It’s been interesting, and somewhat disconcerting, to see how many people have not been paying attention to the provincial election.
The level of public discourse is much more muted than it has been for some time, although political discussion is more vibrant than in the past two provincial campaigns, in 2005 and 2009.
Many people are, for a wide variety of reasons, turned off. They have no interest in the political process, don’t care who is elected and are oblivious to the effects of government in their day-to-day lives.
Political parties must take some of the blame. They turn their candidates, who are often interesting and genuine people, into robots. They read from prepared notes, don’t veer off script (and if they do so, it is at their peril) and enforce caucus-type discipline during a campaign.
In the words of political commentator Sean Holman, who has produced a fascinating documentary of the same name, they are Whipped.
This discipline applies to all four parties who are contesting the majority of ridings. While a few candidates do go off script or are not afraid to state their views, most stick to a very narrow line of conversation. This is very obvious at candidates’ meetings.
But parties cannot take all the blame for the declining interest in politics.
For most of the past 30 years (in the 1983 election, there was a 70 per cent turnout), voter participation has declined with each succeeding election. Ultimately, this comes down to each individual voter. For whatever reason, many have decided there’s no point in voting.
In some cases, they come from families where there is no history of voting by parents. This is often passed on to the next generation.
In other cases, they mean to vote, but get distracted by the busyness of everyday life. When voting day comes, they simply run out of time.
That’s why a greater emphasis on advanced polls in this election was an excellent step in the right direction. Figures I have heard seem to indicate that a lot more people took advantage of the opportunity to vote ahead of time.
The question is, will there be a similarly good turnout on election day, or will the numbers at the polls be diminished, as a result of many people voting early.
Student voting events, as took place in many Langley schools on Monday, are another way to build interest in the process of voting. But despite these efforts, the numbers of people in their late teens and 20s who vote is very disheartening.
Seniors, on the other hand, are the most diligent voters and one wonders what voter turnout numbers will be like in 20 years when most of the current crop of seniors are gone.
If you are reading this before the polls close at 8 p.m. Tuesday and haven’t voted, I urge you to do so. Democracy has its flaws, and sometimes they are big enough to drive a truck through, but as Winston Churchill said, it still beats all the alternatives.