It couldn’t have been easier. My wondering how to register to vote in the May provincial election was resolved when a letter arrived with all the necessary information.
Bring on the election, I said. I’m ready.
Well, almost. Better see who the candidates are.
It took another 10 minutes on the computer to read up on the candidates who have filed so far in my riding.
This participating in democracy isn’t really that hard. More people should try it. A lot more.
In the 2009 provincial election, only 50 per cent of British Columbians voted. I’m sure most of you who sat on your hands had good reasons. After all, it was hockey season and the Canucks had lost to the Chicago Blackhawks the night before, ending their Stanley Cup chances for the year. After that kind of blow, who can focus on something trivial like an election? When you’re engrossed in figuring out what went wrong and pondering Roberto Luongo’s future, you’re not likely to have the mental energy to ponder the province’s future.
Besides, you know there’s going to be an election every four years. Who knows when the Canucks are going to be in the playoffs again?
“I think people are quite capable of dealing with hockey and an election,” said then-premier Gordon Campbell after the election with the same certainty that he knew British Columbians would love their post-election surprise a couple of months later — the harmonized sales tax.
B.C.’s voter turnout hit a record low in the 2009 election after declining from 70 per cent in 1983. At that time, chief electoral officer Harry Neufeld said people “were simply disengaged with the political process and just didn’t have an interest in following politics, being involved and being part of the voting process.”
It’s easy to be turned off by political shenanigans, soured on a process prone to being taken over by vocal special-interest groups and well-oiled (or just plain greasy) political machines.
But not voting is handing the election over to the ne’er-do-wells and manipulators. A low voter turnout is a grand opportunity for special-interest groups — they don’t have to work so hard to swing things their way.
I think Neufeld’s observation points more to plain old apathy than it does to disenchantment. People with more interesting things to do just can’t be bothered.
Here’s a solution that will increase participation, save money and be fun, all at the same time.
Don’t hold one of those boring old elections with ballots and voting stations. If the people won’t come to the election, take the election to the people. Do it on Facebook. The candidates can post their faces, along with the really important information, such as what they had for breakfast and what the cat just did on the carpet. That seems to attract a lot of attention these days.
Then instead of driving all the way to a place to cast ballots, we simply click “like” for the ones we want.
Candidates’ kids can post pictures of themselves holding posters that read: “My daddy says if we can get 15,000 ‘likes,’ he will get us a new puppy and he will get an expense account about which he will be very vague.”
Enough smart-aleck stuff — an election is serious business. Dig through the silliness, the puffery and pomposity, and focus on the issues.
If you go looking for the perfect candidate, the one who aligns in every way with your views and aspirations, you are guaranteed to be disappointed. Ain’t no such animal. The best you can do is find the closest fit. You might even think you are forced to choose the least of the evils, but, despite what their opponents might say, most candidates are decent human beings with the capability of doing good things.
The odds of them doing good things are greatly enhanced if we let them know what we want and hold them accountable.
We need to stop regarding voting as a duty to be performed sporadically, and view it as a privilege as well as a right.
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