Close but no cigar.

October 19, 2008

The Ubyssey campus newspaper had an interesting article on voter apathy today.  They rightly point out that the low turnout in the recent election was not just apathy it was a symptom of a deeper malaise about the nature of our democracy.  This election’s voter turnout was the lowest in Canadian history, but not because people just don’t care, or the leaders were boring.  Sure, that’s part of it, but the real reason is that so many people know their vote won’t count.

They’re right.  About 62% of Canadians this past election didn’t get the government they want and if you look at the ways the votes are counted even many conservatives, in urban areas in particular, were not contributing to the makeup of parliament with their vote.  After noting this and pointing out that a greater reform of our voting system is sorely needed the editors of the Ubyssey then throw up their hands (will we every get the shrugging pictures of Dion out of our heads, sigh…)  and proclaim

There’s no easy answer to the problem of low voter turnout. Electoral reform is becoming a hot topic and, who knows, maybe it will bring about change. Unlikely. Dion looks like’s he done whether he wants to sneak out the back door quietly or get dragged out through the front, kicking and screaming. Maybe the new Liberal leader can offer up an attractive alternative to the status quo.

Hopefully.

The only guarantee is that until Canadians feel confident that their votes matter, and until we’re given a wealth of options, we’re going to see turnout that reflects our apathy. And that’s going to lead to, well, more of the same.

This is a pattern that is showing up again and again on message boards and across the blogosphere.  “Its bad, but nothing will change, it never does.”  “I voted strategically and still didn’t beat them, next time I’ll vote with my heart.”  Its great that people recognize the system is broken, but the answer is not to give up or to moan about lack of political leadership.  Its been shown that when people get a real vote, and they know their vote counts, then voter turnout goes way up.

The leaders don’t have a say anymore, they’ve already started the ball inevitably rolling forward, and once it gets going, it will be an unstoppable mass.  That chance is the next provincial election in BC.  We get to vote on a true, proportional system.  And this time it will pass…unless people are waiting for the next Liberal leader to save us.  Or maybe the NDP, oh wait, they passed up the chance for proportional voting long ago. What about the Greens? I hope so, but some Greens seem more concerned with chastising their leader.

The best chance we have now, is us.  Tell people about the referendum, find out about STV, and vote yes.  Once people get a taste of real democracy, they’ll never want to go back, count on it.

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