Kicked in the Ballot Box

The mere act of voting is not a virute

When presented with a voting cubicle the citizen has three choices. To vote, to walk away, or to spoil the ballot. Spoil your ballot! is the cry of he who is politically engaged and frustrated with those who are not. Desperate to get the non voter into the cubicle, the neophyte grasps at lame an ineffective symbolism to shame the apathetic into participation. But, as my friend Patrick says (who is as politically interested as they come)  “What you are saying by spoiling your ballot is that politicians needn’t be concerned with you.” The logical garden path I hope you are following me on leads to a very obvious conclusion: not voting and spoiling your ballot is the same.

Politicians need only be concerned with citizens who vote tactically. If you vote Liberal because you have always voted Liberal, then you are as politically disengaged as the non voter. Politician A can put your vote in the win column before the election begins. Politician B knows that he can’t change your mind. Both politicians can forget about you.

But the citizen capable of changing their mind, who is engaged enough to, perhaps, vote for a third party candidate they know can’t win (but wants to grow that party) and in the meantime is satisfied that their ‘lesser of two evils’ pick is going to win without their vote, is the citizen that candidates must cater too. That level of commitment by the citizen – where they are capable of carefully weighing subtle balances of causes and effect – is what furthers democracy, not the mere act of naive participation.

So, if I may be so blunt, I think simple appeals to the non voting public to “get out and vote” are not only ineffective, but do not further building the country we want to live in. What might, is demonstrating why politics is not only important, but interesting. Interesting enough to desire sufficient information to participate intelligently.

Robin Lindsay

rockrobinoff[at]gmail.com

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