By this point in the federal election campaign, you may have been advised how to lodge a protest vote, or how to spoil or decline your ballot.
The thinking is that if voters show politicians they are unhappy with “the system,” they might change.
It doesn’t work.
The goal of any election campaign is to win power. To that end, we see all sorts of promises, many of which voters don’t believe. But with victory come the spoils, and that does not include a lament for aggrieved voters.
Some Canadians have gone to great lengths to demonstrate their unhappiness, resorting to eating ballots or even inserting a ballot into a pie crust. Democracy Watch has launched campaigns to inform voters of their right to decline ballots. Last year, law student David Rodriguez lost a charter challenge to have “none of the above” placed on the ballot, arguing freedom of expression.
And if you do destroy your ballot, you may be charged with destroying a government document.
In 2015, 120,515 ballots were rejected representing 0.7 percent of votes cast. Ever hear that number before? You might have heard that the Liberals won 184 seats with just under 40 percent of the vote. But when the winner is determined, spoiled ballots are lost in the ether.
Elections Canada doesn’t register what was wrong with those ballots, whether they were deliberately spoiled — in some cases it’s hard to determine — or whether the voter just made a mistake.
A survey by Elections Canada of people who typically don’t vote indicated they choose to not vote because of negative attitudes toward government, candidates, political parties and just plain apathy. Some don’t vote because they believe their single ballot is meaningless. Strangely, a majority of Canadians also indicated voting should be mandatory.
Refusing to vote surrenders your say in who taxes you and who looks after your health care (federal government transfers). It also relinquishes a say in who will set agricultural policy. All that will still happen, without your input.
Keep in mind that voting freedom is one of the things that differentiates us from countries whose freedoms are restricted. The very act of casting your ballot is not meaningless.
Many people have fought for that freedom. It’s incumbent on us to take advantage of the opportunity that has been paid for with sacrifice.