Note: I am writing this the day after the election in the US when the results are still quite undecided and there is talk of some votes not counting and others counting. I won't post this until a winner has been declared..
Voting. It is not something that I have ever taken for granted. As a child I was taught that voting was a right and a privilege and that it was my duty to express it. I have voted in every federal and provincial election since I was old enough. I may have missed one civic election just because things happened. I could not vote when I was in Australia, and last fall I had not lived long enough in Innisfail to make the residency requirements. But voting is very important to me.
In Canada it is really quite easy to vote. Since 1960 when Aboriginal Canadians were finally given the franchise to vote, all one needs to do is prove residency and prove your citizenship and even on the day you will be able to cast your ballot. No one is excluded from voting as long as they can prove these things. There is no one who meets those two criteria who cannot vote. Political parties encourage people to vote. An independent Elections Canada or Elections Alberta manages the election.
Now there are problems with our system. In our first past the post system, it is possible that a party might get a huge majority with under 40% of the vote. That doesn't seem fair. A party might get 10% of the vote and not win a single seat in the governing body. That doesn't seem fair either. Then there is also the fact that our country is not evenly divided with population. Smaller provinces always complain that the most populous provinces determine the outcome of the election. Those provinces with larger populations counter that it would not be fair if 300,000 votes were needed to elect a member in their province while it would only take 10,000 votes to elect a member in another part of the country. So there are flaws in the system.
I am here to say though, that with all of its flaws, I will take the Canadian way of voting over that of other countries. During the past US election, much was made of how voter suppression played an important part in how the decision was made. In some states, only one voting place was designated for early balloting for each county. Harris County (metropolitan Houston) covers an area that is 5/6ths the size of Prince Edward Island. In the county, 4.7 million people live. Yet state lawmakers there said there could be just one advance voting station for the whole county. Immigrant voters, Latino voters, and African American voters still find it hard to register to vote in many portions of the country. Some law makers are trying to suggest that mail in votes not be counted- even though the states have already been using mail in ballots for years. Stories of people standing in line for 11 hours to vote flood the internet. The electoral college also means that a person's vote may not be counted. Is it any wonder why even in this election that seemed so important, only 150,000,000 votes will be cast in a country with 330,000,000 residents.
In Australia, things are different. It is the law that everyone must vote. Those who do not vote are fined and cannot renew driver's licenses or car insurance. They have a preferential ballot system. You have to rank every candidate on the ballot. So say there are 13 names. You have to mark each candidate from 1 to 13. On the first ballot, everyone's first choice is counted. If no one receives 50% of the vote, then the 13th party is eliminated. On the second ballot, the second choice preference of the 13th candidate will be added into the mix. This goes on and on until someone gets 50%. The problem with this though is that eventually the Purple Party might win. But they may have been the first choice of only a handful of voters. You could easily elect a party that hwas the first choice of only 10% of the voters.
Our Canadian voting system has flaws. Until 1918 women were excluded from voting. Until 1948, Japanese Canadians could not vote. Until 1962 Aboriginal people could not vote. So we have excluded some. But now, I don't think anyone who meets the standards of being a Canadian citizen, over 18, and can prove a place of residence is prevented from voting. And although our first past the post system is flawed, I have yet to see a better system. At least my choice to vote for the Purple party remains that, it does not flip to the Yellow party by virtue of the numbers. I am always a proud Canadian, but on the day following an election, I am even a prouder Canadian. Blessings.