I’m writing this since today is Canada’s federal election, and an American election looms ominously in the background of our own country’s shortlived and rather disappointing election campaign.
I know that many people don’t vote; whether because they are disillusioned, disinterested, or simply disgusted, voting is seen as ‘ineffective’ and pointless. While I share your apathy with our single-member-plurality system, I don’t see voting in the same light. The single member plurality system has the unfortunate consequence of electing governments who usually have not cullled the majority of the popular vote. This isn’t to say, however, that your vote is entirely ineffectual. Consider this:
Your vote is $1.25 toward the party of your choice; that money goes toward supporting ideas and platforms, which you, as a citizen of a democracy, wish to be heard. If the voice of the people the “demos” is not heard by and large, then truly, the plurality of our system are the ones running the show. Furthermore, if for example, you are voting for a party whose share of the popular vote is on the lower end of the scale, every vote they receive goes towards granting them the monies they need to be seen by the media etc… If they receive over a certain percentage of the popular vote, they are automatically accorded a stipend to build their organization. This is a particularly resonant point I think when addressing parties such as the Green Party, who hover around 5% of the national vote.
So much is made of voting strategically. Given the nature of our system, it’s almost impossible not to vote in this manner. However, I don’t think that ultimately this is helpful. It might stopgate a Tory majority, but it isn’t going to help the case of proportional representation. If the smaller parties are given are larger share of the vote they are empowered to promote this system, which is, I think, the only thing which might shift our party-system beyond a two-party deadlock. I’m not going to tell anyone how to vote, but I will ask you to look at the reality of your riding and think about where your vote is going before you throw your vote at the lesser of two evils….I think the most important thing everyone can do is to make the conscious decision to vote and to inform themselves in order to do so. And by inform I mean go and glance at your candidate; are you comfortable with someone of their opinions and strengths speaking for you? Or does the overarching ideology of the party matter more? In this case, take a look at your party’s platform; while I know we’re all busy people, even a cursory glance will give you a clue as to what their government might look like. How quickly do they get to the point? Can they relate to you? How far ahead are they thinking?
On a more personal note, I really, really, really hope that Elizabeth May wins her riding. Not only because I do vote green (and be warned here is my bias), but also because I believe she is such a refreshing breath of fresh air. Having an intelligent, unfettered voice such as hers in the House of Commons would be a fantastic stimulus to real debate. As one of (two?) representatives of her party, she would be little constrained by the kinds of internal mechanisms (party discipline) which tend to restrict an MP’s latitude in speaking on issues which affect his constituency. I genuinely believe that May could do so much to inject civility and energy into a rather depressingly stifled commons…May, as both leader, and an outsider, is so far outside of the socilalization which most MPs encounter as part of the party-machines.
While choosing to vote may be simply that, a ‘choice,’ electing not to participate in the forum where your voice needs to be heard really shouldn’t be the de-facto response. Apathy is not going to change our voter system….