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We’re going to the polls…again

Sometimes you just don’t know quite what to do.  Or maybe it’s just me.  We have earned the democratic right to vote here in Canada and it is considered somewhat of a privilege.  Okay well a huge privilege.  In the past few years though, it seems less and less people have been going to the polls and exercising their right to vote. While I understand that our forefathers (and foremothers for that matter) fought to acquire this right for us, lately I realize that I have a bit of a bee in my bonnet over the way our voting system works and more precisely, how the results are reported.  Now, first, yes I’m happy to live in a democratic society and that I do have the option to cast a ballot.  I appreciate all that was done in order for me to have that option and I’m more than happy exercizing my acquired right to cast a ballot.  What is bothering me somewhat is the assumption that if one does not go to the polls on any given voting day, that it is because they are being lazy or simply don’t care about the democratic process.  While it’s true that one might decide that they can’t be bothered or aren’t willing to put in the small effort required to cast a ballot, there are many other reasons why one might not perform what is often referred to as one’s “civic duty” as a citizen of this country (or province, or city).  

When you go the polls here, you must choose one of the candidates running in that election.  But what if on the ballot, there is not a single candidate that interests you?  You still have to put your “X” in one of the boxes and there is no box that gives you the option to express the fact that you don’t agree with any of the platforms that are being presented.  So you don’t vote because your only choice then is to vote against someone by voting for someone else.  But when the results are announced, there is no way of knowing that the winning candidate won only because people were voting someone out of rather than into office.  My point is that we are perhaps too quick to assume that poor voter turnout is simply because people don’t care when in fact it could be that you’re trying to make the point that you don’t support any of the candidates or that you’d like to see different types of changes than those that are being offered.  Or perhaps it’s not clear how to vote “strategically”.  There are a myriad of reasons one might decide to avoid the polls altogether.

Would it not make sense to add the option to say you are voting for noone before accusing people of being lazy and apathetic about voting?  Maybe then we would get a better idea of what the real pulse of the people is.  Perhaps with that extra option it would give those who are running for office the data they need to actually make changes to their platforms or to the political process.  How can there be changes when there are no options to express that we want changes?  Perhaps I’m missing something here but there has to be more to the low voter turnout than simply complete apathy.  

So the bee I have in my bonnet is about how quick we are to label poor voter turnout as “voter apathy”.  For weeks before an election there is obviously a big push to get people out to the polls and we are reminded day after day about how hard people fought to earn us this right.  Once the election is over, again the statements which seem to be designed to instill a sense of guilt abound.  If you chose not to vote, it’s clearly because you don’t care, you’re apathetic, you’re lazy, you’re taking our hard earned rights for granted and all kinds of other potentially unfounded judgements.  Why?  Why are we so quick to judge when perhaps making the effort to try a few different options might lead to better results or different conclusions?  Is it really voter apathy or is it time to quit casting blame and consider a different perspective before throwing a definitive label on the issue?

Quite frankly, is it possible that we’re coming down somewhat harshly on people without knowing what the real underlying reasons are that voters are not going out to the polls?  Why do we have to judge and label everything anyway?

I admit, I haven’t done extensive research here…I just felt like getting a bee out of my bonnet and I might be way off base.  But I’m loving the feeling of having made an effort to go after that bee.  Thanks so much for obliging me and please do let me know what you think…either way.

Kharim

 

10 Comments

  1. I completely agree with what you have just written. In fact, I was brought up with the same mentality that voting is a priviledge and you should exercise your right to vote always. Based on this, I thought that if a person didn’t turn out to vote, then they had no right to criticize. I now have changed my mind. Why should people vote for any particular party that they don’t stand behind or believe in? Personally, I am pretty tired of counter voting or voting for a party so another one won’t win. To be honest I haven’t yet decided if I will go out and vote. This is the first time I feel this way. There…I have let my bee out too :)

    Reply
    • Kharim, I have the utmost respect for you, but I whole heartedly disagree. You’re right that it is a privilige to vote, but it is our DUTY as citizens of this country to vote. As priviliged society, we have all the means to educate ourselves on all the various politcal platforms that are being presented to us.Having said that, will we ever have a perfect party? Never. That’s impossible given all our diverse ideologies, phylosophies,and just plain life experiences. As citizens we have to look at each political platform and decide where we feel our money is best allocated. Our city has gone through a very tumultuous time, and has cost the taxpayers millions of dollars. I’ll be damned if I don’t get out there and express my right.Not voting is not, nor ever has been an option for me. I know that I will be at the voting booth. A wild freak snow storm would not be able to stop me. Thanks for listening. By the way there was a beautiful deer in my back yard yesterday. Got a good shot! Have a super day!!!

      Reply
      • Thanks Cindy!! It’s fun to hear the side of disagreement. I love it and I really appreciate that you took the time to share your thoughts. You make a great point about how our tax dollars are being allocated. It makes me want to go out and vote when you present it that way (not that I don’t usually vote but this time around, I’m just not feeling that there’s an option to say that I’d like to see some different options when I get to the polls.) :) I’ve lost the excitement of going to the polls and I’d like to get it back. I wonder how we could get that back or what we have to do to get people excited. I feel that if we just condemn people for not voting, it will continue to backfire and we’ll see less and less people voting. We need to understand why they aren’t voting…I think…??? 😉

        Reply
    • Thanks Lina! I’m smiling because doesn’t it just feel so good to let that bee out? :)

      Reply
  2. Not sure what we are suppose to do with this one. I agree. We are not even voting for who we want but to help keep out who we don’t want. How many times have I voted for the lesser of all evils…not to say I thought they were good but did not want to give up my right to vote. It does seem like something is lacking in the system.

    Reply
    • And when you voted that way Sue, did you feel like you were basically just throwing away a vote? Can you imagine…what is the true accuracy of the results when we find ourselves voting that way? Yeah, I’m lost on this one too! :)

      Reply
  3. Oh I’m so loving all these points of view!! Thank you for sharing your thoughts. It’s giving me great stuff to think about and it’s fun to hear all sides of the discussion!

    Definitely I think that since we have earned the right to vote, that we should make the effort. Personally I would really like to see some changes in how our “democratic” system of voting works so that I feel like there is actually an avenue that allows me to express how I truly feel rather than simply voting for the sake of voting because it is a privilege that has been fought for.

    I’m finding this discussion even more interesting than I’d anticipated because it’s bringing to light the different feelings we all have on what voting means to us these days.

    Thank you for this!

    Reply
    • Sorry, one more little thing to ponder….My husband who is an Italian citizen told me that when he lived in Italy, voting was a civic duty. If one did not vote in three consecutive elections, they would be stripped of their citizenship. He’s not sure if that is still the case, but it just goes to show how serious it is not to vote. Imagine what kind of impact a law like that would have here in our society. Then you would have some real changes!

      Reply
      • Wow, that is definitely something to seriously ponder Cindy! Actually, I’ve been thinking on this one for the last couple of days and I have to admit that I’m still not sure that I know how I’d feel about that. Truth be told, my first thought was that I didn’t like the feeling of knowing that I no longer have a choice. Of course, not being actually faced with that type of law here in Canada, I feel fortunate that I don’t have to fully conclude how I’d feel. But I’m still thinking about that one. It really does make me appreciate that here in Canada we still have the right to choose whether to vote or not. That gives me a sense of relief and true appreciation for the way we do things here and I feel that’s a good thing.

        I’m smiling to realize yet once again (thanks to what you’ve shared here) that knowing more about how things work elsewhere makes me appreciate what we do have here and the freedoms that we enjoy. It reminds me not to take them for granted. Thank you for that! It does feel good. :)

        Reply
  4. I agree with Cindy. The right to vote is a civic duty, whether or not one appreciates the candidates. I feel that you need to show up at that booth and if you really don’t want to vote for anyone, then vote for everyone. Your vote will be annuled, but at least, you were there to exercise your right to democracy. And you definitely, and absolutely, lose your right to complain if you don’t vote! :)

    Reply

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