I am an election super-nerd. It’s true. I enjoy elections the same way normal people enjoy, I dunno, going out to clubs or hearing their favourite band play a stadium concert or whatever it is that normal people do for fun.
Me, I go to all-candidates meetings and read candidate Q&As online. (Come on, how can you not want to know which three people the candidates would have over for a dinner party?)
Which is why every time there’s election I end up jumping up on my soapbox and ranting about the importance of being an engaged and concerned voter – and of actually showing up at the polls. This year, however, I’ve decided that instead of apathy-shaming those who can’t be bothered voting, I’ll flip my approach around and share the top four things I love about elections.
1. I love election signs.
It’s true. I know it may be a rather unpopular opinion – yes, yes, I know they’re unsightly and they clutter up the streetscape, and candidates and volunteers sometimes put them in the wrong places, and people shouldn’t make their decisions based just on signs and signs alone, and their value as political messaging may be questionable – but I get a huge charge out of driving or walking around my neighbourhood and seeing all these colourful little pledges of allegiance to one candidate or another. I especially love the lawns that are absolutely jam-packed with signs.
(For the record, my own lawn is Switzerland. I don’t display election signs because I always remain publicly neutral. I want to get a giant sign that says JUST VOTE ALREADY and put that up in place of any particular candidate sign, but that’s a project for a future election.)
It just warms my nerdy little heart when I see visible evidence that people care about our city and are passionate about choosing good leaders (even when I don’t agree with their choices). I particularly like it when I see the signs belonging to newcomers, and independents, and anyone who might be perceived an “outsider” in the world of politics. Because these signs, to me, are a visible symbol that we live in a free and democratic place where we’re all allowed to hold and express our own views.
2. I love all-candidates meetings.
Clearly, I am not in the majority on this one, since even a well-attended meeting only ever attracts a tiny fraction of potential voters. I don’t get it. I love the chance to actually see the people running for office and hear what they have to say. I like to see how they interact with the public, and with each other, and speculate for myself how I think a particular council or school board would function if this person and that person were sitting next to each other, or if such-and-such beat out so-and-so for a spot.
More than that, I also love the chance to see other members of the community there. I like to hear what other voters are talking about, to exchange hellos with neighbours, to see who’s come in support of one candidate or another or who’s just there as an interested citizen.
Sitting there in the audience is our way of saying, as a group: “Hey, we care about our city and our schools, and we’re here to make sure we’re picking the right people to run them.”
3. I love voting.
Yes, I love the actual, physical act of going to a polling station, seeing my name crossed off a big list, and taking my ballot into the booth to put my mark next to the names of those people I want to see running my city.
Thirty years after I first voted, it still gives me an honest-to-goodness thrill to mark that piece of paper and think to myself: “This is me, choosing who I want to be in charge of this city. This is me, living in a democracy.”
Plus, it makes me feel all self-righteous and self-satisfied about having fulfilled my democratic responsibility as an engaged and concerned citizen. It’s like the same feeling I get from finishing my vegetables and giving up dessert and forgoing couch potato time to go to the gym for a good solid workout.
(OK, I’m totally making up that last bit, but it’s the way I imagine I would feel if I ever actually did work out.)
4. I love democracy.
This. This is at the root of it all. When I’m looking at those election signs, when I’m attending those all-candidates meetings, when I’m standing in the voting booth … when I’m doing all of those things, I’m remembering the weight of history.
I’m remembering that when my grandmothers were born, women in Canada did not even have the right to vote. When I’m standing there, ready to mark my ballot, I’m remembering that the Act to Confer the Electoral Franchise upon Women wasn’t passed until 1919. That’s less than one hundred years ago. My foremothers fought hard for this right. There’s no way I’m going to disrespect them by dismissing it or taking it lightly.
I’m remembering, too, that for some groups of Canadians (think those of Japanese, Chinese or Indigenous descent) it took even longer.
So many people fought so hard, for so long, for the right to make their mark on that piece of paper that I have to take a moment to remember that before I mark my X.
It’s not just our right to vote, as citizens in a democracy. It’s our responsibility to do so. And when it comes to voting, I am nothing if not responsible.
Well, there you have it, the top four things I love about elections. So if you weren’t planning on voting, I won’t shame you this time. But I will strongly encourage you to rethink your plans and remember this fundamental nerdy truth of the day: Elections aren’t just good for you; they’re downright fun.
Think of this election, with all its trappings, as some magical concoction that tastes like a chocolate milkshake but has all the nutrients of an organic kale smoothie. How can you say no to that?
I told you I was a super-nerd. I strongly encourage you to become one too.
Who’s with me?