I have to admit it felt kind of cool when my eldest son joined me a few Saturdays ago to make our mark in the referendum on the sports facility at Okanagan College.
You see, he’s 18, and it was his first opportunity to exercise his right to vote and I was happy, and even a little proud if the truth be told, to join him at the polls. When he checked The Morning Star website that night, unprompted I might add (although I believe I might have mentioned to him that the results would be there), he excitedly told me the results and, I’m assuming, felt good about his role in the whole deal.
It was a close shave so it was a perfect civics lesson to show that one vote does count.
And it was a poor turnout so it was another lesson on how the politically engaged and motivated get to decide things for the majority. This was a particularly good lesson for him because I’m sure the percentage of young people that voted was even lower than average.
Some may think this is wrong (although if they didn’t bother to vote then they don’t get to complain), but I’m not aware of a better system out there.
So now we come to the provincial election and, yes, he signed up online, although like most teenage boys it only took some 10 or 13.5 promptings to get him to actually do it. And then it likely took 3.5 minutes to actually get it done.
So now this vote isn’t quite as clear cut as the referendum one.
It’s not a strictly yes or no situation and he’s asking questions, which is sparking family discussions that are interesting. Well, there’s other words to describe them too but we’ll stick with interesting.
Do you vote for the local candidate, the leader or the party?
Well, for many, that’s an easy question to answer because it’s yes, yes, and yes, because for them it’s all the right way to go, for them.
However, the leader isn’t on the ballot in our system, just the local candidate and party. But, of course, the leader of that particular party gets to be premier if enough of his local candidates get elected. Therefore you are also voting for the eventual direction of the province.
So it’s definitely not as black and white, nor clear cut, on how your vote could possibly affect the eventual outcome.
And in this case, one could argue that there are better systems out there, such as proportional representation, which would ensure your vote would eventually count in the legislature (such as if 10 per cent voted Green then one out of 10 MLAs would represent that party in Victoria).
Actually we voted on whether we wanted that system in place a few years back and it got shot down, although I think it was close. And there are challenges with that system also, as it doesn’t guarantee regional representation like the current first-past-the-post style does.
Anyway the discussion continues and occasionally I offer some advice, his mom offers slightly different advice and his union is giving him information to consider as well.
All good stuff.
I encourage him to also read the newspaper (well, truth be told, I’m always encouraging him to do that, and lately he’s been more inclined so all’s good) and check out other sources about the election and who’s running and to make up his own mind about how to vote.
I’m just glad he’s into it at his age and I try not to speechify too much about the importance of democracy or try to make sure he votes a certain way (well, not that much anyway).
I encourage everyone else to make their mark come May 14 as well. It truly does make a difference.