Wow...it seemed like almost yesterday that we were ringing in 2012, and now it’s the first day of November! Say it isn’t so! This whole year seems to be zooming by at an alarming rate! I almost can’t believe that we are just two months away from 2013!
2012 has been a year unlike no other, and to top it all off, it is an election year in the United States.
In just less than a week, Americans in all fifty states, as well as the District of Columbia will be casting their votes to determine whether Barack Obama will win his second term in the Oval Office, or if Mitt Romney will dethrone him. One thing is for certain. This election has seemingly been one of the most unpredictable in the last century. At certain points during the campaign and depending on what state you happen to live it, the favourable opinions can flip around almost daily. In this particular election, every vote will definitely count.
And that’s exactly what the point of this blog is all about. Voting, voting, voting!
Now, I see some of you looking at me and scratching your heads in confusion. Matthew, I hear you say. You are Canadian! Why would you have an opinion on an election in which you cannot take part in? Why have a say on something that doesn’t concern you?
I hear what you’re thinking. It’s true that I can’t vote in the American elections as I only have Canadian citizenship. But I see your claims and I raise you this. My words not only apply to American elections, but Canadian, British, Australian, and any other country that uses democracy and public voting in order to select the future leaders of their countries.
This is the blog entry that is all about rocking the vote!
That’s right, everybody. This post is all about everyone going out to the polls to make their voices heard.
I’ll tell you something. When I was growing up in Canada, I always remembered being fascinated by the election process. I wanted to have the chance to vote in an election as long as I could remember. My eighteenth birthday could not come fast enough.
I mean, think about it. You have the ability to attempt to make a difference by going out to the polling stations and marking that “X” right beside the candidate of your choice. Maybe some of you reading this believe that your one vote won’t make a difference, but believe me, it does. Have you ever seen one of those class elections in high school where two candidates run against each other and the difference between the winner and runner-up is less than ten votes? Believe me, every vote does count.
That’s why I feel a little sad whenever I see voter turnout declining from election to election.
In the last Canadian election that I can recall (and yes, I did vote in it), I don’t know what the voter turnout was country wide, but I can tell you that in my hometown, voter turnout was actually less than fifty per cent. I think it was even below forty per cent! That’s really pathetic.
I suppose there are some circumstances in which people simply can’t get out to vote. People who are recovering from surgery or who are bedridden in a hospital are likely not going to make it out to the polls. If we had an election in February 2011 while I was recovering from surgery...well, that might very well be the only reason why I would not cast my vote. Some people might be out of the country at the time of an election, and I can see that being a reasonable excuse why they couldn’t get to the polls. And some people who are on the voting list may have actually passed away months before the election takes place...and well, dead men can’t vote.
But what about the rest of you?
You want to know what some of the most common excuses I hear from my neck of the woods are as to why people don’t choose to exercise their right to vote? Here’s a sample list.
- My vote will not, nor will it ever change things
- My vote is just going to be thrown away anyway
- There is too much corruption so I’m taking a stand and not voting for anyone
- I have no way of getting to my polling station
- I’m too lazy to register for my voter’s card
- I’m too lazy to change my address in order to get my voter’s card
- I’m way too busy and I don’t have the time to vote
- I don’t have the proper identification to vote
Now here’s where I go in and tell you why these excuses are totally bogus.
I’ve already explained why I feel that the first excuse is worthless. Of course your vote makes a difference! Even if you end up voting for the person that loses, your vote (especially in Canada) could mean the difference between a minority and majority government. And believe me, that makes a huge difference.
Bogus excuse number two...my vote will just be thrown away. Well, yeah, maybe it will if you decide to vote for the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, or the late Michael Jackson. But as long as you vote for one of the people on the ballot, believe me. It will count. I say this as someone who actually did a couple of stints as a poll clerk. I had to count every single ballot, and I had to tally them up. In some cases, we recounted the ballots three times in order to make sure the totals added up. I can’t speak for anyone else who has ever worked as a poll clerk, but I did my job with the integrity it deserved.
Oh, and don’t even talk to me about apathy at the polling stations. As far as I’m concerned, people who choose to abstain from the polls out of disgust for the candidates, frustration over how the government is, or just simply out of anarchy are people are basically throwing away a basic right that they have. I hear people talk all the time about how they feel their rights are threatened, but then decide not to exercise their right to vote because of it. Doesn’t that sound a little bit contradictory?
Okay, let’s talk about being unable to get to the polls now. Well, okay, since Sandy’s visit through New York and New Jersey, citizens there have a legitimate excuse, as they’re probably busy trying to rebuild their lives...and even then, I reckon that many of those people would still find a way to vote for who they want to see in office. After all, disaster relief has been a huge issue in American politics since the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. But aside from a natural disaster, I can’t feel much sympathy for this excuse. For one, most of the polling stations in my town are usually located within a five-block radius. It only took me fifteen minutes by foot to get to my polling station in the last election. And even so, I imagine that a lot of communities would have shuttle buses available to take people who don’t have transportation to ensure that everyone in the community gets the chance to vote. And if they don’t...why not implement that? I think that would be a fantastic idea!
Don’t even get me started on registering for your right to vote. When I registered for my voter’s card, the entire procedure only took ten minutes at the most! Even when I lost my voter’s card, the wait to vote was not that long. Do not give me the excuse that you are too lazy to vote because I will not take you seriously.
Ditto on the belief that you don’t have the time to vote. Most polling stations in Canadian elections close anywhere between 8:00pm and 9:00pm, depending on the type of election. I remember having to work until 8:30pm one election day, and my polling station ended up being a twenty minute drive from my workplace (it really would have only been ten, except I had the misfortune of hitting EVERY SINGLE RED LIGHT along the way), and I STILL made it into the polling station in time to cast my vote. You can squeeze it in during a lunch break, or on your way to work (most polling stations I would assume are open around 8:30am or 9:00am). You have plenty of time to cast a vote, even if you have to wait in a small line to do it.
VOTING TIP: I find that the best time to go and vote (from my own personal experience that is) is around two o’clock in the afternoon. Most people are still at work, and from my experience as a poll clerk, the 2:00 hour was the slowest. If you can, try aiming for that time. If not, going just as the polls open up, or about an hour before they close up is your next best bet. But that's just my own experience.
As for the last excuse, there is often a list of requirements for identification on your voter’s card...but if not, I’m sure they can be found online. You could likely even call the official election offices to find out the requirements.
So you see? These are all superficial excuses that people make in regards to not voting, and I’ve debunked them all.
Would you believe that there was a time in which people of colour, and women were not even allowed the right to vote? And do you know how many people fought tooth and nail to get the right to vote implemented for everybody over the age of eighteen? Susan B. Anthony was even arrested for attempting to vote for presidential candidate Ulysses S. Grant!
The fact that so many people fought so hard to make sure that everyone had the right to vote...well, I think we owe it to them to make all of our votes count.
America...whether you’re pro-Romney, or pro-Obama...you owe it to yourselves to make your vote count. So get out to the polls on November 6th and vote, vote, vote!