Over the past several weeks of this Canadian election campaign, I’ve spoken to plenty of people about voting. What I’m continuously surprised by is the number of people who are not planning to vote. Perhaps I shouldn’t be that surprised. The voter turnout for the last election in 2006 was just 64.7 % (source: Elections Canada Online). Now, some may say “that’s not bad”, but compare this to France, whose voter turnout in their last election in 2007 was almost 84%, or, the United States, who, in the 2004 presidential election had an 88% voter turnout (source: IFES Election Guide). 64% doesn’t seem so great anymore, does it?
Why is there such voter apathy in our country? Why is nearly 40% of the population so disinterested in our democratic process? Well, the people I’ve talked to give various excuses. So I’ve decided to compile a list of the reasons I’ve heard for NOT voting, and my reasons FOR voting.
Excuse #1: I Don’t Have Time. Ah, yes. We are all so busy! How could we possibly find time to go vote on Tuesday, when we’ve got kids to get to school, deadlines at work, and myriad other things keeping us away from the polling stations? Well, I’ve got news for you. Firstly, the polling stations are open for 12 hours straight – from 7am to 7pm. Secondly, the Elections Canada Act states clearly that employers MUST give their employees 3 consecutive hours off to vote on election day. Of course, there are exceptions. But I’ve worked lots of jobs in lots of industries, and I’ve never once had an employer forbid me from leaving the office so I could go and vote. Thirdly, if you have your voter card and a piece of I.D., it literally takes 3 minutes to vote. Even if there’s a lineup. I worked for Elections Canada at a polling station one year, and I can tell you, it is a well-oiled machine. So, there’s one excuse, and three reasons why it’s no excuse. Next….
Excuse #2: I Don’t Like Any of the Parties. Probably the most common excuse I hear for not voting is that there’s nobody worth voting for. “All the politicians are full of crap”, “I don’t agree with anyone’s policies”, “I don’t like this guy/that girl”. Look, nobody is asking you to agree with EVERY SINGLE part of a particular party’s platform. No party is perfect. There are always going to be things that can and should change. Here’s my suggestion – take some time and read up on all the parties’ platforms. Find the party that you can relate to the MOST. The one who you have the tendency to agree with mostly. Vote for them. And the things you don’t agree with? Well, if that party gets into power, you’ll have a chance to write a letter to the guy or girl you voted for, and tell him or her why you think Policy A or Policy B stinks. And what you’d like him or her to do to change it. That, my friends, is democracy at work!
Excuse #3: My Vote Won’t Count. Imagine that! I’ve actually heard this on a number of occasions. Consider if everyone thought the same way-nobody would vote! Yes, yours is just one vote. But your vote is just as important as anyone else’s vote. And if you really are considering not voting because you don’t think it matters, then think about this. Millions and millions of people around the world do not have the right to choose who leads their country. Every day, people die fighting for the basic right that we in democratic nations take for granted. Every day, innocent people are imprisoned, tortured or killed for disagreeing with the government in power. Consider yourself insanely fortunate that you live in a country where you can freely choose the people that represent you in government. And if you can’t cast a vote for your own reasons on election day, cast a vote in honour of those people who may never get the chance to exercise this basic human right.
Still disagree with me? Let me have it in the comments – but hope to see you at the polls on Tuesday anyway.