Voters need to get informed: understanding parties and politicians is a critical component of democracy

By   —   October 20, 2011   —   in Opinions

Do you really know who and what you're voting for?

With the constant stream of advertisements and articles being published, it’s hard to ignore the upcoming provincial election.

One of these election-related pieces, a recent article in the StarPhoenix’s weekly feature paper Bridges, caught my eye. At first I was pleased to see an article that spoke to the younger generations, emphasizing our important role in society as the future leaders.

The article featured Zoe Roy, who started the non-partisan movement Rock the Vote in Saskatchewan. I was both pleased and thankful to hear this young woman’s story of overcoming adversity, her passion for politics and effectively relating to youth through music. However, I would disagree with the notion that a non-partisan movement is an effective tool for getting young people to vote.

Although I agree that politicians don’t hear the youth perspective, I disagree that it’s a vicious cycle. There is a serious lack of education about the function of government in society, especially in our generation. There is also a lack of appreciation for those who fought for democracy, that I feel non-partisan movements only perpetuate.

The attitude of a non-partisan movement is that voting is of most importance (this aspect receives a lot of hype), while education about individual parties is not emphasized.

This said, I have to give credit to the Rock the Vote movement, which at least provides workshops that, according to their website, educate about the various platforms.

However, non-partisan movements ask the wrong question — if asking anything at all. The question of “Why are you voting for X party?” is just as important as the statement of “get out and vote!” We all have the right to vote, but we need to educate ourselves on these platforms. A person must be able to relate to the issues, platforms and parties before feeling that voting is imperative. In short, we will only educate ourselves (or simply care) if we are interested. This is mere speculation, but I believe that we will only become interested if we feel that we need to change this country.

It’s unfortunate that as youth, only 37 per cent of us exercised this privilege in 2008. Although the results are not in from the most recent election, overall, the percentage of voters increased only two per cent, from 59 to 61. So not even two out of three people voted. I can barely fathom this amount of apathy; there has to be a steel veil between the citizens and government of this country.

Do we have that much trust in our government, that we believe whoever runs our country from their pedestal is going to be good enough? Do we believe that if we all congregate together and celebrate our similarities in good ol’ kumbayah-fashion we can change this world? Who cares who you are voting for, just get out and vote? I realize that this isn’t the intent of these groups, but unfortunately it comes off as being this simple.

Of course, if we could all sit down and effectively come to a conclusion about the sort of government we want, and get the majority of citizens in this country to vote, perhaps then we could change things.

As citizens of this country, we are seriously disconnected from our governments. Perhaps this is because of everyday distractions; Facebook (admittedly guilty), television and excessively mind-numbing music turning us into good little consumers. As citizens, we need to realize that the future can be in our hands if we get off our asses and reach for it. We just need to educate ourselves.

Of course, we can’t talk politics all of the time, but why can’t two people sit down with a beer and explain their beliefs? Why does this have to be a social taboo? Do we need to keep the peace so we can have lots of “friends”?

All I’m asking is that as citizens, we share a brief moment of lucidity and ask ourselves: why do we act this way? Let’s be responsible for the future of our country by actually understanding who and what we are voting for.

Photo: Dean Shareski/Flickr

2011 Saskatchewan provincial election democracy iUsask rock the vote vote or die voter apathy voter education voting youth vote
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