Why it is Important to Vote
It’s that time of every-four-years again - the Vancouver municipal election is right around the corner! On October 20, Vancouverites will head to the polls to have their say on who will represent them on Vancouver City Council, the parks board and the school board.
However, exercising this fundamental right isn’t the most exciting idea for a lot of people. In Vancouver’s last municipal election in 2014, voter turnout was just 43.4%. It was, however, a significant increase from the previous election in 2011, where voter turnout was only 34.6%. At only 43.4%, the turnout in 2014 was the highest since 2001. 43.4%!
With all the freedoms we enjoy today, it’s easy to take for granted that the right to vote was an incredibly hard won battle, especially for women. Did you know that in BC, the provincial laws giving women the right to vote were introduced in in 1917? That’s over 50 years after Confederation, and 50 years of only men being able to vote freely. It was with countless speeches, marches and petitions that suffragettes campaigned for women deserving a chance to influence their nation.
According to Elections BC, BC was the fourth Canadian province to extend voting rights to women, and the only province to do so as the result of a referendum. In conjunction with the 1916 provincial election, male voters – the only people eligible in 1916 to exercise this right – voted 70% in favour of giving BC women the right to vote.
So, why doesn’t everyone vote if they’re lucky enough to be able to? Maybe it’s too overwhelming – choosing who to vote for can take work. And in the upcoming municipal election, there are over 150 candidates running. For others, not voting is a way of protesting. Or perhaps things are just really busy at the moment, plus you’re doubtful it will make a difference and voting’s never been a priority in your life.
But we’re here to tell you that while all these reasons are understandable, they shouldn’t be enough to stop you from exercising your fundamental and democratic right. Sure, life can get busy and voting requires some planning, but it is incredibly important. Here’s why:
It makes you a more engaged, informed citizen.
Casting a meaningful vote means doing your research. It means discovering what’s important to you, what’s going on in your community and learning about both sides of an argument. It means making educated decisions about your stances, having discussions and perhaps even opening up to other perspectives. Beyond helping you choose who to vote for in an election, all of this makes you a more engaged, informed citizen who’s more connected to your community and to the world.
Municipal elections have a significant impact on your day-to-day life.
Voting in municipal elections is an opportunity to help shape matters that affect you. Of course, voting in provincial and federal elections is just as crucial, but when you vote at the municipal level, you’re having a say on issues like public education funding, housing affordability or the transit options that allow you and others to move around your city.
Because voting is a responsibility and a luxury.
As mentioned earlier, the right to vote (especially for women) wasn’t a given; we had to fight for it. And no, voting is not mandatory, but it is a responsibility to the larger community of which you are a part. Voting isn’t just about supporting the candidates, parties or issues specific to an election, it’s about supporting our democracy. After all, democracy doesn’t work unless you actively participate in it.
So, if you were planning on skipping the election, maybe you can reconsider – it’s important to make sure your voice is heard, and to take advantage of a freedom that was out of reach for so many people all those years ago. If you’re eligible to vote, the first step is to make sure you’re registered. Next, do some research. What issues matter to you? Have you spotted any problems you want addressed in your community? Finally, find out where your nearest voting place is, and plan how you’ll get there on October 20.
To make it easier, we’ve put together some resources to help you make your decision when it comes time to hit the polls: