Why vote this October: Discover 10 reasons why you should be more politically aware

By Darin Nesbitt, Instructor, Department of Political Science

Canada has one of the lowest voter turnout rates among the world’s electoral democracies. Canadians pride themselves on their devotion to democracy, diversity and choice, so it is surprising – and disappointing – that so many eligible voters do not exercise this most basic and essential democratic right.

Don’t forget to vote this October! Visit our website for more information on how you can vote on campus. The time to discuss why voting matters is particularly relevant in light of the upcoming federal election on Oct. 21. With advance voting opportunities readily available at the College starting Oct. 5, I asked students in some of my political science classes to come up with reasons why citizens should cast their ballot. There are many such reasons (too many to list in a short blog post!), but here are some to consider:

  1. Apathy leads to the kind of government that apathy deserves.
  2. Positive change requires effort by voters to make it happen.
  3. Citizens need to vote because governments provide essential public goods such as security, water and education.
  4. The outcomes of elections will affect our future, both in the short- and long-term.
  5. If people do not vote, government decision makers will not accurately represent the diverse interests and needs of the community.
  6. If citizens are content with things as they are, they should vote to ensure things remain that way.
  7. Citizens have a duty to vote similar to other civic duties such as obeying laws, paying taxes or performing jury duty.
  8. If you don’t exercise your right to vote, chances are you may forfeit it. Use it or lose it!
  9. Those who do not vote are not entitled to complain about how the country is governed.
  10. The right to vote is a fundamental right that women, Aboriginal peoples and other historically marginalized peoples bravely struggled to be recognized.

To vote is to participate in a vital public ritual that nourishes and sustains our democratic culture and institutions. The decision to vote is unlike deciding whether to order a pumpkin-spiced latte or a mocha cappuccino. The act of voting does not typically produce such immediate and palpable satisfaction. The broader societal effects of voting (or not voting) are somewhat opaque and seemingly remote, but the governments formed as a result of elections directly impact citizens and the community.

In the absence of regular and fair elections, the only recourse for citizens to register their dissatisfaction with governments is civil unrest, as millions in the Middle East demonstrated during the Arab Spring movement. Those who insist their votes mean little would do well to reflect on the words of former U.S. president John Quincy Adams, who wrote that citizens should “always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is not lost.”

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