By Jan Creaser
There’s a general conception among Political Science majors that anybody outside the department should not be allowed to vote in any type of election. We, the politically uneducated, apparently do not have the knowledge to make coherent decisions regarding the future of municipalities, provinces and countries. In other words, democracy should only extend to those “in the know.”
So, other than dedicating four years to the dismal political processes of numerous nations-Canada’s quirky federalism included-how does one go about making an informed decision for an election? How do the politically unsophisticated pick candidates and sort out the mysteries of the political machine? There doesn’t seem to be any formulas yet.
On the whole, voter turnouts tend to be quite small. Voters range from the guy who knows only that he must exercise his democratic right to make an X with the provided HB pencil to the Poli Sci gurus. An eclectic bunch, to say the least. All believe their choices are the best, or at the worst, the lesser of several evils. And what about the other 5075 per cent who don’t vote? They were all “too busy” or harbor self-esteem issues about their vote not counting.
Yeah, you know where I’m going with this, don’t you? I’m about to pierce your civic conscience with a well-aimed ice axe. While the University of Calgary doesn’t have the lowest voter turnout, we certainly don’t have the highest either. Last year saw 16.8 per cent of students hit the polls to cast their votes in futuristic fashion-electronically. This year only offers Bic pens and the processed trees from a clear-cut section of British Columbia’s rain forest, but don’t let your environmental conscience prevent you from voting. Better the already-printed ballots get used than go to waste.
Students complain, whine, whine and moan about high tuition, expensive books, crowded classrooms and Pepsi takeovers, but only a small percentage show up to vote in Students’ Union elections-and last year’s turnout was considered a high. As cliché as it sounds: you don’t really have the right to complain if you don’t vote. Apparently, that’s the way democracy works. Scary. The other scary thing about the upcoming elections? The SU is the main body on campus devoted to improving students’ lives. Want it done right? Vote. Because if you think the Alberta government is just going to roll over one day and give the dog a bone of their own accord, you are sadly mistaken.
So, if you’re too lazy to read the Gauntlet for the paid-for-by the SU supplement of candidate platforms (yes, that’s your money they’re using) or too busy to take in at least one forum, you can’t really get your knickers in a knot when tuition battles don’t go the way you’d like. Posters, posters everywhere! Pick a shining face, dammit! If you don’t, someone else will. And I’ll tell you a little something about what happens when only 16.8 per cent of people turn out to vote
Picture a candidate. Got the image in your head? Good. Now, do you like them? Doesn’t matter! Just about everyone running for an SU position has their fingers in one or more campus organization. That means influence on large groups of potential voters. Is this person the best candidate for the job? Doesn’t matter! Sheep mentality often reigns in elections and riot situations.
Candidate: “Vote for me.”
Sheep: “Baaa okay.”
See, this person can’t be bothered to read anything regarding election qualifications. They’re just like you. They don’t care. They want it simple and sweet because, let’s face it, elections come right in the middle of midterms.
You’re in university. Get informed. I know, it’s hard. Such a struggle. It’s boring. Wah. Get over it. These rules also apply to larger elections. Most of you are 18 or older and probably haven’t paid politics much attention. Well, the next federal election is only a few years away. Chrètien who? Do we even have a Prime Minister? Right, I rest my case.
Vote. Take responsibility for somebody else’s actions.
Read the platforms. Choose candidates. Make a list. Check it twice. Take your list to the polling station. Mark your X’s and don’t steal the pen-your money paid for it.