Today I voted.
No big deal right? Today I voted for the first time in my life.
I am 26 years old and have been legally allowed to vote for 8 years.
Why have I never voted? I felt uneducated.
Some people believe that education is up to the individual. My thoughts are that not everyone is going to care about politics. Not everyone is going to realize the impact that political decisions can have on themselves, their family, and the community. Society and candidates cannot expect citizens to educate themselves. We must teach people [and especially the incoming generations] the value of elections. I truly believe that if education increases, voting numbers will increase.
Anyways, for me, Calgary’s municipal election has been different… and perhaps my approach to it has as well. I find the Calgary Twitter community to be very active compared to many other cities in Canada and the looming election has taken the intensity and local interest up a notch.
Twitter has “put” the election in my “face” for the last however-many-months. Twitter has given me no choice but to learn. Even if I had chosen not to vote, I still would have been somewhat educated on who was running in the election.
In the past, I wouldn’t have known a candidate’s name, let alone anything about their platform.
So I know what you’re thinking… well not every candidate is on Twitter… there is bias etc etc. Well regardless of the candidate being on Twitter or not, they are surely talked about. Some accounts are used solely for promo of their platforms, some are unresponsive and send auto-tweets, and others truly try to engage with their audience. One aspect of Twitter (at least from an organizational point of view) is managing reputation. A slight side note… but if candidate’s are not on Twitter, they are not able to manage (and defend at times) their reputation.
I don’t believe I’ve educated myself from the candidates themselves, instead the community has educated me. The #YYCvote community has done an excellent job of asking hard questions, reviewing platforms, and educating the masses on forums, events, and community initiatives. I have had the opportunity to dig deeper into candidate websites, raise questions when I didn’t understand, and learn a lot about the municipal politics.
For me, Twitter filled the gap… Twitter has made the election convenient. Do I read the newspaper anymore? No I check @calgaryherald and @metronews every morning. The hard copy newspaper is not “convenient.” Neither is traditional election marketing. Regardless of priorities, we all have busy lives. As we move into the future, candidates will have to work even harder to reach their audience. Let’s not assume that everyone is a 20-something, social media activist… candidates need to educate everywhere from nursing homes to corporate to the slums to universities. An effective candidate will realize that in order to be successful they truly need majority vote. Majority vote encompassing everyone aged 18 to elderly.
My experience today? I visited the advance polling station at the Municipal Building. There was no line, I was whisked to a station and greeted by an elections lady. She doubted that I was of age and reviewed my ID in detail. Few quick questions and I was on my way. Please note that she did ask me if I aligned with public or separate. I had no idea what this meant and eventually said public. I headed to the next station where another elections staff person asked me a few quick questions, made me review the elections rules and sign on the dotted line. At this point I informed him that I have never voted and had absolutely no clue what to do. [You would think the bewildered look on my face would have made that clear]. He laughed and walked me through the process. I asked him if I was allowed to non-vote for the school trustee and he said yes. He showed me how to mark a big X on the ballot and I was off to the little voting station. I had already decided who to vote for (both mayoral and aldermanic) so a few quick X’s and I was on my way. In and out in less than 5 minutes; feeling slightly empowered I must say.
A brief statement about the school trustee vote. It COMPLETELY caught me off guard. No where through my process of “educating” myself did I know that I needed to vote for a school trustee. There were 2 candidates on the piece of paper – I had never seen their names and more importantly, I had NO IDEA what a school trustee even does or how the role impacts a school. I chose to spoil my vote because I did not feel comfortable endorsing someone I had absolutely no clue about. I felt like grabbing my iPhone and googling what it all meant [no idea if that’s allowed or not in voting stations]; instead I walked away. Surprised and taken back.
I know how serious people take politics and by no means want to turn my thoughts into political debate.
The point is today I voted. Educate yourselves and vote too.