoria the Lakes, also 20 percent; Antigonish, 37 percent; Argyle, 17 percent.; Glace Bay, 34 percent.

Nova Scotia from space

A view of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and parts of Maine and Quebec, taken from the International Space Station. Click the image for a larger version.

The bright spot at the left side is Montreal Quebec City;* that on the middle right is Halifax. Other bright spots include (left to right) Bangor, Saint John, Moncton, and Charlottetown. Close inspection reveals Truro, New Glasgow, Antigonish, Port Hawkesbury, and Sydney. The St. Lawrence River appears as a string of lights heading northeast from Montreal, and the Gaspe Peninsula is outlined in light. I believe the aurora borealis accounts for the greenish hue on the horizon.

A Contrarian reader supplied the image without identifying information, and I’ve been unable to pin down its source precisely. Based on a similar image taken a few hundred miles to the southwest however, I believe it was taken on January 29 by Expedition 30, the current crew of the International Space Station.

H/T: Shine boy.

*[Correction] Contrarian reader Bill Swan thinks the light blob on the left is Quebec City, not Montreal. He’s probably right.

Highway crash survival – ctd.

Contrarian reader JS writes:

Most if not all news accounts of such accidents provide no information about the factors involved. From your account it is clear that  a) slowing down during bad conditions; b) having proper approved child safety restraints; and c) operating a vehicle with a good safety rating are the right ingredients for safe driving with a family.  This account is far more valuable to the world in general than a news report that simply says a head-on collision sent five to hospital with non life-threatening injuries and the driver of a second vehicle was killed.

I am a motorcyclist, and I read with great attention every account of accidents involving bikes.  Rarely if at all are details given as to circumstances. There may be a statement which says the accident is being investigated but the results are never made public. Such dry reportage has no value if circumstances are left to pure speculation. How can I or anyone else learn anything from that?

As an example, the inordinate number of fatal accidents along the Trans Canada near Antigonish in the last few weeks has left a general impression that all have been caused by impatient drivers trying to pass where they shouldn’t.  There have been no facts whatsoever presented to support that assumption, yet it persists. Elected officials are now demanding massive public expenditures to twin the highway. On what facts is that assumption based?

I am sure your deeply personal account will be read by many and give cause for serious thought about our own respective situations and hopefully remind us all that there is a story behind the story.

Thank you to the many readers who wrote messages of concern about Silas, Jenn, Maggie, Josh, and Jacob. We are all grateful. They are all on the mend.

Nova Scotia giraffes

Taylor-2-200 Some Nova Scotia submissions to the website OneMillionGiraffes.com, where Stavanger, Norway, resident Ola Helland is using crowdsourcing to try and win a bet that he can assemble one million images of giraffes in a year. He is currently at 800,000. Taylor-1 15 halifax-200 peter meredith 24-266 Taylor 15 Yarmouth-266 Alina 17 Halifax-200 Dalbtron3000-200 Dalbtron-anti-266 Joshsa-Sydney-166 Lydia 18 - halifax-166 Lydia-2 halifax-155 Left to right, top to bottom, first two images by Taylor, age 15, Halifax; then Peter Merideth, 24, Antigonish; Taylor again; Alina, 17, Halifax; next two by Dalbtron3000, 29, Antigonish; Joshua, 31, Sydney; and the last two images by Lydia, 18, Halifax.

Rodney’s chops

A stalwart Tory friend who fully expected Ian McNeil to beat Allan MacMaster in the Inverness byelection voiced surprise at MacMaster’s decision to go door-to-door with former Premier Rodney MacDonald, who held the seat before quitting last month:

I would have expected voters in Inverness to have an earful for Rodney after he quit so soon.

There was certainly some of that. MacMaster received 2,247 fewer votes than MacDonald had just four months earlier. But I suspect Rodney was still a plus for MacMaster at the doorstep—probably a crucial factor in his sliver of victory.

In the eyes of most Nova Scotia voters, Rodney never grew into the premiership; he lacked the royal jelly. But voters in Inverness see it differently. They believe their favorite son was done in by a bunch of toffee noses in Halifax, especially in the legislature press gallery, who made little effort to disguise their contempt for Rodney or their conviction that a rube from Inverness has no business running the province.

Party president Ian MacKeigan expressed this view with vehemence on election night in June.  Contrarian happens to know MacKeigan, a popular Whycocomagh pharmacist and an exceptionally fine gentleman. If he feels this way, you can take it to the credit union that many Invernessers do too.

The poll-by-poll results show that former CBC Cape-Breton radio host McNeil also suffered from being less well known in the southern end of the riding, which the CBC chooses to serve with Halifax programming.New Democrat Bert Lewis killed McNeil in the Port Hawkesbury area.

Poll-bypoll results in Antigonish show that the byelection there was tightly contested across the riding, although the final result was not as close

Know how they vote

A group calling itself Know How They Vote is asking the Nova Scotia House of Assembly to abandon its traditional practice of unrecorded votes.

A news release from Michael Kennedy, the group’s director, points out that, although any two MLAs can request a roll call vote, only one percent of the legislature’s decisions in the last six years have been by recorded vote. Moneyquote:

The democratic deficit in Nova Scotia is growing. With every unrecorded vote in the Legislature, our MLAs get farther and farther away from our scrutiny. Choosing not to record votes is choosing not to be transparent and accountable to the constituents that you represent.”

In the current Inverness and Antigonish byelections, the group won endorsements of the principle of recorded votes from Liberal Ian McNeil and Verdant Nathalie Arsenault (both running in Inverness), but got thumbs down from Liberal Miles Tompkins (Antigonish) and PC Allan MacMaster (Inverness). No word on where the NDP candidates stand.

[Update:] Miles Tompkins explains:

I have no objection to recorded votes, but I don’t assume that it alone will make the process function better. The first thing that would have to change to allow the individual MLA some autonomy would be confidence votes. At present, many things can be construed as confidence measures. Multiple changes have to be in place to take the edge off such votes. The single act of recording votes would be like having all the cars drive on the right hand side of the road to see if it would work….and moving the trucks and buses over next month….