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North Island local elections’ home stretch – let’s remember to vote, no matter what

“It’s just as much about picking a candidate than it is about exercising our right.”

Every local has a right to vote. After all, we live in a free, democratic society, but let’s not kid ourselves. Voting is certainly no privilege, so don’t take it for granted. In fact, it’s a duty, but it’s one we have to exercise every four years. Some people might think it’s a privilege to vote, however, and that it should be handled with great care. Let’s stop thinking that way.

Every vote will decide which direction our local town’s course will go, so it’s only fair that every person is able to have a say on which direction that is. Even if you’re uninformed, it’s our right to vote however we want, and if some residents choose to vote uninformed, so be it.

Arguments that try persuade residents not to go out to vote because they’re uninformed leads to dangerous territory, one that would progressively suppress votes. That’s diametrically opposed to our values as a democracy and our right to decide who represents us at the decision-making table.

Let’s not talk about how others should vote – scolding those who are uninformed about candidates and telling those same people not to go out and practice their right. Instead, worry about your own vote.

With voting turnout rates plummeting each and every year we should be encouraging residents to just get on with it and go to the polls. In the 2014 general local elections, only 1280 residents voted on the mayor’s position, out of around 4,000 total residents in Port Hardy. That’s roughly over 30 per cent of residents who voted. So in this case, those few people who vote without being informed won’t sway the election, anyway.

It does not matter if a small segment of the voters is politically ignorant, but it does, however, turn into a bigger issue if the majority are that way. But this isn’t the case for our region. Those hundreds of votes are often involved community members who readily know about candidates. Of course, those ignorant of politics often don’t come to the polls in droves.

It’s just as much about picking a candidate than it is about exercising our right, which was hard fought in creating what our democracy is today with our constitution and laws.

At the end of the day, we as voters cannot pick and choose which group of people (informed voters) can pick and choose. Once we start telling people to stay home on election day is exactly the moment when those few people get to make the huge decision of who gets elected. Voting is, after all, an inherent right for everyone.

In some way, it’s not so much about being an ignorant voter but about voter apathy – those who just don’t care enough to vote. But we all should care enough to spend 10 minutes out of our day to put our two cents into the election. Ignorant voters at least might care enough to vote; the apathetic voter won’t bother because they might think it won’t affect the election anyway.

And it’s those kinds of arguments, the ones that scold those apathetic or ignorant voters to just stop coming out to vote, which lowers turnout rates and ends up putting a risk to our right to vote. So this Saturday vote whichever way you want even if you may not know much about any of the local candidates.

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