Within seven days of reading this, British Columbians will head to the polls to elect our next provincial government. Election day is Tuesday, May 14.
So, never mind the standard question, “Who are you going to vote for?” How about the more essential question, “Are you going to vote?”
In our last provincial election, only 50% of eligible voters showed up at the polls. That was down a whopping 8% from the 2005 election. If the trend continues, we could see fewer than half the eligible voters in BC determining the fate of the entire province. To those of you who can’t be bothered to vote, I’m glad you trust the rest of us.
Around any election time, you hear this expression, “If you don’t vote, you can’t bitch”. Sorry if that offends, but it’s an important sentiment. If you don’t engage in the most basic and valuable of democratic rights, then you don’t have a right to complain about who does or does not get elected.
Election 2013 is feeling pretty uneventful, like watching a slow-moving horse race, even though there’s lots of important issues to consider: the economy, oil and gas pipelines, the environment, health care and education to name just a few. Perhaps BC is limping along adequately so people aren’t angry enough to get engaged. That’s one of the few things that drive voter participation in North America – anger: anger over an emotional issue, over the economy, over arrogant administrations. Anger shouldn’t drive us. Instead, we should treat voting day as a celebration of freedom and democracy. We should call elections “Democracy Celebration Day”.
Not too long ago on the other side of the planet, we watched in awe as the Arab Spring ignited — citizens across Northern Africa rebelled, battled, and in far too many cases, died, for the right to elect and live under true democracy. What a devastating and humbling reminder for all of us who take democracy for granted.
Have a chat with an immigrant Canadian who came from a non-democratic country and they’ll be happy to share with you the value of the right to vote. So then how can so many of us think nothing of blowing off voting in local, regional or federal elections?
Voting is a privilege. Voting is an honour. Voting should never be taken for granted.
It’s sad that to think that we’ll be impressed if more than 50% of voters turn out for the 2013 BC election. Because democracy is a 100% undertaking. Our governments impact us all, yet almost half of us don’t feel it’s worth casting a vote. Are things really that perfect? If they are, then the media is really missing this perfection story.
Some of you may feel that your vote doesn’t matter. But it always does. Many races are decided by fewer than 100 votes. Your vote matters.
So get engaged. Get informed. And ALWAYS exercise your right to vote. Then be grateful for the fact that you live in a country where you have the freedom to do so.
~ Maureen Douglas, CPF-IAF. Mo writes, consults and speaks about the power of positive public, workplace and team engagement. Click here for Mo’s FREE e-Guide to Better Public Engagement. Follow her on Twitter.