“Los Angeles considers cash-prize drawing as incentive to vote,” screams the Toronto Star headline above the story.
I have long advocated a voter lottery as a surefire way to raise voter turnout tallies. A musician, I even wrote a song about it.* Now before my eyes, validating my belief - a jurisdiction willing to give it a whirl south of the border. With a few tweaks the current proposal from L.A. Commissioner Nathan Hochman could muster an odds-on chance of succeeding. Frustratingly, though, here in the face of dismal numbers – fewer than 5 in 10 voters actually vote – Toronto, Canada has fallen victim to new national laws that make it more difficult to vote.
In my scenario, the voter registration card doubles as a lucky draw ticket after the election. Why not a televised draw about one week after Election Day using pre-existing government gaming infrastructure?
Unlike the LA scenario, which proposes a single incentive - a cash prize in the range of $25,000 to $50,000, my voter lottery spreads the wealth around and corrals a bigger budget by redirecting millions of misspent voter awareness advertising dollars into meaningful prizes.
A year’s mortgage payments made. Your annual hydro or gasoline bill paid. Transit passes, super “staycations”, your rent paid for a year. The voter lottery would offer a grand prize, but also many smaller rewards that would contribute to an individual’s quality of life and entice people to the polls for a change. Who wouldn’t vote for that?
In submitting my proposal to Ontario’s select committee on electoral reform back in 2005, I had a hunch no one would take it seriously. And now, a decade later, someone has. I must be a futurist.
* The Voter Lottery (Original Song)
by Sheila White © 2003
No one cares about elections.
There’s a bad case of voter apathy.
Until they invent a clinic to cure the cynic,
We need a gimmick to get people voting again.
If you take a minute
to examine it,
A lottery can.
Let’s go in a new direction
and do our part to boost democracy
We can offer prizes
And cool surprises
The turnout rises because
Everyone’s playing to win.
If we advertise it,
I’ve analyzed it,
And I say, “We’re in!”
A voter lottery
will push the numbers up
to where they ought to be. Whoa!
The media will love it.
We’ve already won.
Voter turnout will go up,
But most of all, it will be fun.
We may face the odd objection
To how we solve this electoral ennui
We had to be inventive,
They’ll be attentive and voting like never before.
This is not expensive
We must attempt it
They’ll come back for more.
A year’s free gasoline,
who wouldn’t vote for that?
A trip to the Caribbean,
Luxury hybrids, tuition fees,
Voter turnout will go up.
Most of all, it will be fun.