Mark Hammer

We talk about voter rights and responsibilities as if they were monolithic.

Voter interest is not assured to be equivalently distributed across levels. We have a municipal election coming up here on Monday, and quite honestly, while I am eternally fascinated by federal politics, and keep abreast of those candidates, I have precious little interest in politics at the provincial/state or municipal level, and honestly can’t imagine what issues at those levels would be important enough to me to look into them and vote. As near as I can tell, things trundle along, mired in a bureaucracy that will precede and linger after any municipal/provincial politician’s career. I have no quarrel whatsoever when it comes to taxes. I pay them willingly and happily, and if they go up, it is never by an amount as large as if I was a little more conscientious about bringing a lunch to work, or finishing produce before it goes bad; i.e, there’s never been anything to complain about.

I’m not saying I’m proud of that attitude. I’m just saying that it’s a reality that people can find policy debates engrossing at one level, but not necessarily at all others. There are folks who are completely engrossed in municipal politics, but never lift their head above that level, and folks who are engrossed in several, but not all levels. So if I don’t vote for mayor and city councillor next Monday, but DO vote next federal election, have I abdicated my social responsibility or simply pursued those aspects of democracy that interest me deeply and have led to enough of a point of view on something to elicit action?

And keep in mind that this is coming from a Canadian, where we have even LESS to vote on than you folks do. Next federal or provincial election, when I walk into a voting booth, I get one X to make, and that’s it. No propositions to vote on, no sheriffs or judges or senators to elect. No split vote between president and congressman. One simple vote.

Just exactly how many things, at how many levels, can we expect citizens to have an opinion about?

So I’m not sure voting is a right, privilege or responsibility. My sense is that it falls squarely in the “something else” camp. Maybe it’s more like an affection. Affection is not a right, privilege, or responsibility. I wouldn’t expect someone with 15 children or three successive spouses to be able to lavish love equally on all of them, but I would expect someone to be less than human if they never had ANY affection in their life whatsoever. I don’t think anyone has an obligation/responsibility to care about and vote on everything, and voting on something you don’t care about is not a right or privilege, just an empty gesture. So I dunno, whaddya call that?