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Exercise your right to vote

Posted on April 10, 2019 by Lethbridge Sun Times

With spring in the air, it’s perfect weather for election canvassing. Regardless of which party you’re leaning toward supporting, it’s important to vote your conscience.
There will no doubt be pressure to vote for the candidate with the best chance of success, perhaps compromising your principles to be on the winning team.
But elections aren’t sports, although many people treat them as such, rooting for the blue or orange or whatever colour team. This defeats the purpose of democracy.
When voting, you should vote as if nobody else is. If you had the choice, who do you think would be your best representative?
Might as well vote for a winner if you feel there’s little at stake. The trouble is our first-past-the-post electoral system is designed for each riding to essentially be a two-way battle. A more proportional voting system would make it easier to simply vote who you want to see in charge, taking away the pressure to avoid “vote splitting” or “wasting your vote.”
But no vote is a waste. We’re fortunate to live in a democratic system, that despite all its flaws, gives citizens the opportunity to have a say in who represents them.
Many citizens are disenchanted with the way things are politically and this is understandable, with stories of corruption, lies and broken promises all around us.
It’s tempting to just not vote, not to give your approval to a system you feel doesn’t represent you.
But disenchantment is all the more reason to get out and vote.
Don’t like the UCP or NDP? There are myriad other options — the Alberta Party, the Freedom Conservatives, the Liberals, Alberta Independence, Greens and more, depending on one’s riding.
Still don’t find any of these options appealing? Spoil your ballot. You have a right, and some would say obligation, to let your dissatisfaction be known.
In political philosophy, there’s a distinction between positive freedom — the ability to do something — and negative freedom — the ability to be free from external obstacles.
As Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor has noted, both are crucial to the functioning of a democratic society.
In the context of voting, this means the right to go out and vote, as well as the right to not be compelled to vote, are equally crucial.
But just because you have the right to opt out of the political process doesn’t mean you should.
Some countries, like Australia, make voting mandatory. This isn’t forcing anyone to vote, but does require people to show up on election day and submit a ballot, whether they choose to exercise the right to select a candidate or not. The merits of mandatory voting are debatable, but making it easier for people to vote by making election day a public holiday would be a step in the right direction. It would help remove any potential obstacles to citizens voting, such as having to work long hours.
There’s no reason not to take advantage of your right to vote, even if you find all the options undesirable.
So on April 16, you should show up at the ballot box and do what you want with the piece of paper they give you.
It’s your right and the choice is yours.
An editorial from the Medicine Hat News

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