If you scream loud enough in a crowd, will your voice be heard?
Sometimes it may seem that political election campaigns would answer yes to this question. But for all the show, name calling and finger pointing; what does an election mean to an average person? Does voting mean something? Many sacrifices were made historically, not that long ago in fact, to secure the vote for the majority of populations in the USA and Canada; but does that equal to an actual feeling of power among the people? Do we care what our politicians do, or are we complacent, fed up, or out right done with the "democrat" process we hold dear in both of our societies? Perhaps we feel lucky to have such a process in place, whereas many places in our world do not. I wonder what an examination of the recent past and present would reveal to ourselves about our political competency.
The most recent federal elections in Canada and USA have been historically different from years past. In Canada the 43rd federal election was held after one of the longest running campaigns in history, with the then current Prime Minister being the first since 1979 to try for a fourth consecutive term. (1) With many major issues like health care, government spending and security on the table (2), Canadians showed up to vote in records numbers at 68.3% of the eligible voters; the best turn out since 1993. (3) Were the issues enough to draw people to the polls? It would appear that voter turn out does affect a change in the ruling party. (3) For instance the voter turnout increased by almost 4% in 2006 from 2004 in order to change the governing party from Liberal to Conservative. (3) Perhaps our allegiances align more with the issues than party, unless motivated by these issues we apathetic to our democratic rights.
The USA has a vastly different election process than Canada. It is a complex system that sees fewer voters in federal elections than Canada. This month at the recent election despite a long and arduous campaign that engaged, enraged and enticed the country and the world, voter turnout was still only 56.9%(4), only slightly up from 54.8% in 2012(5). In fact since 1968 the voter turnout in the USA hasn't reached 60% (5). Unlike Canadian voter turnout that on average hovers in the 60% range (3), Americans seem to hover around half their eligible voting population (5). For Americans though, turnout does not seem to affect the changing of parties, mostly because the parties take a more even sharing of power. So even in the face of vital social and economical crises, it would appear that voting is not reflected as an agent of change for the average person.
Numbers are only half the story though. It is what the average person thinks and feels about the amount of power the vote gives them to affect change in their society. The numbers reflect a large portion of the population in both countries that are apathetic to voting. That most people believe that their vote will not change their lives. It could very well be argued that it takes a need to affect a movement. People need the motivation and belief that their actions will make a difference. It would appear that many people do not believe that the vote will do this.
What do you believe? Do you think that voting in federal elections gives you the power to affect change?
Written by Amanda Todd