Some random thoughts on voting, because that’s what we do with this social media thing.

Today, if you haven’t done so already, go out and vote.

Vote because the simple act of taking a half an hour out of your day gains you membership to a club of engaged humans. It gains you social credit in a very special, participatory way. It entitles you to entry to an ongoing conversation. And it takes almost no effort at all.

Vote because this decision is about who will be holding your wallet for the next four years. This is an extremely important aspect of voting that isn’t necessarily clear. That’s the bigger engine behind all of the concepts and issues that are discussed in the course of an election.

Vote because there’s value in getting up from your desk and walking to a community space that you wouldn’t otherwise inhabit. People you see at the polls will smile at you, and you will acknowledge that you’re sharing an experience, that makes you think about bigger structures and concepts that effect everyone around you.

Even if you spoil your ballot. Even if you write “Proportional representation” in block letters across your ballot. Even if you vote for someone you’ve never heard of, running for a party that sounds interesting.

Of course, it’s more ideal to do your homework, understand the issues, and make an informed decision. But let’s face it, that ultimately is not how a lot of people vote. You vote because of your facebook feed. You vote because you spoke to a bunch of friends and they told you how they’re voting.

And although it’s not the best thing, it’s also maybe not the worst thing. In the best case scenario, voting once is a gateway empowerment. See, that was pretty easy and you got some social encouragement out of the deal. Next time, maybe you start a little earlier on being engaged. I always fear that the “splitting the vote” conversation significantly decreases the likeliness that people will vote at all, and that’s not a better outcome.

People who vote for parties other than the two likely victors tend to be unlikely to vote otherwise, especially if they’re pressured to choose a party they don’t believe in. Don’t shame people into not voting.

“Democracy is the worst form of government, but the best kind we know” – no longer really true, at least not in the first past the post incarnation. We know better ways. The problem is that a turkey would never vote for Thanksgiving dinner – that is, if a system works for you and gets you elected, your incentive to promote another system is significantly reduced. Let’s work on pushing proportional representation forward in between election cycles, and not just winge about it in the final moments.

The people with the money know that it’s really important to vote. The people with not so much of the money tend to get discouraged at the last moment, and decide not to participate. Change this paradigm.

Voting is integrally social. Don’t be intimidated by it. Go for a stroll. Get a free donut or a free grilled cheese sandwich. Meet some other people who also went for a stroll, and participated. How many others things in adult life do you get a participation ribbon for engaging with? Or a sandwich? Or a donut?

And finally, vote because you can. Vote because it’s a privilege that not everyone has. This election marks just 100 years of women’s right to vote in BC. Way less than that for various communities of colour. That’s a pretty tiny sliver of history. Vote, because not voting sends no message at all.

Further Reading: A History of Suffrage in Canada

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