Best Way to Help Your Community? Don’t Vote

By Jason Menard

What I’m about to say may seem sacrilegious to some of you, but here it is. Don’t vote.

Before you think I’ve totally lost it, hear me out. The above is not a blanket statement. Yes, I think that everyone should vote, but not everyone should vote.

The other day, I was looking at a slide show of Toronto’s mayoral candidates. I found myself joking, “Hey, I’d vote for that guy! I like the hat” (actually, there were two people with fine haberdashers from whom to choose). Or, “Wow, that guy looks pissed just to have his picture taken – he’d probably snap the first time his proposal was voted down by council.”

Yes, it allowed for a few moments of levity, but that was quickly overshadowed by a combination of fear and dread. After all, I was just having a little fun, but I’d never actually base my vote on something as trivial as appearances.

Unfortunately, some people do. That’s no joke — in fact, it’s downright scary.

In my youth, I held idealistic views that everyone has an obligation to get out and vote. We’ve been given this privilege in a world where so many others don’t have those basic freedoms, I’d argue, so we must exercise our right to vote.

Now? Not so much. After all, voting may be a right, but it’s also a privilege. And with that privilege comes an obligation to use it properly.

Voting is so much more than just heading down to some musty Church basement or high school gymnasium. That simple act of voting should be representative of an incredible responsibility. It’s not just about selecting a name in the moment – it’s about learning about the candidates and the policies for which they stand, exploring the viability of their promises, and choosing the candidate who best represents either your interest or what you feel are the community’s best interests.

And the responsibility does not just end at the polls. As voters, we have a continued responsibility to hold our elected officials accountable for their actions.

So how many people actually take this responsibility seriously? Hopefully more than I think, but I fear that number represents a minority of people who do go to the polls. Instead, how many people vote based on name recognition? Or based upon what a parent or spouse does? Is it that far-fetched to think that the prettiest or largest campaign sign or catchiest slogan can have more of an impact on an election than policy, honesty, and talent?

Yeah, but everyone has the right to vote, you may say. True. But – like free speech – that’s a right that must be shown the proper respect. Free speech doesn’t absolve one of slanderous or libellous statements. So why should the right to vote be held in such low regard, overall?

Imagine this scenario: you and a co-worker are tasked with sourcing tenders for a multi-million dollar project. You put in hours of research, do background fact-checking, examine all available options, weigh them against each other, and prepare a comprehensive final report. Your co-worker, on the other hand, simply picked the option that was printed on the prettiest paper. Now, after your presentation to management you find out that both of your recommendations will have equal weight.

You’d be upset — and rightfully so. Now why would you feel any different if you put in the time to make an informed vote, you took your responsibility seriously, and you performed an act that you hope will be of benefit to the community at large. Meanwhile, your moronic neighbour stumbled out of bed, threw on a bathrobe, and eeny-meeny-miney-mo’ed his ballot. Both votes count equally. Should they?

I’m not saying everyone should have to obtain an advanced degree in political science to vote, but we should all, at the very least, at least take a few moments to understand where the candidates stand on the issues that are important to us.

It’s not that tough in today’s information-saturated society. A few clicks of a mouse, or a few flips of a newspaper, and you can get a rudimentary understanding of the candidates and their position. If you can’t bring yourself to do that, then don’t bother voting.

Everyone can vote and, in an ideal world, everyone should vote. Of course, in an ideal world everyone would know for whom they’re voting and why.

If you can’t be bothered to do that — if you can’t be bothered to care for something that’s this important, then do us all a favour. Don’t vote.

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