2011 Villain: Apathetic Voters
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2011 Villain: Apathetic Voters

Nominated for: not caring when caring is most important.

Torontoist is ending the year by naming our Heroes and Villains—the very best and very worst people, places, things, and ideas that have had an influence on the city over the past twelve months. From December 12–23, the candidates for Mightiest and Meanest—and new this year, a reader’s write-in option! From December 26–29 you’ll be able to vote for Toronto’s Superhero and Supervillain of the year, and we’ll reveal the results December 30.

By now, Torontonians should be pretty good at this whole election thing. Whether we’re voting federally, provincially, or municipally, we’ve had plenty of opportunities to hit the polls these past 12+ months. So maybe we’re burnt out. Or maybe voters just don’t care. But whatever the reason, eligible voters are exercising their right to choose to vote, and many are opting out.

While voter turnout was up for the last municipal election just over a year ago (the advanced poll turnout was especially good, up 80 per cent from 2003), it’s still the case that only about half of eligible voters actually exercised this particular democratic right.

This city practically makes a sport out of Rob Ford bashing, but the 47 per cent of eligible voters who did nothing to end his reign before it started really have no right to complain.

True, that particular election was in October 2010, but it was not an isolated event: in 2011 the trend of increasing voter apathy manifested nationally and provincially as well.

In the most recent provincial election, voter turnout in Ontario hit an all-time low, with less than half (only 49.2 per cent) of eligible voters going to the polls. Numbers are better when it comes to the national election, with voter turnouts now reaching over 60 per cent, but that still means that 4 out of 10 eligible voters just didn’t bother.

Apathetic voters. The issue here isn’t really about who is leading our city, province, or country, but about the fact that if the populace isn’t voting, the populace isn’t being represented. Important decisions are being made by the people that “we” elect to represent us. We’re seeing this in action right now. Locally, we may soon lose a number of social services, bus routes, and City jobs, among other cuts. These cuts have been proposed and voted on by city council. Who are voted in. By us. Well, half of us. And it really seems that more than half of us are complaining about these cuts.

To those who opted out, those of you who are on our 2011 Villain list, do you still think voting doesn’t matter? Perhaps you should visit your local library branch and read up on how this whole thing works. What’s that you say? The library’s hours have been cut and are they’re closed for the day? Well, there you go.

While solutions have been proposed (electronic voting, elector reform, and especially a local campaign for ranked ballots) to improve voter turnout, for now, this is the system we’ve got. Just because you don’t like it, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use it. If you think there’s a better way, join the conversation to push for change. You have the right to use your voice, and to talk about the issues and discussed solutions. We do live in a democratic society after all—even if half of us seem to have forgotten.