Tell me I’m apathetic. I don’t care.
Voter apathy. It has become a common complaint over the last number of years in all levels of government. And that is a shame, especially when so many have fought and died to protect that freedom for us.
Some of the reasons for voter apathy are a lack of trust in politicians who feed off the taxpayer’s trough; a lack of trust in a system that is failing; politicians ignoring certain groups or issues; unkept promises and political self-interest of those voted in. To that mix add in a voter’s family obligations, work, health, or lack of knowledge. Regardless of the reason, voter participation has dropped a drastic 12% since 2004. As much as this is a concern for the future of this city, it can also be very telling of what candidates offer residents during election season.
Incumbents offering the same ol’, same ol’ doesn’t necessarily mean the populace is satisfied with them. Offering the same can signal that voters don’t see the purpose of going to polls when the outcome will likely be the same.
New candidates and hopefuls face the issue of not being well known. This readily leaves the door open for those already in office as they have had significant time to build name recognition. In advertising circles this is known as branding. And branding doesn’t happen overnight.
As unfortunate as the reality of this may be to new candidates, there are ways to bring a new candidate’s name and platform to the forefront and dip into the “branding” pool. And that is through the voters themselves.
So the remainder of this article is meant to address the voters who are tired of the apathy and who have a desire to see their candidate of choice successfully elected into office.
Active, well-informed and confident supporters can offer their candidate so much more than the conventional “vote for my candidate” rhetoric. They need to avoid getting caught up in discussions and arguments that lead nowhere though. Too often they are approached by their opposition with questions or comments intended to inflame. This only hurts their particular candidate of choice and may cost their candidate a vote.
What to do?
- First and foremost, the supporter needs to be informed of why they support their candidate using relevant facts.
- Secondly, the supporter needs to get out and actually do a ‘face to face’ with potential voters. This leaves more of an impression on a potential voter than the online method. Talking with one’s neighbours, talking while in line at the supermarket, seniors’ residents, coffee houses, farmers’ market, city events, sporting events and wherever the supporter gets out to, are positive steps.
- The supporter can also make use of opportunities to get people fired up about things that directly affect them. Most often if people don’t see an issue directly affecting them, they don’t act. For example, renters. A common thread amongst renters is that property taxes don’t affect them, so they don’t pay attention to what is happening in the community they are renting in. Letting them know that their rent is directly affected by taxes the landlord has to pay, which in turn increases the price of their monthly rent, should be a wake-up call.
- Seek out like-minded supporters and become creative in promoting your candidate. You have now started a grassroots movement. Stick to the facts and, if possible, stay away from dissing your candidate’s opposition, which in essence amounts to free advertising for the opposition. Have fun with the movement, but always keep in mind that whatever you do, it should reflect positively on your candidate of choice.
Case in point, a Stabnow member was given an handout by an individual who had received it via someone in their neighbourhood who strongly believed in the candidate they were promoting. This was not an “official campaign” handout, but it was plain, simple and effective with its message. Kudos to them for taking such an initiative. And it is an excellent example of the beginning of a grassroots movement in fighting voter apathy.
- Online discussion groups are great and an excellent way to link up with like-minded. One such chatline can be found on http://mybirdie.ca/ . This site also supplies various links to other groups that support either candidates themselves or specific platforms. Join them. Thoroughly explore their sites to become more informed. If they have chat sites, use them appropriately for great discussions.
But don’t stop there. Remember that the most impact you can lend to your candidate of choice, as well as help combat voter apathy, is to get out there and exhibit a friendly face – your face – to those who see no reason to visit the polls.
Above all, be creative, have fun and make your enthusiasm contagious.