Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Ranting about the Election

No, this isn't a political rant. I won't mention parties, candidates, attack ads, or key issues. What's left to complain about? Voter apathy!

Ontario is holding a provincial election on Thursday. Today, two days before the big day, I overheard a 20-something male say to his 20-something female girlfriend, "the election is on Thursday, so I guess I won't vote. My home riding is up north. You'd think they'd choose an election day that is more convenient to those of us who travel". If there had been a wall to bang my head against when I heard this, the bruises on my forehead would be showing by now.

Let me be very clear: in Canada, voting is a simple and straight-forward process. The information about how to vote is easily accessible. Overcoming the general disinterest many people in this country show in the politics that affect them... well, that's tough to deal with, given the numerous contributing factors and systemic issues. But making the voting process as convenient as possible? That problem has been solved. True, we aren't voting over the internet from the comfort of our homes yet, but there are so many other ways to do it. It is simply unacceptable that someone would choose not to vote because it's inconvenient. What could our young friend have done to ensure his voice was heard?

  • He could have voted in advance by mail from anywhere in the world (this works if you're a few hours away, across the country, or on the other side of the planet).
  • If he prefers voting in person, he could have done so at an advanced poll when he was still at home. While these locations don't always open first thing in the morning, they remain open until well into the evening - you can come home from work, make dinner, take the kids to soccer, and still make it in time to vote!
  • If he is too cool for snail mail, as so many 20-somethings are, and if he wasn't home at all during the ten days that the advanced polls were open (maybe he was a jet-setting executive in disguise), he could have voted at his local returning office anytime in the last four weeks. Four weeks!

Special circumstances have been accounted for, too: people who are temporarily hospitalized can vote because special ballot officers visited hospitals for three days last week. Even those who were staying in a hospital that was outside of their electoral district could vote, and patients could use their hospital bracelet as identification! Home visits have been arranged over the past four weeks for those with disabilities, those who are unable to read and write, and for those who for whom it is impossible or unreasonably difficult to get to their local returning office.

So Mr. 20-something, you with your able body, literacy skills, and good health: you don't get an excuse not to vote. Every day you probably spend hours on Facebook and Twitter - can't you spare twenty minutes to vote? Every weekend, you've got places to go and things to do on short notice - can't you plan a quick trip to the polling station with four weeks of advance warning? You live in a democratic country. You and your girlfriend have the right to vote - unlike millions around the world who don't. Your ballots won't be thrown out due to corruption. You have plenty of choices among the candidates, whether they represent the dominant parties or fringe interest groups, or even if they have registered as independent candidates. You live in the biggest city in Canada, with polling stations no more than a few blocks apart and nobody hanging around out front harassing or threatening you. There. Is. No. Excuse. Please start treating your right to vote like the privilege that is actually is.

Voter Apathy Party used under Creative Commons from Jessica Allan Schmidt (flickr).
Photo of ballot used under Creative Commons from Looking&Learning (flickr).
Voting poster used under Creative Commons from Infrogmation of New Orleans (flickr).


  1. Excellent rant. I completely agree (and have already voted!).

    Voter apathy is such an infuriating thing to deal with... sure, we all complain about bad politicians, but can we be bothered to do anything about it?


  2. Yes, it's crazy. It's always bothered me when people say they don't cast a ballot because their vote won't count. It is precisely because people abstain from voting that the system makes us feel powerless, at least, those of us who don't vote Liberal or Conservative. Too few votes for the little guys means the little guys never get elected!

  3. Oh, and don't get me started on the farce that is "Strategic Voting"! I understand the concept, but the reality is that it's a bad idea.

    If only Canada would abandon the archaic "first past the post" system and work on an ACTUALLY democratic system... one of these days, one of these days...

  4. The FPTP system pisses me off, too. If you only receive 15% of the votes, you should only receive 15% of the seats! I understand that issues like these contribute to voter apathy. But you can't simply remove yourself from the system entirely just because you don't like it. Nothing will change if we do nothing.

  5. Darcy - I'm glad it was you saying that sarcastically and not a random stranger saying it honestly. That would make for a long comment. :)

  6. I to am frustrated with the first past the post system. Living in a conservative riding that is not likely to change it makes me feel like my vote doesn't count. On the other hand as a woman voter, I feel it is my duty to vote in every election and referendum to honour the difficulties faced by the suffragettes in their fight for a woman's right to vote.

  7. Susan - Exactly! How would they feel if they knew that so many of today's women don't bother voting, when they had to fight so hard to make it possible in the first place? The system may be imperfect, but at least we can participate. And frankly, it's not just a right, it's a civic duty. If only we could kick non-voters "off the island". :)