Among the many things that infuriate me are voters who don’t vote.
This election season, which has been dominated by nastiness and theatrics and void of transparency and cooperation in spots, I heard a great many people say they were going to sit it out. They’re simply not casting their ballot. People from all walks of life, with different levels of education, with all different political views. Voters from Port Hawkesbury, to Richmond County, to HRM, and municipalities in between, just opting out of the process. That’s scary.
Here are the numbers (the ones that I found, at least): this recent municipal election saw voter turn-out over 50 per cent in most of the province, by several published estimations. Despite not being able to vote for the position of mayor (because the candidate won by acclamation), Port Hawkesbury saw around 56 per cent turnout, which is on par. Victoria County took top spot in Cape Breton with 65 per cent turnout, and the kerfuffle in Richmond County prompted an extremely high turnout in some districts, with one boasting almost 80 per cent!
For the most part, though, turnout averages in the low- to mid- 50 per cent range are common throughout the province. In fact, Antigonish, by my count, averaged slightly below 40 per cent voter turnout in this election, and Inverness County voters also came out in fewer numbers, less than 50 per cent.
The 2013 provincial election in Nova Scotia saw 58 per cent of eligible voters go to the polls, and the federal election in 2015 boasts the highest voter turnout in two decades with over 68 per cent. Our southern neighbors aren’t faring so well with just about 58 per cent, although the numbers aren’t yet in for the November 8 election, obviously. (In comparison to other democracies, that ranks dismally low. One uncorroborated article I read claims that a higher number of American registered voters cast a vote in the American Idol tally than they did in the general election that year.)
Those numbers are difficult for me to stomach. I couldn’t wait to turn 18 so I could vote, and I don’t understand the logic of those who shirk their responsibility, especially when the excuse is “why bother?” Not only that, but with advance polls and emerging technology to make voting easier, soon there will be even less reason to miss out.
I will probably remain old-fashioned in this practice, as I prefer the pomp and circumstance of the booths and workers and the formal ballot. It’s such a satisfying feeling to walk out of the building, knowing you did your civic duty.
And don’t think for a single second that our kids don’t notice. They do, they ask questions, and it’s such an opportunity for them to learn about democracy when parents are able to have a discussion about the process.
In the view of some special interest groups, one way to compel people to vote would be to make it compulsory, like when you’re called for jury duty. Several countries have gone this route, apparently, and it has (of course) increased turnout. But I would prefer to have faith that citizenship with prevail over obligation.
I get it, I do. People are disenchanted with the election process and usually with the results. One needn’t look any farther than 2016 to see examples of a pool of candidates that have a likeability problem (or maybe even a “trustability” problem), but that’s no excuse to pass up exercising a freedom for which so many have sacrificed their lives.
For those who have said they’re too discouraged, or frustrated, or confused, or angry to vote, here’s what I have to say to you, for the next election: Get over it. Voting is a power and a privilege. We’ll never have a perfect pool of candidates that makes everyone happy, there will always be discord in the election process, and there will always be some degree of opposition. Maybe you won’t be satisfied this cycle, but you might find a candidate you believe in during the next election. And if not, there are lots of other reasons to get out there.
Vote out of disgust. Out of fear. Because you think one candidate did a better job campaigning. Because you’re Canadian. Because you want to make a contribution. Because someone dared you to. Whatever you have to tell yourself.
Just vote.