Voting

Sunday, October 20th, 2018

A characteristic Saturday in Vancouver; crisp, but bright - browned leaves litter the sidewalks, encased in a barely perceptible frost. An air of weekend lethargy hangs in the air. 10 voting locations are scattered across the City - high school gyms converted into a maze of screens, churches stocked with polling boxes and neatly trimmed ballots. Cars hurtle by each station, guilt precipitating an ever so slight pressure upon the gas pedal. Some slow down - calculating how long the process would take,  a few even park if a slot is available. Others shrug and speed away. Though the double doors, voters amble in and out between errands, circling, when their hasty research eludes them, names at random. 5 mayors, 13 councillors, and 7 school trustees, making for a total of 25 candidates, were running. 21 votes ordained the mayor as Mary Ann Booth - a verdict representing 38.28 per cent of eligible voters. This scant figure, however, was deemed a success and a definite improvement from 2013’s 25.57 per cent.

Saturday, April 6th, 1912

West Vancouver’s first municipal election. Although few records have withstood the test of time, stations likely seethed with voters; each eager to commemorate the municipality's inception. We can imagine hour-long lines pulsing with anticipation, ballot boxes crammed to the brink, and an almost tangible expectancy that imbued the air. On the sidelines, however, we see the Outcasts– women, impoverished labourers, and immigrants haloed by a congealed dissent, mute witnesses when they should have been active participants. Democracy, then, was a privilege, attesting to the superiority of white, property-owning men. Those who did not fit this rigid template were left mute - articulating their ideas instead through deeds. Movements such as the Suffragettes, or Abolitionists, garnered attention not via words– which, to them, were flimsy implements–  but rather through violence, rallies, hunger strikes, and, in some cases, death. The enfranchisement crusade, thus, was rooted in sacrifices; sacrifices intended not to change the present– as this was a mere folly– but the future. Protests buoyed by the dim hope that, one day, a hundred per cent of citizens could walk into the voting station and voice their beliefs.

Despite the efforts of innumerable martyrs, voting is not a universal right. Democracy still exists as a shadowy notion– some distant prospect the world has yet achieved.  In some countries, this is due to circumstances, but in others such as Canada, it is a fate authored by the people. On paper, our country is a Representational Democracy - meaning all citizens over the age of nineteen elect their leaders. In reality, however, we are represented by less than half of the populace. Although all too willing to grumble on social media, most do not believe their vote amounts to much, haven’t the “time,” or retain some other, obscure reasoning. Regardless, voting is a privilege, and the mere act of placing a slip of paper in a box, power. Power we - as the fortunate few - have no grounds to reject.

Written by Clara Chalmers



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