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.

9 Responses

  1. Awesome summary! I wholeheartedly agree with your ways of countering all those excuses. I, too, worked at a polling station one year, and can also vouch for how efficient the process is — especially if you have your voter card, but even without, it’s not gonna take the three hours you can have off!

    One more thing I like to add, when I’m trying to convince someone to vote: if you don’t vote, that’s like forfeiting your right to complain about the government! That’s not worth it, is it? So GO VOTE!

  2. One thing people don’t realize is that their vote for a certain party does result in that party getting money. So if you’re a Green party supporter and you know your candidate doesn’t have a hope in hell of winning, by voting for them anyway you put money in their coffers which will help them for the next election.

    But yes, we’re apathetic. And it’s largely because I think none of our candidates are inspiring. No matter who runs the joint it’s all going to be more of the same.

  3. In my books, if you don’t vote, I don’t want to hear you whine about *anything* the government does until the next election.

    If you aren’t happy with the electoral system, then find the others who think the same way and work at making a change. Until then though, vote for the person who you think will be open to your ideas – or – imagine this – ask them *before* the election.

    Voting is easy, fast and not a particularly challenging task. So, get out, vote, otherwise, be very quiet.

  4. No-one’s vote counts. Really. It’s rigged, it’s a game, it’s all predetermined. Parliament, the Senate, they’re all for show. Voting lends credibility to an antiquated system that continually insults the intelligence of all citizens by giving the illusion of democracy.
    For more, visit http://www.zeitgeistmovie.com

  5. The problem in areas that are “sold” to one party or the other is that people in those areas feel their votes won’t count against the majority. This goes directly against the entire premise of democracy, which is supposed to give *equal voice* to the minority position, even if it isn’t the final decision.

    This is just as relevant in the ‘States as it is in Canada.

    For instance, I live in the state of Alabama down here in the deep south. Our state’s votes in the presidential elections have gone almost unanimously to the Republican party for the past few decades. The problem isn’t a lack of Democrat and independent voters; we actually have a quite a few democrats elected into state government positions. It’s that they feel their state is so “back-water repub’,” that they don’t bother to rally together and go to vote.

    It applies in any democracy, and I’m glad to see someone speaking out about it.

  6. Great post Sue. I would add another excuse – and rebuttal.
    Excuse #4: The candidate I like in my riding isn’t a member of the party that’s going to form the government so what’s the use in voting for them – they won’t have any power.
    Rebutttal: That’s why we have the Opposition – official and not. If you like a candidate in your riding that has a good chance of winning the riding, but isn’t a member of the party likely to win, then vote for them so they can be a strong opposition voice in the House. The government will already have lots of yes men (and women). Democracy depends on opposition.

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