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October 7, 2011 / amanda stratton

Fear and Voting in the 2011 Ontario General Election

Despite the close finish, or maybe in part because of it, the big story from election day seems to be the low voter turnout. The most common assumption is that low voter turnout indicates high apathy. Although, for the record, I support a person’s right to not vote, I’m disinclined to believe that apathy was the key factor. I think that low voter turnout indicates indecision.

In part, it may be because people didn’t feel well-enough informed. There’s so much information that gets floated around, and it’s hard to sort through. And people know that the truth is often obfuscated to serve political agendas and media bias. Facts are sometimes just opinions. Statistics can lie. Trust No One.

That makes it hard to make a decision in the best of times, and these are not the best of times. The difficulty of deciding is directly proportional to the lasting importance of the decision. And the entire world is at an important juncture right now. I don’t know whether we call it a crossroads, or a turning point, or the part with the rock on one side and the hard place on the other.

However we want to frame it, the next four years are important, and we’re potentially facing an economic and social problem we haven’t seen in seventy years. We can’t just be content to say “here’s the new boss, same as the old boss” this time. What happens next matters. It’s not a situation where we’re all going to be okay no matter what because this is Canada, and gosh darnit, we’re Ontario.

I don’t think fewer people voted because more people didn’t care. I think fewer people voted because more people were scared to make the wrong decision. There will always be a certain number of people who routinely abstain from voting for whatever reason, but when people who normally do vote decide in large numbers that they won’t, I think it must be something besides apathy at play.

I don’t think people suddenly decide they don’t care anymore when the decision matters most. They’re just afraid of making a mistake when they feel like marking that ballot could also mean leaving an indelible mark on Ontario–their lives and their children’s lives.

I don’t think people don’t care. I think they’re scared. And I don’t really blame them.





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