Monday, 6 October 2008

Why you should vote... admittedly weak argument.

Like many, I find the current FPTP electoral system a shambles. Its hard to find a reason to vote, when over 60% of the votes in a riding are tossed away as irrelevant after the winner has been declared.

After the failure of MMP in Ontario, I was embittered and swore that I would never vote provincially or federally again. Like many heated decisions, this one was rash.

Why I continue to vote (but am still bitter about the process).

1) It's the only game in town, (other than protest or rebellion). When you're dying of dehydration, you'll drink from the dirtiest water if its the only water available. Similarly, if you want to make your voice heard in our democratic society, you're only option is to vote. (Updater: As Adam points out in the comments, I contradict my original statement in point 2 below)

2) As one embittered co-worker describes the system; our government is run by big business and special interest groups. While I'm not THAT cynical myself, there is a point there. If you do not vote, you give more power to the funded special interest groups. As citizens, we do hold way if we speak in a collective voice. We got Elizabeth May into the debates by protesting her exclusion. We also let the powers that be know, (if only by proxy) the issues we support by the party we vote for. Granted if enough people skip the ballot box, then this power of the collective is lost. But don't let that dissuade you. Change only comes from action. Inaction leads to apathy and decay.

3) Lastly, your vote does mean something even if it doesn't change the balance of power in parliament. Parties are funded for an election based on their popular vote tallies. By voting for the party of YOUR choice, you help that party survive to fight another day. (And this is also why voting strategically may backfire. You may be denying funding to the party of your choice, and funding the party you find slightly distasteful).

I know there are arguments that can counter these above. If you are cynical and angry or totally apathetic, this won't change your mind. However, if like me, you still wish to be part of the process, hopefully these points will encourage you to get out and vote.

PS. It may not be an incentive, but the advance polls are a perfect opportunity to vote. I myself used them this weekend. Small to no line-ups, and the times allow you to vote at your convenience. You don't have to rush home the night of election and fight the crowds to register your vote. Its a very pleasant experience.


ADHR said...

I think I should point out that your first and second points are contradictory. Your first point says that voting is how you have a voice in this society. Your second point says that a non-voting mechanism (protests) allowed people to have a voice.


Catelli said...

That's why you're a professor and why I fix computers for a living....

ADHR said...

You sure it's not because I'm insane enough to stay in university for 10 years (and counting)?

Catelli said...

No comment!

Catelli said...

So you gonna vote or what? ;)

ADHR said...

Probably not. Everything I see suggests Hall-Findlay is going to cakewalk to a win. Even if she didn't, the next nearest last time (and the time before that) was the Con. The NDP candidate consistently polls in the teens, and the Green candidate even lower. So, no point.

Incidentally, it's not "Adrian". ;)

Catelli said...

Oops. I was relying on memory from clicking on your profile a few months back. Now I'm stuck trying to figure out, "who the hell is Adrian then?"

I respect your decision. How could I not? I wasn't going to vote a few months back myself.

ADHR said...

I'm still not entirely sure why you're bothering. In your riding, could your vote really make a difference?

Catelli said...

Bothered actually, we voted last weekend.

Did it make a difference locally? probably not. Goodyear is probably a shoe-in.

Why did I still vote? well Tom Flanagan in the Globe and Mail today describes it better (but its point 3 in my post)

The effect is clearest with the Greens, a party that has never elected anyone to the House of Commons and got less than 5 per cent of the vote in both 2004 and 2006. Under the old system of party finance, its supporters would have given up and it would now be a fringe party, nominating a few candidates but not having a significant impact. Yet, under the new regime, all pollsters (except Nik Nanos, who has a different way of asking the ballot question) have the Greens in double digits.

The Greens have been able to thrive because they received enough votes in 2004 and 2006 (more than 2 per cent) to qualify for an annual subsidy of about $1-million - enough to finance a professional organization and national campaign. Thus, without ever electing anyone, an advocacy group has turned itself into a viable political party, courtesy of the system of public subsidies; and even if the Greens never elect anyone, their status as a party makes their advocacy more effective.

I did vote Green, so from this I can take comfort that my vote will count for the Green Party itself.

HT Greg Staples

ADHR said...

Fair enough. I have concerns about the Green Party, though. Looking through their platform, I don't see much about the economics which is all that different from the (poor) policies of the Liberal Party. That may be a side-effect of my not paying all that much attention, but nothing really struck me.