Is it Okay Not to Vote?

Alexea Johnston, Queens University.

We have all been told that because we are gifted with the right to vote, it is wrong not to. However, with the right to vote comes with the responsibility not to poorly exercise this right.

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With the federal election underway, Canadians must make the difficult decision of voting for the country’s next leader. In 2015, during the last federal election, more than 68% of eligible Canadian voters turned out to vote. The 2015 turnout was higher than the 61% who voted in the 2011 federal election.

There are multiple factors that affect voting participation in Canada like education, social class and immigration status.  Age is one of the more influential factors in voting participation. In the 2011 election, only 50% of eligible voters aged 18 to 24 participated in the election. Comparatively, older age groups are found to be more likely to vote, with 70% of eligible 45 to 54-year-olds and 82% of eligible 65 to 74-year-olds voting..

The decision to vote can be easy but deciding which candidate to vote for is sometimes impossible. After the 2016 American presidential election, Noam Chomsky identified a moral issue regarding voting: when faced with the decision between something bad and something worse, which one should we choose? Ultimately, the political parties that fit into each category often depend on personal judgement. This judgment often causes a divide among Canadian voters.

Voting in Canada is becoming a polarizing decision, largely due to the use of social media, mainstream news outlets, and the loyalty some Canadians have to certain parties. In a study conducted by the Public Policy Forum and McGill University’s Max Bell School of Public Policy called the Digital Democracy Project, they “found that people did not appear to make meaningful distinctions in their views between politicians from opposing parties and their supporters”. In other words, the polarization of politics not only influences people’s opinions and votes, but also affects their opinions on other Canadians.

Consequently, voting is more than a just political decision, it is a personal one. With such a loaded gun, this creates the question of whether we should all fulfil our right to vote, even when there is no one we want to elect. We have all been told that because we are gifted with the right to vote, it is wrong not to. However, with the right to vote comes with the responsibility not to poorly exercise this right.

The unfortunate reality of elections is that there will always be an outcome. Each eligible voter must take responsibility when deciding whether they are going to vote or abstain. While it is important to remember that voting is your opportunity to have your say in the outcome, voting often has personal and moral costs to individuals. Whether it is due to a lack of information or an inability to accept responsibility for a party’s potential decisions, we must learn to accept the decision not to vote in these instances as a legitimate alternative to voting, one that isn’t wrong.

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Sources

Paperny, Anna Mehler. “Federal Election 2015: Voter Turnout Highest in Decades.” Global News, Global News, 21 Oct. 2015, https://globalnews.ca/news/2287464/federal-election-2015-voter-turnout-highest-since-1997/.

“Factors Associated with Voting.” Statistics Canada: Canada’s National Statistical Agency / Statistique Canada : Organisme Statistique National Du Canada, 27 Nov. 2015, https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/75-001-x/2012001/article/11629-eng.htm.

Paas-Lang, Christian. “Canadians Are Polarized, and Intense Party Loyalty Could Be to Blame: Study.” Global News, Global News, 12 Sept. 2019, https://globalnews.ca/news/5892865/canada-polarization-study/.

Saul, Heather. “Noam Chomsky on the Biggest Mistake the Left Made in This Election.” The Independent, Independent Digital News and Media, 25 Nov. 2016, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/noam-chomsky-donald-trump-hillary-clinton-a7438526.html.