With a federal election looming, and one just complete in the UK, I think it’s a good time to push forward the issue of voting in our modern age. Namely, that not enough people do it, and for all of the wrong reasons. This is my first post here, and it won’t even be the heaviest by far, but it will be one of the most passionate things I write about.
Voting is the most basic level of civic responsibility we have as members of a democratic society. However, owing to a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the global creep of political narratives from the USA through popular media, voting has dropped to levels so low that a fraction of the population is deciding things for the entirety of Canada, with dramatically mixed results. In response to this, people are voting less, and things are predictably getting worse. In Canada’s last federal election, only 61.4% of the eligible voting population voted. Stephen Harper’s conservatives were elected into office by 39.62% of the 61.4% who actually voted! Not voting is not “sending a message”, unless that message is “I don’t care and will accept the results of what other people think.”
Prior to the election in the UK, comedian and pseudo-intellectual Russel Brand was on record as telling people globally not to vote because the system was broken. The result was a record turnout, at 66.1%, but the bump upwards was voting for the conservatives he maligned, instead of the liberals he championed and ultimately tainted. His plan worked, people didn’t vote, and the UK is saddled with another conservative majority. What’s the take away here? Odds are, had the other 33.9% of the voting population turned out, there may have been a Labour majority instead.
The system is in bad shape. It’s not broken, but it’s certainly not doing well, and a huge contributing factor to that is that people are no longer voting or effectively engaging the political systems we have. When voters don’t vote, and make politicians fight for their seats, they get complacent. They start to fall back on political ideology more and more, as they no longer feel the pressures to make compromises and moderate their positions. Voting brings variety and moderation to the political process. Not voting brings increasingly extreme ideology.
The idea that “No party represents me, so why vote?” is another common trope among the non voting population. No party is going to 100% represent you and your beliefs, unless you form a party or run as an independent, which is your right as a Canadian citizen. Take an hour or two and go through the platforms of the parties who are running candidates in your riding, and learn about what they represent. Send off emails and go to public events and ask questions. Vote strategically. Vote for the party or individual who best represents you and your beliefs and needs.
The last issue is one that I will talk about in a post in the near future, “I don’t have time to vote.” There is always time to vote, and there are a number of federal and provincial laws that guarantee that you have both the time and/or opportunity to vote, no matter where you are, or where you’re working. I have literally been bussed out of the field to vote as a member of the military, and even deployed soldiers are given the opportunity to vote. The latter having their voting slips delivered and collected by armed convoys or helicopters. With the systems we have in place, there is no reason to not to vote.
As I said in the beginning, there is no reason not to vote. Over the next month or so, I will be writing about the voting rights that Canadians have, how you can engage with our systems, how voter ID works, and hopefully, by the end of it all, the people reading these will be better armed with knowledge to start pushing out government back into being representative of the population rather than ideology.