Here in Canada, we are nearing the end of the longest federal election campaign in recent history. When we go to the polls on October 19th, 78 days will have passed since Prime Minister Stephen Harper asked Governor General David Johnston to dissolve Parliament and call a general election. 78 days of rhetoric and sadly, 78 days of name calling and fear mongering. How glad I am that I don’t live in the US where the electoral process goes on for many months!
Regardless of which country you live in, however, when election day finally rolls around, VOTE! Consider the issues, research the candidates, and then VOTE!
Official turnout for our last federal election, held on May 2, 2011, was 61.1%, only 2.3 percentage points higher than the all-time low of 58.8% in 2008! What is the matter with people? Why does 40% of our population fail to cast a ballot? Are we Canadians really that apathetic?
I will vote, if for no other reason than because I can. It’s a privilege that I don’t take lightly. Women before my time fought long and hard so that I could exercise this right. Women like Nellie McClung, well-known advocate and popular speaker on the subject of women’s suffrage in the early 1900s, who said “Our worthy opponents will emphasize the fact that women are the weaker vessel. Well I should think that a woman who cooks for men, washes and bakes and scrubs and sews for her family could stand the extra strain of marking a ballot every four years.”
The United States began allowing women to vote in 1920, after the ratification of the 19th Amendment to their Constitution. Here in Canada, many women voted for the first time the following year, but it wasn’t until much later that all Canadians had the right to vote. Most “people of colour” were prohibited from voting at the provincial and federal level until the late 1940s and it wasn’t until 1960 that every Canadian of age had the right to vote. That’s right! 1960! Prior to that time, aboriginal Canadians were required to give up their treaty rights and renounce their status under the Indian Act in order to qualify for the vote.
While I consider our record abysmal, there are places where the situation is much worse. Women in Saudi Arabia are registering to vote for the first time in history, but keep in mind that they won’t be able to drive themselves to the polling stations as they are still completely banned from driving. They won’t even be able to leave their homes to go and vote without being accompanied by a male guardian!
On election day, get off your butt and VOTE! Don’t make excuses. Don’t be one of the apathetic masses. Vote, if for no other reason than because you can!