Every Vote Counts?

So, there was an election here this past week … and the party that I didn’t want to win won. Now, I had intended to vote but on voting day I was busy and so decided that it was too much bother. So, then, I started to feel guilty, as if my vote could have done something and that maybe I wouldn’t have the right to complain about it because I didn’t try to help stop the party that I didn’t want to win from winning.

And then, I checked the results from my riding. The party that I wanted to win … won my riding. Handily. So, the party didn’t actually need my vote at all, and it would have made absolutely no difference. So, then, I didn’t have to feel bad about not voting at all; practically speaking, the vote wouldn’t have made even a symbolic gesture of defiance.

Now, some might say that this is a sign that the electoral process needs to change, so that my vote would count more directly for which party or party leader won the election, or that popular support should count more than who wins what ridings. But I disagree. I think that the whole problem is that in an election we think more about what party or leader we want to win and less — if at all — about what candidate we want to represent our interests. In the past election, I only knew the name of one local candidate, and that was only because she annoyed me with a flyer stuck under my windshield wiper and a phone call on my answering machine, which made me want to vote for her less (Hint: in your face advertising irritates some people). Other than that, I knew nothing about them.

But in a representational democracy, shouldn’t I be more concerned about my local candidate than the party? After all, it’s the local candidate who’s going to represent me, not the party they ran for, surely?

What I think should happen is that political parties should be effectively eliminated, like we have for municipal elections. Every local candidate, then, runs on their own, and we elect the candidate that we best think represents us. The first session after an election, all the lucky elected vote for someone to lead (a premier or prime minister or whatever). That person then chooses a cabinet, and that’s your government, with each member of government accountable first to their riding, since they will be judged on how well they represent the riding.

This sort of system is probably a pipe dream, but it’s a far better ideal for democracy than voting in any way for a party or a leader directly.


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