From the Editors
Opinions / November 4, 2014
The choice is in the vote.
By Samantha Thompson [executive editor]
In high school, I was that persistent kid that told everyone they needed to vote. All the time. My 18th birthday was a time to celebrated solely because it meant I could vote in my first election, and I was in fact annoyed that it hadn’t happened a few months earlier so my debut as a voter could’ve happened in a federal election.
This stance of pro-voting was easy to take because all of my friends were the same. Most of us were members of political parties, and we’d spend days discussing what people like Michael Ignatieff or Jack Layton had said yesterday in Question Period. It was a time of bliss, ignorance, and debates.
I bring this up now because, as you’re maybe aware, Nov. 15 will bring local elections to municipalities throughout the province. There are many articles in this issue that address many different layers of the municipal elections occurring south of the Fraser, and I encourage you to read them if you’re looking to figure out what’s happening in two weeks.
However, I’m not going to tell you that you have to vote.
Yes, voting is a privilege, and one that we (marginalized groups in particular) haven’t had for very long. But as we head into this election, there are several options available to us.
One, of course, is to vote. Vote for the candidates who you think will best represent your ideal city. Cast your ballot and call it a fairly productive day. Following the election, hound your new representatives to make sure they actually follow through on campaign promises, and remind them that your vote helped them in their quest for election.
Or perhaps you’re one of the many young people who feel that none of the candidates represent them. Maybe you think that the present electoral system is fraudulent, or that this system is unfair to too many people. In that case, your best bet may be to head to a polling station, and write out the lyrics to T-Swizzle’s “Shake It Off”. This is what is known as “spoiling your ballot,” and it is a very special thing because it is a form of written protest. What you’re saying with a spoiled ballot is that you showed up to vote, but the system or the candidates don’t represent you. This makes it impossible for politicians to write off their population as being apathetic, rather than seeing that people aren’t voting because they feel disenfranchised.
The third option is choosing not to vote altogether. If this is your decision, I encourage you to make your protest known. It is unacceptable to not vote simply because you are uninformed on the issues, or because you can’t be bothered to travel a short distance to a voting station. However, if you choose not to vote because you don’t support the present state system, I respect your decision.
In casting a ballot (or not casting one) you are participating in a political act. Is this neoliberal, capitalist society that we’re presently in benefitting most of us? No. But how you choose to work against that system, by voting or not voting, is up to you. All I ask is that you take away the power from politicians by making it known why you made your decision. Don’t let them blame the low voter turnout on apathy; I have greater faith that in this election, we will vote or not vote depending on an entirely conscious, political decision that we hope will bring us a step closer to achieving a society that works for you, even if you’re not part of the privileged class.
If you don’t vote, you still reserve the right to be critical, and to protest. Following the state-sanctioned form of participation is not the only way to create change. But if you do vote, you too are still participating in a call for change. There are many ways to move toward a just society, and as long as we’re still working for change, I have faith that in the end we’re going to be okay.