As someone who worked on a provincial election campaign I was part of something we referred to as “getting out the vote”. In plain terms this meant doing whatever it took to get voters out to vote on election day. Need a ride to the polls? We could arrange that. Need someone to babysit your kids, hold your dog’s leash or explain to your boss why you needed to leave early to go mark your X? We could probably do that, too. We would, in fact, do anything and everything in our power to get voters into that voting booth, and the entire process left me with exactly one question: What the hell is wrong with us?I don’t need to tell you that people all over the world are fighting and dying to exercise the kind of democracy we take so for granted that we virtually ignore it. I know it and you know it too, and yet some of you are not voting, not even if someone will drive you there, babysit your kids, dogsit your dog, or basically hold your hand through the entire thing. Nope, some of us – far, far too many of us – just don’t bother to vote.
Perhaps it is apathy, perhaps it is complacency, or perhaps it is just that we are so damn spoiled by our rampant democracy that we have completely failed to grasp what an incredible opportunity it is. We are not just failing in our understanding of the value, though. We are failing our children.Our kids look up to us as adults and role models. What does it say to them when we don’t vote? What does it say to them when we neglect to have our say in the future of our communities? We are creating yet another generation of non-voters, and we are telling them in essence that democracy is so pedestrian and commonplace that it doesn’t matter.
Democracy matters. Your vote matters. I am reaching the point where I am leaning towards making voting not an option but mandatory as it is in some nations. The sad part of course is that this seems diametrically opposed to the very freedom that democracy gives us, but perhaps we need to be forced to exercise our democratic right and privilege. I don’t know how else to address abysmal voter turnouts and, quite frankly, political parties that have begun to count on voter disinterest to accomplish their own agendas.Advance polls are open today until 8 pm in the federal by-election, and on Monday June 30 a new MP for our region will be elected. Perhaps it seems cynical but I am not anticipating a strong voter turnout, based on prior experience and the fact that the election is being held in close proximity to a national holiday (one could be a bit suspicious about why the feds chose this date, but I digress). Once again I suspect I will wake up on July 1 with a new MP and one question ringing in my mind: What the hell is wrong with us?