Thursday, 12 June 2014

Thursday, or Thereabouts - June 12, 2014

Voting Day

After some six weeks of election promises, position and policy statements, accompanied by the now typical
yet lamentable mud slinging, we get to exercise our franchise and elect the next provincial government of Ontario. The pollsters and political pundits claim this election is too close to call so campaign staff are working the phones, encouraging the electorate to get out there and vote.

It blows my mind that in my glorious and free Canada, voter turnout is so abysmal; 61% voted in the last Federal election, 49% in the last provincial and roughly the same (or less!!) in the last municipal election. My Dad instilled in me very early on the importance of voting and the responsibility of every Canadian citizen to cast a ballot on election day.

My Dad the Weather Man
Many times I accompanied my Dad to the polling station, long before I was old enough to vote. I loved those walks with him. They took on the tone of a pilgrimage to a holy site. People there spoke in hushed tones, no jokes, no laughter, polite smiles only. I learned that voting was a solemn, serious thing. I never learned who Dad voted for despite repeated efforts to get him to reveal his choice. Such inquiries were always met with a sermon about the secrecy of the ballot being a hallmark of true democracy.

I heard that very same sermon again today, Dad's voice whispering in my memory as I entered the polling station, registered then stepped behind the cardboard privacy shield set up on a desk. I believe I heard Dad snort in disgust at this rather paltry excuse for a voting booth.

Back in the day I'd watch Dad from my assigned place along the wall just inside the door of the polling station, which more often than not was in someone's home. Ballot in hand, or sometimes the ballots were already in the booth, he drew aside the curtain of the booth and stepped inside. Then he turned and with great care and deliberation slid it back in place, concealing his presence and vote. A minute or two later the curtain was swept back with a wee bit of a flourish as he emerged, then marched over to the grey metal ballot box and pushed his ballot through the slot. Two taps of his palm on the box assured at least to him that his vote was in. With glowing heart, the free man voted.

Though today lacked much of the ritual that accompanied my father's experience, I too emerged from behind the privacy screen, strode over the white cardboard ballot box and pushed my ballot through the slot. I too gave the box two taps of my right hand.

We don't enjoy the same level of trust in our politicians that my Dad enjoyed and that is a profound loss, but not only do we still get to speak freely about that, we get to vote. This democracy of ours is far from perfect but it sure beats the alternative. And so with glowing heart, this free woman voted today.

©2014 April Hoeller

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