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Dear Elections Ontario,
I wanted you to know that your comprehensive guide map to the world of voting landed in my mail box this week.
I must say, I was impressed by the heroic lengths to which you will go to make voting easy. Who knew there was such a blinding array of ballot-casting options: special ballots, advance polls, vote by mail, campus voting, hospital voting, multiple languages, Braille, large print and audio headphones, Duxbury, sign language interpreters and sip-and-puff devices?
I’m not proud to admit it, but voter apathy is a condition with which I have, at times, been afflicted. I’m also not proud to say that I may have used you guys as a scapegoat for the occasional no-show—making half-hearted excuses about not getting my voter registration card, or being unable to find the polling station. If these false pretexts have contributed to the marketing gymnastics you now need to perform whenever we’re asked to go to the polls, I sincerely apologize.
What you need to know about me, and people like me, though—unlike the ethnically and socio-economically diverse happy-faced stock-photo people on your flyer— is that I’m usually not smiling on Election Day. Sometimes, in fact, I am downright morose.
This may not be news to you, but there’s nothing like a slate of lesser-of-evils candidates to take the wind out of a voter’s sails. It’s the electoral equivalent of finding yourself in a filthy, roadside eatery on a deserted stretch of highway where there’s a fly-swatter at every table and you’re holding a ketchup-encrusted menu and the only options are: chicken poutine, cheddar cheese hot-poppers, battered cauliflower tater puffs and... pizza, which you’re sick of.
“Don’t you have anything that isn’t bad for me?” you ask, wide-eyed and hopeful, to which some grisly-looking Duck Dynasty wannabe says, “Take it ‘r leave it, lady—them’s yer options.”
I tell you this only to clarify that for the most part people know when, where and how to vote: The bigger problem is the dubious menu.
Unless and until the electorate has some additional variety in who-to-vote-for (some semblance of normalcy among today’s political leaders would be a good start) the how-to-vote will only go so far.
Now, I can’t speak for the other Election Day slackers, but my problem is that I don’t see politicians as normal people. They are a breed too far apart from average folks and I find it hard to get excited about them—even the ones who have really nice hair.
Yes, there are always some well-meaning grassroots-type local candidates, but it too-often seems that, once anointed, even these would-be change-makers lose their capacity to be normal after unpacking their bags at Queen’s Park or on Parliament Hill.
Our adversarial system lends itself to madness. That and all the green velveteen—it goes to people’s heads.
For example, normal people find ways to appreciate their peers, while they’re still alive. Politicians wait until death becomes them before giving credit where it’s due. Who knew Jim Flaherty was so loved and admired by his political adversaries? So sad he wasn’t alive to enjoy the outpouring of affection.
Normal people, at least once in a while, can admit when they’ve made a mistake. Politicians, on the other hand, turn a blind eye to their flops and failures—especially the super-expensive ones. Second-thoughts about Full-Day Kindergarten, anyone? (Certainly not while Kathleen Wynne’s around.)
Normal private-sector-people often carry their own travel expenses and wait, sometimes 30 days or more, for reimbursement. This has fringe benefits, namely: a healthy respect for other people’s money, and the possibility of an inquisitive spouse beating an Auditor to the punch, “Oh my God Bev, Seriously? Sixteen bucks for an orange juice?”
Normal people form groups and balance the healthy tension of differing views and opinions within them. Politicians increasingly seem to favour gag-orders and cultivating little clusters of yes-men and women. I can’t imagine a backyard BBQ at Justin Trudeau’s place, “Oh, you’re a vegetarian? Well, screw you—at my house everyone eats the steak!” (And what about the principles and convictions of those herbivores?—“OK Justin, whatever you say—I’ll have mine medium-rare!”)
I could go on all day with these kinds of examples and I know the candidates themselves are outside your scope of work. But I needed a listening ear, and I’m sure this isn’t the first venting-voter letter you’ve ever received. Just put mine in the pile along with all the rest.
I do, however, promise that this year I will rise above my disillusionment, honour your call to action and get out and vote. If nothing else, I will do it out of respect for the men and women who died for my right to do it in the first place.
Anyway, I’m sick to death of pizza. Maybe I’ll try the tater-puffs this time. I’ve never had those before. I guess there’s a first time for everything.