About two and a half years ago, Albertans voted in a historic provincial election.
I had moved to Alberta just three months prior and in that time, I used a hospital for a broken toe, I set down roots where I planned for my daughter to go to school and I got to know what this province's issues and values were all about.
It tore me to shreds that I couldn't vote that May -- provincially, like municipally, one must be a resident of Alberta for six months before they are eligible to vote.
To that point, I hadn't missed a single opportunity to vote since turning 18 and that includes municipal, provincial, federal and even college student union and board of governors elections. Heck, I even served on my first college's board of governors.
I feel so strongly that all should vote, yet I am clearly in the minority.
Voter turnout in elections at all levels across Canada have gone down consistently over the decades -- albeit with slight upticks in recent elections.
Until 2012, voter turnout was down every Alberta provincial election since 1993. It's only touched 60 per cent once since the modern-era record of 66 per cent in 1982. The all-time high was 81.8 per cent in 1935, according to Elections Alberta.
In 2013, only 31.83 per cent of Red Deer voters went to the polls to vote for council and school boards. Though the numbers don't mean much until the vote is over, Advance Vote turnout increased 17.8 per cent this year, according to the City of Red Deer. A sign of hope, perhaps.
When it comes to not voting, explanations (excuses) range from "I don't care" to "My one vote won't change the results" to "I'm too busy" or "I'm working that day."
First off, your employer is legally obligated to give you time to vote (s. 58 Local Authorities Election Act).
Second, you should care -- and you can't say you care about voting federally, but not municipally, because they are all woven together more than most people realize. You should care because so many people have died and fought for the right to vote -- though I suppose you also have the right not to vote.
But you should also care because if you don't vote, you're not allowed -- by unwritten rule -- to complain. If as many people voted as there are that whine on Facebook about how "Red Deer is going to s***" or how "Red Deer is the Compton of Canada," voter turnout would be through the roof.
Will your one vote change anything? Possibly. Possibly not. But what if everyone used that excuse?
This year possibly more than ever, Red Deer is facing a number of critical issues: hospital expansion, crime, safe consumption services, homelessness, spending on future recreation facilities, and recovery from the economic downturn, just to name a few.
I voted Saturday night at 7 p.m., with one hour left in the final Advance Vote, and it felt damn good. It felt like I was putting my stamp on history, regardless whether any of my selections actually get elected.
The polls are open Monday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. I implore you to do the same and exercise your democratic right.
As the City of Red Deer has been telling voters all campaign long - Don't just speak up, SHOW UP!
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