A number of the states in the U.S. have seen a wave of voting measures designed to make it harder for people to vote. Now in Canada, we have the Fair Elections Act with provisions that increase the I.D. requirements and prohibit Elections Canada from encouraging you to vote.
Even more insidious (as in less apparent) are efforts to make people less interested in voting. This might seem counter-intuitive to you. You might be asking, why would politicians prefer many of us not vote? There are two important reasons.
1. IGNORING YOU
The first reason can apply to all politicians. When you and people like you don't vote, politicians don't have to pay attention to you. Governing is almost always about compromise. There is not enough money to do everything we would like. Ideally, we would like tons of services and no taxes, but that is just not possible. When large groups of people don't vote like say, young people - governments don't have to give them as much attention. Furthermore, they don't have to commit as many resources to their priorities which means easier compromises. What's worse, the more people that don't vote, the more the parties can focus on the (far) less than 1% of the population that donates at least $200 to a political party. The more people don't vote, the more hardliners have a say, the more power is concentrated, the more money becomes important.
It's not just talk to suggest a small percentage of the population can set the agenda. I remember when Sunday shopping was an issue in the province I was living in at the time. The vast majority of the public was in favour of Sunday shopping, but most really didn't care about the issue. Shopping just wasn't going to sway the vote of the average pro-shopping citizen. Those opposed to Sunday shopping though were strongly opposed and it was a key issue for them -- it did sway their vote. As a result, it took many years for Sunday shopping to be approved. There was no reason for a politician to approve it. What it finally took was for someone to say it would be good for a then sagging economy to finally get the majority to care.
2. WINNING ELECTIONS
The second reason some politicians want to make it more difficult to vote is that barriers to voting affect some people more than others. Take voter I.D. laws for example. If you are wealthy, you probably have lots of I.D. such as a driver's licence. If you are poor, you are less likely to have good I.D. -- you may not even have a fixed address. So, if you are a party that tends to win the wealthy vote and lose the poor vote, it is to your advantage to make it more difficult for the poor to cast a ballot. Crazily, some politicians have even bragged about this.
Politicians are able to get away with voter suppression tactics to help them win elections for a couple of reasons. Most of us don't really care. Plus, saying something like the measure are designed to help reduce 'Voter Fraud' sounds reasonable even though voter fraud is just not a serious issue in North America.
THEY ARE NOT ALL THE SAME
One reason people don't vote is they feel it won't make a difference -- that all politicians are the same. They aren't! I am not going to argue that some parties are morally superior to other parties -- you are going to have to reach your own conclusions on that. However, the parties do have real differences in their agendas. The parties project our countries very differently to the world. They have different social issue priorities and different economic priorities. Many times they also have very different styles of engaging us. Who is in power matters. Elections matter. Elections have consequences.
We tend to focus on the big guy (or gal) the President or Prime Minister. However, our Congressman, MP, MPP/MLA matters too. Choose an incompetent over a star locally, and it will likely cost your community. Elections have consequences locally too.
So in a word - VOTE. Don't let politicians discourage you from voting. No politician should be able to get away with that. Also, don't let them make it more difficult for others to vote. Let your voice be heard. Share this post. Write your own. Tell your friends. Sign a petition. Contact your local representative. Better yet, get involved in your local district (riding). You don't need to love politics, you just have to care about your country and your community. Hey, you might even want to donate some money (the tax break is pretty great).
Don't let anyone take away from us, what so many have had to fight so hard to give us.
#politics #votingrights #elections