Opinion

Indifference to democracy

Editor:

Not even a third of eligible voters in White Rock participated in the civic election Nov. 19.

The low voter turnout was no surprise. It was close to the level officials had predicted, and in line with voters’ ho-hum participation rates in most civic elections.

But it’s nothing that anyone should get accustomed to. It’s nothing anyone should call “normal.”

The low turnout is unacceptable. Citizens’ repeated failure to vote, without a compelling excuse, translates into a dangerous indifference towards democracy.

Each citizen needs to be reminded that at the moment they are casting votes, they are not doing it to please another individual, they are creating and sustaining the very fabric of democracy.

Researchers claim they can calculate the probability that an individual will vote. They base their estimates on a combination of factors, including the likelihood that a person’s vote will influence the outcome of the election; the amount of satisfaction a person gets from voting; and the time and effort involved in voting. Now, this formula might explain non-voting behaviour, but it doesn’t excuse it.

In Canada, people have a civic obligation to cast a ballot, even if they believe it won’t change the outcome. It’s the most significant way a citizen participates in government and contributes to our democracy. Let’s all remember that wars have been fought and lives lost to allow us all the right to vote.

It’s also important to vote because in a low-turnout election a disproportionately small number of citizens can exert undue influence and create outcomes that don’t reflect the wishes of the majority.

Voting is as easy as stopping to get that cup of coffee. But if convenience and duty aren’t reason enough for non-voters to change their ways, maybe embarrassment can do it. Non-voters should be reminded they ought to be ashamed of what they’ve created. Bad policies, regulations and laws are created by good people who don’t vote.

 

Steven Hughes, White Rock

 


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