Vote: Just do it
|By Lisa Gervais - Editor | Nov. 1, 2018|
When I was growing up, voting was held in reverence in my home. Whether federal, provincial or municipal, my parents always dressed up and went out to the polling station to do their civic duty. And, this scenario didn’t just play out at our house, but all of the houses in our small town. People were proud to vote and believed their vote mattered. I guess it was a different, perhaps less cynical, time. Those values have been instilled in me and I have never missed a vote, although I don’t usually dress up.
So, when I see declining voter turnout, such as was experienced in much of Haliburton County this past municipal election, it disheartens me and I want to know why. T
he fact the numbers were down in Minden Hills doesn’t really surprise me. The races there, while compelling, were nowhere as contentious as 2014 when Brent Devolin and Brigitte Gall squared off against controversial former mayor Barb Reid. People were pretty passionate about that particular election.
Same this time around in Dysart. It was the only one of the four lower-tier municipalities that saw voter turnout increase. One could argue a hotly-contested mayoral race, between incumbent Murray Fearrey and Andrea Roberts, generated interest. The same with Dennis Casey versus Patrick Kennedy.
As for Highlands East and Algonquin Highlands, some have commented it was a bit of a ho-hum affair. Although Cheryl Ellis did give Dave Burton a bit of a run for his money for mayor, voters seemed content enough with the status quo. Same in Algonquin Highlands, where three candidates were acclaimed. So, juicy races attract the voters.
My other question, though, would be about process. Would it not make sense, for example, to have the same methods of voting across the county? Only Minden Hills does not use vote-by-mail, instead utilizing a combination of paper, internet and phone balloting. In the lead-up to the Dysart vote, we encountered people who didn’t realize they could only vote by mail, instead thinking they could show up at a polling station on election day.
We also got a lot of feedback on our Facebook pages from people saying they never got voting information, so didn’t vote. And at least one candidate told us he wasn’t happy with how Canada Post handled mail-in ballots in his municipality. Perhaps municipalities could adopt a similar voting method for the next election to at least eliminate that layer of confusion for voters.
But, ultimately, like the person who said they didn’t get their voting package, we have to ask why they didn’t contact their municipality for one. If they were truly serious about voting, they would have.
And, so, we come full circle. How do we return reverence to the voting process?
I was reading an article in Psychology Today in September, and it made the most simplistic, yet compelling argument I’ve heard. People think one vote cannot change an outcome. However, if everybody thinks that way, there’s more than just one vote lost. That article reiterated that voter turnout can decide elections. Some have argued that low voter turnout cost Hillary Clinton the 2016 US presidential election to Donald Trump because voter turnout was especially low among Democrats, minorities and young people.
So, voters, get ready for next year’s federal election and get serious about making your votes count.
Lisa Gervais is the editor for The Highlander.