Alberta Votes·Point of View

Voter apathy in Alberta's election not a problem, argues pollster Janet Brown

Independent pollster Janet Brown says health of our democracy should be measured by how many voters make the effort to make an informed choice, not the number of votes cast.

Longtime political watcher says Albertans have the right to vote or the right not to

Pollster Janet Brown says if the public believes polls to be true, they can influence how people will choose to vote. (CBC)

Voter turnout has been on the decline in Alberta for the past two decades. 

This has been a huge cause for concern for many political watchers, and a great deal of time and effort has been devoted to figuring out how to reverse this trend.

Janet Brown is an independent pollster and political commentator in Alberta. (@planetjanetyyc)

But I'm not so sure we should be trying to convince everyone to vote, for the sake of voting. If you don't see the value in voting perhaps you should just stay home.

If you don't see the value in voting perhaps you should just stay home.- Janet Brown

As a pollster, I'm often asked about the extent to which apathy has become a problem in Alberta, and how this trend can be reversed. And every time I'm asked this question, a little voice in my head says, 'Apathy? Who cares?'

Elections Alberta has even got in on the act, recently announcing it will be launching a multi-media campaign to encourage people to vote in the upcoming Alberta election. 

When I heard about this initiative, I had to wonder why this would even be a goal for Elections Alberta. 

The mandate of Elections Alberta is to organize fair and open elections, and to ensure it's easy for us to participate in the electoral process. Elections Alberta has a duty to ensure that the voting process is accessible to all who those want to vote. But, I don't think it's their job to cajole people into voting.

The logic of the anti-apathy crusaders is that the decisions made by elected officials on our behalf are so important that all citizens should feel obliged to vote. 

But, by my logic, the decisions made by elected officials are so important, that it's probably better if the people who haven't devoted the time and effort into understanding the issues to just stay home on election day.

Government is complex … very complex

Government decisions have huge impact on our day-to-day lives and our quality of life. We depend on our government-run health-care system to be there for us at the beginning of life, the end of life and every stage in between. We depend on our government-run education system to give all children an opportunity to succeed.

We depend on government to take measures to keep our economy strong. I could go on about roads and highways, resource management, safety and security, protecting the vulnerable, disaster management, adult learning, environmental stewardship and prudent fiscal management.

Choosing the representatives who will oversee these responsibilities is far too important to be left up to people who haven't bothered investing the time and energy necessary to get to know the politicians, and the platforms of the political parties they represent.

Life gets in the way. You've got better things to do. Politics just isn't everyone's cup of tea. If the issues facing this province are not a big concern for you, that's okay. No judgement! 

Voting is a right, which means you should have the right to vote or the right not to vote.

So, if all you're going to do is make a last minute decision on who to vote for based on something as superficial as gender, ethnicity, charisma, fashion sense or the lawn sign in front of your neighbour's house, then — please — do us all a favour, and just stay home!

Let's stop measuring the health of our democracy by how many people vote. Let's start measuring it by how many voters actually make the effort to make an informed choice.


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