The Right to Vote
In 2000 I turned 18 and became of legal voting age here in Canada. It just so happens that year there was a Canadian Federal election, and although my memories are somewhat hazy I am pretty sure it was a pretty heated one. I will also be honest and tell you that I don’t remember who I voted for. Although even if I did, I typically do not tell others how I cast my ballot. You can blame that on old school Soviet paranoia. Alternatively, you can blame it on me wanting to keep an air of mystique around me at all times.
I remember going to vote in the gym of my old elementary school and I remember thinking that the whole process was really anti-climactic. You come in, show ID, walk behind a cheap cardboard barricade, mark a ballot and you’re done. I sometimes think that if there was more pomp and circumstance around the whole thing more people would vote. Like maybe there could be a crowd cheering for you as you exited? Or they could bling out the ballot a little? Add some glitter? I also always imagined the voting booths to be more what you see in the movies, all curtained in and private… And yes, I realize there are people dying for the right to vote and I am here complaining about my voting experience in a Democratic country not being “cool” enough.
Anyway, the important thing is that I voted. I have missed one voting opportunity since that November day for reasons beyond my control. And I felt pretty bad about it. It has been drilled into my head that voting is such an important thing to do so I had all sorts of Democratic guilt after missing Election Day a few years ago.
I also wanted to write about this because of the recent passing of Jack Layton. I am not going to tell you if I voted for him in the last election or any prior to that, but I can tell you that I live in his riding in Toronto so the NDP orange has been a staple of my neighborhood around election time. I think most people in Toronto, whether they live in his riding or not, felt a bit of a connection with him since we shared this town and he was always proud to be from here. His passing was a shock to a lot of people, including myself. More than just his death, a lot of people have been surprised by how much they care. I don’t mean that to sound callous, but I have had numerous conversations with my friends who said they were deeply saddened by the news, much more so than they would have expected.
I think there are numerous reasons for this. Jack was charismatic, he focused a lot on the youth vote so a lot of people within my age group grew up with him being a huge motivation for voting, and most importantly, for caring. His party just formed the Official Opposition as the outcome of the last election. People were excited for change. His time had seemingly finally come, and then…
I am not going to quote his letter to Canadians because it seems like everyone has already done that. I will say that although I did not agree on everything with him, he was a passionate politician that made people hopeful and that, is a rare find. He will be missed.
If you want to read a great piece about the man (and maybe cry a little) here is one of my favorites.