Voter turnout in our nation has traditionally been a mark against Canadians.
Turnout for the last federal election in 2011 was just over 61 per cent. Our neighbours to the south didn’t do much better, with just over 64 per cent in 2012, but both are a far cry from European nations, many of which have consistently seen percentages in the low-to mid-90s. And those are nations where voting is not compulsory.
In Rwanda’s 2013 election, voter turnout was more than 98 per cent. Nigeria held elections this year, but the voter turnout was just under 44 per cent. However, unlike North Americans, Nigerians risked their lives to cast their ballots, navigating a country whose roadways were closed to everyone except election officials. They risked being injured or killed by numerous car bombs detonated near polling stations, and while they waited in lines for hours, they risked being shot at by militant groups. More than 40 people were killed trying to cast their vote.
In Canada, we have very few valid excuses not to cast our ballots. In many ways, it is disrespectful to those around the world who have fought and are fighting for the right to vote. Not to mention disrespectful to our own history and those Canadians who fought and died for that right, among other freedoms.
The polls are open for 12 hours on election day Oct. 19. The Election Act states that every eligible voter must have four consecutive hours free from work (not necessarily paid time off), during the time when polling stations are open, with which to vote.
There have also been a number of advance polls and Canadians have been able to cast an absentee ballot at any Elections Canada office for months. B.C. Transit is even offering to waive fares for registered voters heading to the polls with their voting card in hand on election day.
If advance poll numbers are any indication, and we hope they are, the tides may be changing for Canadians. Elections Canada says 3.6 million voters took advantage of those four days to vote early, a roughly 71-per-cent increase from 2011, when three days of advance voting took place. While the mass turnout was unexpected and created delays and problems, we hope it will not deter, but rather encourage those who have yet to cast their ballots.
In any election, voters decide what issues are important, not the politicians. You decide who represents you and what you want this country to look like moving forward.
If you don’t vote, you lose that say.