Not voting is giving up the right to choose your government

Doug Ford may be ecstatic about winning a second majority government but the fact is that this victory was handed to him by just 40% of those who voted on June 2. Ironically, although the Liberals, NDP and Greens got close to 53% of the vote, they’ve been relegated to just 40 seats (when compared to the PC’s 83) because of the first-past-the-post system which many say should be scrapped.

Ford’s happy picture loses much of its shine when you realize that just 43.5% of eligible voters cast their ballot this time and that he got less than half of those votes. It’s not the mandate of the majority of Ontarians then, is it? In fact, preliminary reports from Elections Ontario suggest that the province may have seen its lowest voter turnout. Deserted polling stations were a clear indication of voter apathy, the stats just confirmed it.

But given that voting interest seems to be waning over the years, ranked ballots might be the fairest way to reflect the real wishes of voters. Turnout in the 2022 provincial elections was markedly lower than in 2011 when it fell below 50% for the first time, registering at 48%. And although the 58% voter turnout in the 2018 election that brought Ford to Queen’s Park was reportedly the highest in nearly 20 years, it was nowhere near the previous high of 66 per cent in 1977, exemplifying this trend.

Of course when asked Ford said he’s not considering changing the current system (in use for over 100 years) because it worked for him!

Perhaps it would be easier to include an option that allows us to cast our ballots but not for any political candidate. I believe this can help send politicians a strong message about voter dissatisfaction while respecting and exercising one’s democratic rights.

Not voting is not in our best interests. I can’t help but think that votes that were not cast helped the PCs win.

Voters gave many reasons for taking the back seat. Several cited Ford’s re-election as a foregone conclusion and the reason for their lack of interest. Perhaps their votes could have made a difference to the outcome —a smaller majority, a coalition government (okay, it’s a stretch) — we will never know that now???

Low voter turnout can have undesirable consequences and in this case it may have contributed to giving Doug Ford four more years of unlimited power. He claims to have changed from the pre-pandemic days… but time will tell.

Other no-shows said there were no real options and that they didn’t want to vote PC for lack of choice. This doesn’t bode well for future elections, given that both the Ontario Liberals and NDP might take several election cycles to get their act together.
Some others were disillusioned by politics in general as they felt all parties served their own interests.

These reasons could apply to any country, but the one of great concern that could affect future elections is the huge newcomer disconnect. Most don’t understand federal, provincial and municipal politics. The challenges with settling down in a new country often leave them with little time to familiarize themselves with how politics works at the different levels and the issues at hand. This unfamiliarity is also the reason why turnout may be lowest at the provincial and municipal level.

In such a situation, most new immigrants will either not cast their ballot, or just blindly follow the lead of family, religious or community leaders. It also leaves them open to manipulations by politicians who exploit race and culture for their gain.

Many newcomers are also disillusioned with politics and the election process in the home country and don’t believe it’s any different in Canada. Here’s where voter education can drive up engagement and turnout.

The truth is whatever the reason for the civic apathy, not voting is giving up your choice and the ability to make your voice heard through your ballot. Politicians only pay attention to votes!!! Elections are the only opportunity we have to hold them accountable and to have a say in how our tax dollars will be used.

And if you chose not to vote, then don’t complain about the outcome. You passed up the critical opportunity to bring about change and likely contributed to the win of the party you didn’t want!!!

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