Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Suppose they gave an election and nobody came

In just a few weeks, on June 12, Ontario residents will go to the polls to elect a new provincial government. For some voters putting Liberal red lipstick on a pig would get it elected. For others, painting it Tory blue would do likewise.

pig red lipstick           pig blue

But for most of us the decision is not a brain-dead one but rather a considered choice based on party platforms and personal situations. We might vote Liberal one time and then Conservative in the next campaign. Or NDP. Or Green. We are what are known as swing voters and we are the most actively courted demographic by all parties. We are the antithesis of ‘the base’.

And if no candidate or party strikes our fancy we are also the demographic most likely to simply not show up to vote. And that’s a problem. Far better to clearly communicate the fact to the powers that be that there is no one on the slate of candidates that we trust or whose platforms we feel are worthy of our support.

It’s not widely advertised but in Ontario we have that ability. (Most provinces do not, nor does it exist in federal elections.) It is called declining to vote. And it’s very easy. When you are handed your ballot by the returning officer just hand it back to him/her and say you decline to vote. They will mark the ballot accordingly and retain it to be tallied when the votes are counted.

Why should you do this? If you seriously don’t believe any option is acceptable then this is the only way to communicate that fact. Spoiled ballots aren’t considered a statement but rather just sloppiness on the part of the voter. And not voting at all is viewed as laziness. A declined ballot is in fact a vote for “None of the Above” and by law must be tallied. You have exercised an important democratic right (and responsibility) and made your views known.

I have been voting in Ontario elections since I first moved to the province in 1970 and never can I recall hearing as much antipathy towards all the parties and their leaders as I have this time. And I am hearing of far too many voters suggesting they may not cast a ballot at all because the choices are so bad. But imagine if all those people instead went to the polling station and effectively chose “None of the Above”. Imagine further if on election day the tally showed tens or even hundreds of thousands of other Ontarians felt likewise. Perhaps then the politicians would get the message that they are not meeting the legitimate needs and expectations of the province’s citizens.

Something to think about.

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