Viewpoint: AAP math causes concern
By PAUL R. MARCANO
Alternative approval processes, when used as a form of referenda, have two main problems. Spoiler alert, it’s the math!
A) Everyone eligible need not participate and is presumed to vote yes unless some extra effort is made by individuals to publicly declare their no vote.
This in itself, presumes undeclared assent and for no voters, it violates the sanctity of one’s privacy and anonymity when casting a democratic vote.
B) Yet, the math is more concerning, with the 10 per cent threshold needed to defeat these AAPs being based on reaching 10 per cent of 100 per cent of the total eligible property votes on the island!
As an example of real-world turnout; one of the worst we saw recently in an actual property tax referendum was for the $8.4-million North Salt Spring Waterworks District St. Mary Lake treatment plant, which drew out a dismal yes vote of 359 versus 310 no votes out of a pool of close to 2,600 eligible property owners in 2015. This represented a ridiculous 26 per cent turnout with barely 14 per cent of property owners voting yes for what is now an increasing March water parcel tax of over $700 a year for the next 20 years!
As a taxpayer, I simply point this out to illustrate how sorely stacked the odds are when an Alternative Approval Process presumes 100 per cent eligible voter participation. Voter turnout is rarely even close to that 100 per cent threshold and, indeed, substantially less for these mid-term tax proposals we often see floated.
Think about the task at hand: to defeat a property tax proposal when the total yes vote is automatically pre-inflated to presume that all eligible property owners are participating in the vote. It is simply never the case, yet it remains the legal bar that any no vote effort is up against. Incidentally, it is made far worse in unincorporated districts like ours because no minimum quorum of votes is even required.
In my opinion, the threshold for defeating an APP is completely unrealistic, making AAPs the most mathematically unfair advantage a politician can utilize to add money to the tax requisition, and they know it, despite claiming they are an expedient form of a referendum or cost the price of yet another “cup of coffee.” I personally find any politician or organization’s use of these AAPs unconscionable for the obvious reasons I have pointed out. They are clearly stealthy and grossly miscalculate a vast pool of undeclared yes votes, many of whom are property owners who never vote anyway or are non-resident on the island to participate after Labour Day.
The answer? Meh. I typically encourage people to make the extra effort to declare their no vote whenever these AAPs crop up, just on principle because they are so transparently unfair and are typically based on poorly designed tax proposals with questionable parameters to contain the expenditure once it is on the tax requisition.
Watch for the next one!