Monday, October 06, 2008

Trying to Vote is Becoming Trying

I am so not having a good day. For the last couple of elections, I've resigned myself to having to vote early as the advance polls/electoral office are closer to me than my designated polling station, which changes every few years and gets farther and farther away each time. I've usually known way in advance who to vote for, but this election, not so clear. I eagerly awaited the usual flurry of leaflets to come flying in, even though I've long since given up seeing a candidate ever again. In my riding, candidates no longer get to my neighbourhood. Guess it's just too hard.

Well, as of this election, I no longer get to ask most of the candidates or campaigners questions either, I don't even get to find out who they are! I've had exactly two leaflets -- two! -- both from the NDP candidate. I had the Liberal campaign headquarters call me up to see if they could count on my support. I said I didn't know who their candidate was. The caller said OK and hung up. I was left looking at my phone, wondering why the heck he didn't tell me!!!! How am I supposed to vote for someone I know nothing about? How will they get my vote if they don't inform me?! Signage on neighbours' lawns is just not informative enough! Can you sense my frustration!?!

I prefer to be an informed voter. Maybe that's the problem. I vote based on both the candidate and the party. I don't mindlessly vote for whoever is in power, whether in my riding or in government. I don't mindlessly vote for the same party every time. But I'm starting to see the appeal of that method. Voting the mindless, sheep way, I don't need leaflets, I don't need to talk to the candidates, I don't need to know the party's platform, I don't need to know whether the candidates would represent their constituents or their party or both. All I have to know is my party's candidate's name and then show up on voting day.

Oh yeah, show up. Now there's another problem.

When I first started voting, I walked half a block to the polling station. Since then, polling stations have gotten further and further away to the point that today one needs to get in the car, pay two tokens, or go for a very long walk in order to vote. I can't do long walks, hard to get a drive, and I ain't paying just to go vote. My parents don't even know where their polling station is as the street is so far away, they're not familiar with it. These are not people new to their neighbourhood. They've lived there for decades; my mother has canvassed for charities and political candidates. They know the streets and buildings well. Fortunately, they were able to recognize their advance polling station, and so, like me, they will be voting in advance.

People are already finding reasons to not vote. Making it so difficult to find the place and making it necessary to drive or take the bus is just one big reason to stay home, especially at the end of a long day. I don't know why this would be rocket science to the pinheads who decided to centralize polling stations for oversight reasons. In all the elections I've attended, in all the little and big polling stations I've gone to, I've never seen nefarious behaviour. On the other hand, I heard on the radio last year that parties regularly loaded up busloads of landed immigrants or permanent residents from senior homes to take them voting. Centralizing polling stations isn't going to get around this problem. That one would be solved by tightening up ID requirements. If centralizing polling stations was their solution to this blatent fraud, they're idiots. But I don't think Elections Canada or Elections Ontario gave two hoots about this fraud. I don't think that was the "oversight" problem they were alluding to.

After the guy explained to me why they reduced the number of polling stations and centralized them, I explained to him why this move was dumb, especially in the face of low voter turnout and the fact that the ID requirements allow massive fraud. On the former, if getting to the polling station is so difficult, in the end, only motivated voters are going to pull out a map to find them and then haul ass to go vote at them. And for those of us that simply can't get there due to distance and who are being forced to vote early at places closer to us or places we can find, we're being disenfranchised from having the full election period in which to get informed and make our decision. You could hear the pin drop when it finally dawned on him what I meant and maybe that was a big problem.

On the latter, Elections Canada was clearly unconcerned about this fraud since nothing's been done to counter it. The new requirement to have photo ID -- duh, why is this being done NOW? -- still allows non-citizens to vote. I told the guy that we should be required to show passport or citizenship papers, otherwise why bother getting my citizenship? I really don't know why this is so non-evident to the pinheads in the Elections offices.

The American system is worse. At least once we crawl exhausted into our polling stations, voting is a breeze. The ballots are clear, easy to mark, easy for the machines to read, done quickly, and aren't prone to errors. The American ballots vary from state to state, some of them look like they were created back in the 1970s and mimeographed to death, some are clearly prone to error (and one has to wonder why they didn't upgrade the system after Bush's first so-called election win), and these ballots and ballot-counting machines make a joke of their whole electoral system.

Britain meanwhile understands that if only citizens are allowed to vote then only citizens get to vote. They have this list called the Register of Electors. If you're not on it, you don't get to vote. The head of household (that's so quaint) gets a form once a year that they have to fill in with the names of everyone living as part of the household who is entitled to vote. All new entries are vetted by, for example, the National Health Service or passport records, and there are spot checks on existing entries. If there's an election (local or national), there will be a list for the town or area held at the Polling Station. You just turn up with your card, get your name checked off (sort of similar to our method), are given your voting papers, and then the rest of the voting process is the same as the Canadian method. I can see a lack of Photo ID being a problem in this system, but at least it tries to verify citizenship and is not such a naive system as ours.

I'm a motivated voter, but I'm starting to feel it's just not worth it. Between being forced to vote early and as a result no so well informed and living in a riding where the candidates can't be bothered to campaign, it's becoming way too difficult to exercise my right to vote. I'm royally fed up.

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