To Vote or Not to Vote, That is the Question

According to Elections Canada, voter turn-out in our Country was the highest in the year I was born, a whopping 79.4%. This must be the reason I am so passionate about one single election issue:  Our Duty To Vote!

When I grew up I was embraced within a family of largely loquacious folk who routinely made sure I understood the family code of honour. While our code covered a pretty broad spectrum, I never had to consider whether or not I was supposed to vote, it went without question. It was more like:

“Let me explain what the government wants to do?”

“When you grow up, which party do you think you will vote for?”

“Tonight you can stay up and watch the election with us.”

“Well young lady, how are you going to vote?”

“What time can you be home, so we can take you to the polling booth!”

Voting, politics and elections were exciting and for our family, voting was a family affair.

My first opportunity to vote in either a provincial or a federal election was during 1979. I was very excited. It was finally my turn to vote. My opinion mattered. It was important for me to respect the person I would vote for because we largely believed in the same things. I wanted a Prime Minister who could be respected internationally and could bring peace to areas or who could bring harmony with foreign governments that were distrustful of the West. I was a pacifist and horrified by war. I wanted a reasonable tax regime, investment in hospitals and infrastructure and a government who could influence higher employment.

I listened to the leaders and the candidates locally and I made a decision. I clearly remember my first voting day. I rushed home from University and changed my clothes to the best outfit I had to wear. Mom, Dad and Kate took me to the polling station. Our polling booth was in the neighbour church hall. It was around 5:30 p.m. and the light was still bright outdoors. I remember my family quietly standing behind me, my partners in a solemn march to a safe and well considered tomorrow. I was allowed to vote first. My heart was practically pumping out of my chest and I was filled with pride. I remember the lump in my throat when I was asked for my name and address. I was one person, who was part of a country full of citizens, who would make an important and powerful decision together.

I feel totally disconnected from today’s population that proudly indicate they are uninterested in voting or that to vote would go against what they stand for in life. I still see it as a duty, an obligation to vote. If I am to be entitled to an opinion on the state of health care, education or the condition of the roads, then I had better have voted. Otherwise, I did nothing to influence the outcome of my public needs and desires. Anything brought to you by taxes, including defence of our borders and our world, is influenced by the platform of the party you elected. It has a huge influence on the law you must live by. It will determine the overall generousity of the state to the disenfranchised. It influences our country’s response to global crises, including the environment.

Do you believe voter turnout equals the health of our democracy?

Did you know that the term “slack” also refers to the amount of non-voters in an election. “Picking up the slack” has a whole new meaning for me now. To consider what to write tonight, I referenced: “Slack in the System: Turnout in Canadian Provincial Elections, 1965-2009” written by Jared J. Wesley, University of Manitoba. I discovered that Atlantic Canada has a strong voter turnout together with Saskatchewan and Quebec. In 2007, Newfoundland and Labrador and Alberta had resounding wins for the progressive conservatives with 61.3% and 40.6% of the popular vote.  However, it looks a lot less flattering when converted to eligible votes at 42.6% and 21.4% respectively.

I don’t know about you, but I would like to think the group who gets to run the province should have been elected by far more than a crummy 21.4%.  That is an awful a lot of power without permission. What is an acceptable level of non-participation?  Is it an abdication of the right to decide who rules, is it a quiet protest against the establishment a protest no one even hears, or is it a complete disrespect for the moment and the future?

If I was in a position that I could not decide how to vote because I did not align with anyone on the ballot, I would show up at the polling booth and secretly spoil my ballot. The more I pay attention, the more I can understand why many people legitimately shake their heads and say, I can’t vote for any of them.  There have been a lot of parachute candidates just so a party could say they had a candidate in every riding.  There are people having to withdraw from their candidacy every week for something they said or did (who knows today’s bloggers may never get to run in an election.) But there are realistically flawed yet honest men and women who stand before us this month and ask for our support. It is ours to decide.

I don’t care if you are young or a nonagenarian (90 year old). It is essential that you vote. You can vote for the Conservatives, Liberals, the New Democratic Party, the Bloc Quebecois, Independents or the Green Party. Just please exercise your franchise and vote.

This blog is brought to you by Mo

Post script

In the late hours of blogging I made a boo boo.  I wrote “septuagenarian” and bracketed (90 year old). As a penance to the Latin scholars who came up with these names, here are the terms for my age group and beyond!

Quinquagenarian       people in their 50’s

Sexagenarian             people in their 60’s

septuagenarian         people in their 70’s

octogenarian             people in their 80’s

nonagenarian            people in their 90’s

centenarian               people who have made it to 100 and hopefully get a letter from the Queen