Most of Canada is faced with electing their municipal governments over the course of the next few days or weeks, and the vast majority of the population is going to complain all the way through the election cycle (or not care at all) and then they are just going to not bother with going to the polls at all.
Voter turnout in general for most elections is pathetic, but specifically for municipal elections. They usually have the worst statistics out of any level of government.
I looked up the 2014 results for BC’s municipal election. The city where I voted in 2014 had an absolutely appalling voter turnout rate of 25%, and the city I reside in now was only moderately better at 30%.
With every day that goes by, I hear people complaining about the way things are done in local government and people always want change, that is until they actually are asked to put forth a modicum of effort and cast their ballot. Most people are convinced that their vote doesn’t mean anything, and also that municipal elections are just meaningless and random. That is far from the truth. Local newspapers do an excellent job at reporting the basics of who all these people are and what they stand for, and there are always ways of getting to know them better. In this age of information, there is usually a live stream and recording of any debate or town hall meeting, which makes it even easier to tune in anytime, or from anywhere.
I am a member of a facebook group for this current election where candidates are extremely active and answering the questions posed to them by any citizen. Never before has the world of politics been so accessible. There is simply no excuse anymore of not knowing who candidates are. All you have to do is care, and research.
I’ve been researching the election for weeks at this point, getting to know the candidates profiles and reading every Q&A posted online or in the newspaper. I have created voting charts that are colour coded. I have listened to recordings of all-candidates meetings, and I have visited all of their websites to learn what they support. I have studied issues of the past to form context for all the opinions I have been reading.
And yet, I will not be voting.
You see, my wife and I moved away from our home in Ontario on April 23 of this year, arriving in BC on the 28th. April 28 would be the earliest possible date of me considering myself a resident of BC. You need to have lived in BC for 6 months immediately preceding the election date in order to vote, and sadly this means that I am 8 days short of being eligible to vote.
I have done everything I can think of to see if there is any way around this. I have phoned Elections BC, and I have read through the entire Elections Act of BC. I have even gone so far as to contact the Chief Elections Officer in my city, explaining my plight.
I am desperate and passionate to vote, and yet I cannot.
I have done all this work and research, knowing that I most likely would not be allowed to vote, but I do not consider it a waste of my time. I love being informed on local issues, and forming my own opinions. I love being fully invested in politics and seeing what happens, and what might come next. I love getting worked up about issues, because I love to care about what goes on in the world around me, and to feel passionate and invested.
Municipal elections are arguably the most important.
These people live and work in the same neighbourhoods that you do, drive on the same bumpy pothole filled streets, and shop at the same grocery stores. They see the same problems that you do. The majority of them will understand your life and your surroundings, and they have the greatest chance of directly impacting your daily life, out of any elected position.
Who else do you think is going to care about your garbage being picked up on time, or fixing that one intersection that gives you nightmares on your commute? You want to support these people in making your community a better place don’t you? We all are in this together, and we all have a voice.
Do your research and make your choices. Read opinions from the “other side”.
Vote with conviction.
There are those of us who aren’t allowed.