As of Sunday morning, 1.6 million people have been to the advanced polls on a holiday weekend when people generally have a bunch of other things to do. A record advanced turn out is expected. It’s a popular belief that people lose interest in elections when they bracket a holiday period or if the weather is crappy. Not so this weekend. Some lines were long and a bit of grumbling is understandable, with accusations of voter suppression not far behind. Thankfully, I was in a shortish line and had a bit of time to get caught up with a neighbour who always works at a poll. We high fived when I cast my ballot. The atmosphere was calm and respectful, a very Canadian scene with lots of thank yous and unnecessary use of the word “sorry”. The greeter outside was looking after a friendly little terrier who was not allowed into the zone. No word on which party has the best canine policy.
When the first flood of links popped up to stories of people dressing up to go and vote, I immediately assumed that it was in solidarity with Zunera Ishaq, the reluctantly famous woman who fought and won the right to become Canadian while wearing a niqab. Upon reading them I realized that even we die hard politicos get it incredibly wrong sometimes. She will likely eventually head to ballot box with her face covered, which has prompted the fancy dress from others in protest. Clowns, ghosts, mummers and a woman wearing a potato sack have all exercised their primary democratic right so far. Attempts to whip the masses into a frenzy of rage have clearly failed. If you show your ID and swear an oath that it is indeed you behind the gear – you’re good to go. You have every right to look as fabulous or idiotic as you want. Let’s have the next election on Hallowe’en. Bowls of candy will insure more record numbers. The Pirate Party will win the costume parade hands down.
Last week, a steady line of mostly young advanced voters graced the University Centre at U of G. In a new twist, the students were given the option this year of voting either locally or in their home ridings. Guelph’s on-campus special ballot in 2011 became infamous, as it was where Conservative operative Michael Sona made his first appearance in that campaign, raising a very public pre-robocall stink in the UC that may have been a bit of foreshadowing. This year, all was calm. Voting ran for four days and the line was longish so they formed two eventually. We old timers get a bit grumpy at the prospect of a long wait but for the young ones, having fully trained for such occasions in velvet rope night club situations or add/drop lines, would not be deterred. I witnessed at least one woman in a head covering, raring to go. No one blinked.
I have found that most of those who chronically complain about the government don’t bother to vote, with the most common excuse being “they are all the same”. I usually last about one political conversation with anyone that admits to this, which usually ends in me telling them if that’s the reason they don’t vote, they need to shut the fuck up. I know lots of people that don’t vote that have a deep seated political reason not to and I respect that fully. One better is to show up and officially decline, which is also well within your rights. It can sow a bit of confusion though; a friend of mine was told when asking to exercise this option a few years ago that he should just spoil his ballot as it’s the same thing. It definitely isn’t and he held firm, not leaving until it was done. Numbers of declined generally don’t make the news, nor do the hundreds of fringe candidates on the margins, unless they are doing something interesting or wacky. But it’s all part of the process and every bit of it counts.
The big day is closing in fast. You’ve probably heard enough at this point and have made up your mind. You may have already done the deed or are still thinking it over. Either way, please join the Open Sources team on election night from 8pm on, either on 93.3FM, live streamed at www.cfru.ca or in person at The Bullring until closing time (11pm). We should know by midnight who has got the gig. Congratulations in advance on doing your part to make the wheels turn.