Tomorrow, May 14, is general voting day for the BC provincial elections. If you’re a Canadian citizen and have lived in BC for the last six months (see full voter eligibility requirements from Elections BC), go vote!
Voter turnout rates in Canada continue to decline and I can understand why. It can be hard to follow politics, easy to believe that casting a ballot has no impact, and difficult to identify with political parties and candidates.
Organizations like Apathy is Boring encourage voting seemingly just for the sake of voting. Doesn’t matter if you know anything about the candidates or the issues… just cast a ballot.
While I’m not fully in favour of voting just because you can, I agree that voting is better than not voting. I like the idea of all voters being informed, but I know that’s not reasonable. Many people don’t want to be entirely engaged or don’t support the process. I believe that the best way to get people interested in the democratic process is by having them participate.
Voting is a pretty low-barrier method of participation. Casting a ballot is seriously easy (check out this video on what to expect when you vote) and doesn’t require policial affiliation or interest. It generally takes just a few minutes to mark your choice and you always have the option of expressing your frustration with the system by spoiling your ballot.
The number of spoiled ballots are reported to elections officials and if everyone who didn’t feel there was a good choice or who didn’t like the system spoiled their ballot, there would be a significant number of void votes. That would be a serious news story and a credible message to politicians that things are seriously wrong.
While I am politically engaged, I’m not strongly partisan. I have yet to find a political party or candidate that I wholeheartedly endorse – although there are many that I strongly disagree with! I tend to vote based on which party I think will do the least harm or which candidate seems the least nuts.
I’m showing my non-partisan support for democracy tomorrow by manning a polling station. I’m serving as a voting officer in the North Vancouver – Lonsdale district (find your electoral district on the Elections BC website), where there are 23 different places to vote on Tuesday, May 14 – that’s a lot! If your Where to Vote card has my polling station on it, maybe I’ll see you there!
And if you can’t get to the polling station indicated on your Where to Vote card between 8am & 8pm on Tuesday, or simply didn’t get one, you can cast an absentee ballot at any polling station (Elections BC has more details). The sad part about casting an absentee ballot is that they’re not counted in the results that are reported on election night. It takes a while to get absentee ballots back to their proper electoral district, which means that they’re part of the final counts and can have tremendous impact in close races, but aren’t part of any nail-biting results reporting on election day.
Having worked at polling stations for previous elections, I’ve witnessed the enormous power that comes with voting. I’ve seen people who have moved to Canada from non-democratic regimes tear up as they cast their first-ever ballot. I’ve watched parents explain the process to their young kids (and let the kids drop their parent’s ballot into the box). I’ve even seen a teenager voting for the first time bring along his dad… who was also voting for the first time.
People seem proud to vote. I never know which way their ballot is cast, but I do know that voters are engaged in the political process and making an effort to have their voices heard.
Make your voice heard! If you meet the eligibility requirements, go vote!