Why should people vote? It’s a question I’ve been asked to answer, especially when confronted by people in my age group who don’t understand why the franchise is important, though I am sure there are others.
There’s many reasons to vote, and some of them are conditional. In the current Canadian election, it is a possibility that Stephen Harper’s Conservatives might get a majority government, giving them the right to rule as they see fit for four years. I choose not to judge here on whether or not this would be a positive thing – it depends on your political preferences, but the choice of whether or not this happens should be partially up to you and your vote.
In Canada, sometimes you live in a riding where the incumbent is going to win. This happens a lot, but your vote is never meaningless. If you vote for a party, that party gets funding for the NEXT election from your vote. Just by voting for the party you favour, you can help them do better next time. In Canadian politics, $2 million dollars is a lot of money – the Reform Party of 1993 won over 50 seats, and they started with $2 million dollars, which is what a million votes for a party would get them next time out.
Sometimes you live in a riding where it’s close. That way you can directly affect Parliament. You can help choose if someone makes it or doesn’t. If 1000 people had voted differently in 1997, the Liberals wouldn’t have won a majority government. 1000 people spread throughout 5 ridings. Your vote has power.
Sometimes you want to show that a national party’s platform has traction. The Green Party has gained traction based on their popular vote performance, despite not winning any seats. Hundreds of thousands of Canadians vote Green, and as a result, they get increased screen time. Your vote can show discontent with the current parties and help a new one take form.
But the best reason to vote is that if you do not vote, you do not matter. The government will not put out programs for you, they will not change their habits based on your opinion. They will not see that you exist, and they will ignore you. If you complain, your complaints fall on deaf ears. They will look at you, and your age, and gender, and your race or religion and the statistics, and say, “I know that people your age and location and gender generally don’t vote, so…fuck off.”
That piece of paper is the power for which regimes have toppled this very year. Every time a vote is cast, you are empowering everyone, including, and especially, yourself.
I don’t care who you vote for. Just do it, because democracy always needs you.