Our credo at Citizen Capitalism — You have the power to change the world one act at a time — is relevant regardless of where you live. But for those living in a democracy, it’s of heightened relevance during an election.
So this week’s blog focuses on our home country of Canada, because we have a barn-burner of a federal election underway, and the practices of Citizen Capitalism are breaking out everywhere you look. Voting activism is front-and-centre (or center, for our American friends).
You’ve heard lots about the context for this, especially if you’ve been reading our stuff. Like many countries, we’ve been dealing with declining voter participation rates and as part of that, low engagement among young voters. There are many who go so far as to question the legitimacy of elections where less than half the people vote.
There’s lots of evidence that says close-to-full participation would radically change election outcomes. More importantly, there’s also evidence that says if young people don’t vote in the first few elections for which they are eligible, they likely never will! Like everything else, voting becomes a habit. Or not. Democracy is predicated on that habit being formed, and for the sake of our future, that has to happen.
In an earlier blog, we raised the subject of mandatory voting. Have a look back if you want to read it: http://www.citizencapitalism.com/2011/04/06/it%E2%80%99s-illegal-not-to-vote/
There are many democracies around the world who have decided that voting is a legal obligation of being a citizen, like being on a jury or paying your taxes. This subject has been raised in Canada before (2005), but the discussion never went anywhere.
Proponents say it will legitimize election outcomes and ensure all voices are heard, both of which will strengthen our democracy. Opponents say it will cost money, be tough to enforce, result in uninformed voting, and that the very concept goes against the grain of democracy, which is that it’s our right not to vote for anybody! In polls, including ours, people are evenly split on this issue.
But here’s the good news for those who value voting and don’t think we should have to force participation. Individual citizens are talking up the cause, and lots of interesting things are happening as a result. Here are a few of our favourites.
Lead Now has done a hilarious parody of the “I am” commercial that created a stir over 10 years ago for Molson Canadian. It’s at http://www.leadnow.ca/ They are also involved in the vote mob movement that has sprung up at universities and colleges across the country.
Here’s a great article talking about the phenomenon: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/ottawa-notebook/voting-mob-mentality-has-young-people-running-amok/article1989013/
Another catalyst for the vote mob movement is one of our favourite Canadians, Rick Mercer. He did a great rant on voting that ought to inspire anybody who sees it, especially those who don’t like where we’re headed as a country. Enjoy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=225Mx6ya7SQ.
There are polls suggesting that we could be headed to a participation rate of close to 70% in this election, and if we get there it will be because citizens have decided that their vote matters. We’ll believe it when we see it given the accuracy of polling data these days, but for now we have hope. And if it doesn’t pan out, we could always make it the law.
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