Is anyone other than the family and friends of the candidates actually interested in municipal elections? I know that voting is a right and even a privilege. I also believe that it's a choice, not a duty. Having said that, it's a sad fact that the voter turnout at this level of government, depending on where you live, can be anywhere from 17% to 40% although tendencies are usually toward the lower end of this percentage spectrum. Even when people are informed about the candidates by reading newspaper items, door to door literature and so on, voting has not always felt essential or been very simple.
During the last municipal election, I was eligible to vote in Oshawa. I lived in a fairly dense community of townhouses, apartments and quite a few seniors. My little voter postcard arrived so far in advance of polling day, that when the election came, I had already misplaced it. Not only that, I wrongly expected ballot casting to take place in the area's clubhouse. Previous polling stations had been located there. I got home from a typical long day at work. There was about an hour left to vote. I parked the car, grabbed a bite to eat and strolled to the clubhouse. Not a person was in sight. When I finally saw someone, she said, "Oh, people have been coming in here by mistake all day. Voting is at (insert name of distant school here) ." Imagine my shock when I realized that this particular school was not anywhere even remotely close to my neighbourhood. In fact, it was impossible to reach by foot before polls closed without being a marathon runner and I was barely familiar with it's location. I had to make a decision. Would I get into my car and drive 5 km in order to make it on time, or would I give up? I chose the latter option. Then I sent a letter to the mayor's office wishing him luck and my regrets about not being able to vote for him. I received no reply. He won anyhow.
There is another municipal election coming up and I'm in Cobourg now. I have had little interest in voting particularly since I'm not familiar enough with the area or the candidates. I would also be away on election day. I recently saw an article in the paper about the mayoralty prospects. "Hmmm", I thought. "I don't really care for how the one person is presenting himself."
Another article compared the council candidates. I gave it a cursory glance, looked at the political rhetoric and noted that some candidates actually managed to speak plainly and honestly. Five are to be elected. Eight are running. I poured over the info a little more carefully and found that I was instantly able to delete two from the list of people I would consider. I easily found videos of all candidates on the internet thanks to COGECO. Then I happened to be in the library where I saw a bulletin board with answers to library funding questions given by the councillor hopefuls. "I thought there were 5 to be elected. Why do I only see 4 sets of responses?" I mumbled. (see earlier blog about talking to myself).
I walked up to the information desk and asked "Aren't there supposed to be 8 council candidates?"
"Yes" said one of the librarians.
"Did only 4 reply to the library questionnaire?"
"Yes" she answered yet again.
"Well I guess that tells me something doesn't it?" I said, and received a smile in response.
It was becoming easier and easier to decide how to vote if I actually chose to do so. Perhaps I was beginning to change my attitude. Two candidates then came to my door. I appreciated their obvious enthusiasm and desire to win. Now, I just needed to get some information on where voting would take place.
A letter came in the mail. "Municipal Election 2010, Town of Cobourg"..."E-vote now" with instructions on how to vote electronically using only my computer and a PIN number. Not only is this method available, but the option to vote by telephone was also explained. And all this is on the same document that allows me to vote in person and gives me choices of several locations. Computer and telephone voting can be done anytime between today and election day.
Finally, someone has figured it out. There are several methods for voting and no time constraints! E-voting, telephone voting or "in person" voting! I'm looking forward to seeing what the percentage is of voter turnout in my town this year.
I am informed. Voting is simple. I am opting to cast my ballot by computer today.