Democracy depends on informed citizens – so please: inform yourself
When it comes to our civic duties, there is no Middle on this: vote.
With that said, don’t just go to get the sticker and take the selfie for Instagram. We need to actually make our vote count, wherever you stand politically.
But in today’s world of confusing ballots, this is no easy task.
Last weekend, I took advantage of advance polling here in Vancouver. I breezed into the community centre, had my ballot in two minutes, and headed to my station. 24 minutes later, it was complete.
The ballot is EPIC – and not in a good way. As long as my arm, filled with “pick one for mayor,” “pick 7 commissioners for Park Board,” “Pick 9 for School Board” and “pick 10 for City Council,” I needed to know the names of 27 to put my vote next to. 27.
In the name of “leveling the playing field” for candidates by no longer listing names alphabetically — well, that’s just made voting an uphill battle for the VOTER.
Just locating your candidate’s name is akin to scanning a word-search for the right combination of letters.
But wait…there was more – “flip for more”.
Turning the page, I found big, wordy, questions about expenditures I was being asked to approve “without further consultation” between now and 2022.
Hundreds of millions of dollars to decide upon, right then and there. Yes or No.
Suddenly I was back in grade 12, taking provincial exams – and sweating. Reading the line items was like “The train leaves the station at 40 km/hour, first backwards, then forward for 275 minutes: how far did the train travel?”
(Okay, I’m exaggerating, but wow…it was unexpected pressure in the voting booth!)
Next up, we face similar stress with a mail-in referendum vote to tackle asking if we should change our electoral system? Yes or No?
This debate on how to best make votes count is a big one. Should we keep the current First Past the Post system, as it’s been for as long as most of us can remember; or is it time for a change to Proportional Representation, as the ever-louder segment of our electorate would have it?
Perhaps you cast your vote for Justin Trudeau in the last federal election because he promised to change the way our votes count in Canada…even though that promise changed.
I “asked an expert” on PR and received this message: “PR is the norm, across most of the western world. It provides voters more choice, it produces accurate outcomes, and encourages more legislative collaboration.”
On the other side of the argument, I’ve listened to veteran newsman Bill Good on radio saying “we don’t know enough about PR to radically change our voting system, I’m voting No and so should you.”
I did an impromptu Twitter poll- On the upcoming referendum I will vote:
- For Pro Rep: 29%
- Stay FPTP: 49%
- Don’t know: 22%
There are so many conversations right now about both the civic election and the fast-approaching referendum.
For some, it is nothing short of overwhelming.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been asked who I’m voting for — quickly followed by — “I really don’t know the candidates — never mind what to do about the voting system; I’m scared of making the wrong decisions.”
Many of us journo-types follow the politically savvy, opinionated and smart people on Twitter to stay informed (looking at you @keithbaldrey, @robshaw_vansun @richardzussman, @garymasonglobe et al), but lets face it, Joe & Joanne Public likely don’t.
They don’t have time to dig deep on these things, even though maybe they should.
Personally, I am terrified of an ill-informed electorate motivated to vote. We need only look at the current state of America to see what happens when “Whataboutism” and partisan fearmongering replaces straight-up information.
Those with political agendas (either way) can give clickbait back-up arguments for their stance. Go to the Pro-Rep site and they will tell you “it’s time to save our crumbling democracy!” — go to the FPTP site and find how “Pro Rep will allow extremists run our country”.
No matter which way you lean, both will scare the living hell out of you.
I would like to think that there is some middle ground here (it’s kind of what I do each week here on The Orca), but the trouble is, I’m having one heck of a time finding it.
I’m searching and searching for the facts (just the facts) and I’m falling flat. Why has the art of simple, form your own opinion conversation been lost?
If you ask me, confusing the voter is not the way we should be headed. Unless, of course, you’d like to keep turnout low.
It doesn’t need to be this hard – yet hard it is.
For civic election purposes, make sure you have a fully charged phone and your city’s website loaded on the browser, you’re allowed to take it into the booth. Because you’re going to need it.
On the referendum, you have until November 30th to have it decided, filled in, and mailed. Read up on it, make an informed decision.
Understand the facts behind the headlines.
Jody Vance is a born and raised Vancouverite who has spent 30 years in both local and national media. The first woman in the history of Canadian TV to host her own sports show in primetime, since 2011 she’s been working in both TV and radio covering news and current affairs.