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.