Kicking the habit

10/08/2018 Posted by admin

by Melanie de Klerk

I’ve always seen voting as a right, a privilege and yes, even a duty. Democracy really only works if those lucky enough to live in it participate in the democratic process.

I grew up being taught to respect the voting system. When I turned 18 and was allowed to vote for the first time, I proudly took my voter card to the poll to cast my vote. Back then I expected lines, expected hundreds of people waiting to have their voices heard.

But I was disappointed as only a handful of people were there. Through several more elections the same story played out.

Today, I once again headed to the advance polls. The site that greeted me actually surprised me. I saw a lineup snaking around the corner and down the corridor for the first time in my voting history. My first thought was an internal groan and a check of my watch. I fell into the usual trap of busy Canadians, I thought there were so many other things I could be doing with my time… That thought was soon replaced with a strange sense of pride as I remembered that people in other countries around the world wait hour upon hour to have their voices heard.

As I watched the minutes tick by, I noticed it wasn’t just the usual suspects at the polls, but a whole gaggle of young people, likely newly minted voters right along side every other age bracket. As the clock closed in on 30 minutes and I was still waiting, I finally got my turn to head in to vote.

Sandra Liebman leaves an advanced polling station in Montreal on April 22. Photo by Graham Hughes, The Canadian Press.

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Right in front of me, a very elderly man – clearly sick and unable to walk – was getting ready to cast his ballot. He laboured over to the voting booth. His caretaker was explaining how important this was for him to be able to do.

As I cast my ballot, I was filled with renewed hope that maybe – just maybe – Canadians are a little more engaged with this election than first thought. The 2008 election represented a low point for this process, with the poorest voter turnout in Canadian electoral history. I am hoping that on May 2, history will not be repeated, and the lines I encountered greet every voter.

I hope it’s a sign busy Canadians are finally kicking the habit of voter apathy, and exercising their right and duty as citizens of our democracy.

Melanie is Global National’s research coordinator, based in Vancouver. Follow her on Twitter: @emmyjd2.

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