The municipal election is less than a month away; I just wish more people cared.
I can’t vote in the upcoming election.
Not, “I won’t,” or “I don’t want to.” I can’t.
As a student from out of province, I don’t meet the residency requirement, which states anyone eligible to vote must have lived in British Columbia for the last six months. For the first time since I turned 18, the city around me will head to the polls and my voice won’t be heard.
I would be lying if I said that didn’t bother me.
Part of that feeling is from an honest desire to exercise my civic rights. As far as I’m concerned, voting is both a right and a social responsibility that I will never take for granted. Equally though, I find it ironic that many of those who can vote, who I would trade places with in a moment, don’t seem to care.
Just a few days ago, I listened with a sort of uncomprehending disappointment as my fellow Omega reporter, Ashley Wadhwani, told me that most of the students she spoke to about the Vote 50 campaign last week were ambivalent at best.
That night, I went home and read all the headlines of how people in Hong Kong were flooding the streets to demand the very rights we’re taking for granted.
Over the years, I’ve heard pretty much every excuse people use to convince themselves that voting is a waste of time. I’ve outlined some of the more common ones below along with why they should not be reason to avoid the polls next month.
Maybe it’s my background in political studies coming out, but I will never believe voting is not important. Despite everything people tell themselves, it is not pointless and it does not take so much effort that people should be able to talk themselves out of it.
Excuse #1: One vote is not going to make a difference
In the most literal sense, this is probably true. Kamloops has tens of thousands of eligible voters. If even half of them hit the polls, the chances of one vote tipping the scales are slim.
But while one vote may not directly decide who sits on the city council or in the mayor’s chair, one person can have a big effect on his or her social circle. If you get talking about the election, chances are you can get at least some of the people around you thinking about it. Every voter is the potential epicentre of a political interest snowball.
In the broader sense, one person not voting may not make a difference, but get a few thousand people thinking their “one vote” doesn’t matter, and suddenly the effect on final election results is no longer so small.
Excuse #2: No one cares what I think
This is not a federal election or the race for Toronto city hall. This is the municipal government of Kamloops. In a town like this, small enough that I frequently run into people I know at the supermarket, getting people to pay attention to you is relatively easy if you have something important to say.
If you want direct contact with the people running for office, chances are you can get it. If they’re at all worth your vote, they will shake your hand, talk about the issues that matter to you and give you the chance to ask the questions you really want to know.
Excuse #3: There’s no one worth voting for
Believe it or not, sometimes I feel this way too. It’s easy to believe that all politicians are greedy or corrupt and there are days that voting feels like choosing the lesser of the evils.
That being said, there’s no lack of candidates in the 2014 Kamloops election. A stunning 28 candidates will be competing for only eight city council seats, and their backgrounds range from recent TRU graduates to activists and business owners. There are also four people are running for mayor. I find it hard to believe not a single one is worth voting for.
There is also the issue of accountability. Even when I am most cynical about politics, I would still vote. If nothing else, it is a way of telling the people in power that they are still accountable to the people and at least one person is still engaged. Not voting is more than just one less ballot in the box. It is you telling the government that you are not watching, not interested and not paying attention.
Excuse #4: I’m too busy to vote
No you’re not.
Even counting the line at the polling station, casting a ballot takes a tiny part of your day.
The most time-intensive part of the whole process (at least if you’re doing it any justice) is making an informed decision. It takes time to know the candidates, particularly when there are so many. It takes time to read their platforms, to know what they stand for and whether those views are in line with your own.
For those of us whom losing a cell phone is like chopping off an arm, that problem is easily solved.
The 2014 Kamloops municipal campaign is as much online as it is boots-on-the-ground. Every candidate has their platform posted somewhere on the Internet. Media outlets like Kamloops This Week have entire sections devoted to keeping track of election news and Vote 50 is doing its best to keep anyone who wants to be in the loop informed with candidate contact information, events and news.
If you go on Facebook while eating your breakfast, if you have a 10-minute bus ride to campus, you can get all the information you need without making your schedule even more hectic.
Granted, a few cat videos may not get watched, but I figure that’s a small price to pay.
Come election day, I will not be at the polls, but I am unbelievably envious of anyone who is.
To those of you who are eligible, I ask that you be aware of how lucky you are. This is not something to take for granted. It’s a privilege, and even here at TRU, it’s a chance not everyone has.