Voting, like almost everything else that takes time and effort, is very easy to talk yourself out of doing.
The most persuasive and pervasive justification of abstinence from the democratic process is the belief that a single vote means very little. My vote, your vote, and your mom’s vote likely won’t change an election.
Thankfully, however, I am young. I haven’t been around long enough for political cynicism to take root.
This enables me to look beyond the apparent statistical irrelevance of a single vote and focus on all of the significant real and tangible benefits that come along with democratic participation.
First, it is wise to recognize that these feelings of political powerlessness are relative. We don’t live in a repressive totalitarian regime which targets and punishes any and every inclination of political participation. Many other people in this world, however, do live in such regimes. Such a global perspective on our privilege can go a long way towards encouraging democratic participation.
Don’t roll your eyes just yet. Whenever I wasted food as a kid my parents would remind me just how valuable such food would be to some of the world’s less fortunate. Such a reminder did little for me. It didn’t make me less full or the food tastier. In the same manner, I understand that saying “at least you can vote” does little to actually make it seem like your vote is worth anything. What it can do, however, is serve as a reminder to what exactly such self-defeating attitudes have accomplished throughout history. The answer is…nothing.
Another perspective from which to appreciate voting is business. One of the most well-known entrepreneurial truisms is that the more time a customer dedicates to your product the better. A customer is more likely to come back to your product, share it with friends, and reluctantly accept price increases if they invest lots of time into it.
Fortunately or unfortunately, the same principle applies to democracy (which one depends on the extent of political participation). Someone who neglects their democratic opportunities is much less likely to do what it takes to maintain a democracy. On the other hand, someone who invests their time and energy into voting is much more likely to work actively to maintain democracy. What follows from this is clear. A population which disregards their democratic right is more susceptible to having that right taken away. Thus, if you value democracy at all, it’s in your best interest to put your money where your mouth is and encourage your friends to follow suit.
The last point is the most obvious. The issues at play affect us directly. Housing prices and the cost of living are increasing across the country. Tuition prices are skyrocketing and job opportunities are dwindling. The provincial and federal debts are bloating beyond control. Health care is underfunded and inaccessible to much of the population. Any say at all in these matters, no matter how small, is worth seizing.
Here in Ontario on June 7 there’s going to be an election. Go do what much of the world wishes it could do. Set an example for future generations – including the younger ones watching you. And, most importantly, go have a say in the issues that directly affect your day-to-day life.