OTHER VOICES: Voting confirms our democratic commitment

Fair elections distinguish our society from many others around the world

Nobody said democracy would be easy.

In fact, it is quite hard. Millions of us, each a sovereign in our own right.

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Figuring out how we are going to live together and make our own rules that apply to all.

To do this well and inclusively requires a lot of conversations and exchanges of ideas. Conversations that are sometimes anger-ridden and divisive. All the more important, then, to elect and include people skilled in facilitating constructive dialogue in our democratic institutions who can forge common ground among us.

For we must always remember that we share our common humanity and the belief in freedom to lead a good life, whatever our idea of that good life may be.

And so, we are asked to vote in another election. Odd isn’t it how they just keep popping up. 

But this is the deal we were born into if we were lucky enough to be born in Canada.

Or what we signed up for if we immigrated from another country to become a citizen. 

And it must be recalled, with Remembrance Day around the corner, what some of our fellow citizens died for.

And as much or even more so, a reality that Indigenous peoples and First Nations were excluded from for so many years and who and are still negotiating or litigating to regain their dignity and autonomy in most of British Columbia.

It is critical to remember that voting and elections – and all the difficult challenges posed by democracy – are what distinguish our society from so many others.

After all, on one level, we are not much different than people in say Russia, Belarus or China – pick your autocracy. Our citizens, like theirs, wake to their day full of working, studying, playing (if you are wealthy enough to have the luxury of play time) and raising their families. Their free time, like ours, is spent enjoying friends, family or some hobby.

So, what distinguishes us really from our friends in Russia, Belarus and China?

Freedom and the burden of the work necessary to govern ourselves.

And for those of you who think this election is completely unnecessary in the moment of a pandemic, so why vote at all, you can take a page out of some democracy activists’ playbook. Now I’m not suggesting you eat your ballot – as happened in a case I once worked on defending the rights of citizens to protest in a past election. Nor am I encouraging anyone to spoil a ballot. But there is no rule against submitting a ballot with no preferred candidate.   

By doing so, you can register your frustrations with our politicians in a democratic way while fulfilling your duty as a citizen to vote.

Or, you can vote for the candidate and party you feel will best represent your wishes, values and interests in the BC Legislature.

So, no excuses. Grab your mask, get informed and get out and vote (or mail in your ballot).

But wait!

If you really want to show off your commitment to democracy, talk up the election and encourage your friends, family, neighbours and beyond to get out and vote too. Tell your voting story on We Vote North Shore (wevotens.ca). If you have kids, nieces or nephews, or especially know a first time voter, take them out to the polls with you and tell them why voting is important.

OK, this behaviour may not make you the most popular aunt or uncle or get you a first date (did Dr. Bonnie even say we get to date during the pandemic?), but just do it. Research suggests that if young adults vote when they are first eligible they are more likely to become lifelong voters, and that encouragement from someone they know is the best way to get undecided adults to vote.

Voting is both a right and responsibility of citizens in a democracy.

Exercise it. Fulfill it.

And get ready for the all-important democratic work we need to do together coming up in between elections.

Murray Mollard is the executive director of North Shore Community Resources and operates NSCR’s Democracy Café program.

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