I imagine that when Steve sees a lower voter turnout, he stares off into the distance and a single tear rolls slowly down his cheek. John Michael, gripped by a similar emotion, probably busies himself by cross-referencing spreadsheets that contain every voter turnout record in the modern era, searching for deeper clues.
But I digress. I mean, of course I think voting is a good thing. And it’s truly heartwarming to see kids like Julien Wang riffing on election results, which he does in this episode.
Still, for political Boy Scouts like Steve and John Michael, voting is an unquestionable, unassailable good. It’s an article of faith. The thinking goes that if voter turnout were higher, Ontario would be better. But would it really?
If your garbage is being picked up, if your rights aren’t being infringed upon, and things are generally working — i.e., our democracy is working — do you not have the luxury to check out politically, so to speak? Does the success of democracy not create the luxury of apathy?
In an earlier episode, we interviewed New Democrat MPP Bhutila Karpoche, North America’s first elected official of Tibetan descent. She grew up in Nepal, where she was stateless, and had no choice but to be political. She didn’t have the luxury to check out politically.
So maybe a super-high turnout rate in Ontario wouldn’t magically make things better but would be a sign that things have gone terribly wrong. Maybe middling turnout rates are a sign that things are generally working.
Before I get buried under a deluge of hate mail (which I welcome!), I should make it clear: I vote. Every election. And politics is not just about if things are working for you, but for everyone, especially those worse off than you. That’s the difference between being a citizen and merely a consumer of government services.
But this article of faith that boosting voter turnout will unlock some never-before-seen level of democratic success needs a reality check. (Hey, I’ve always wanted to do a TED Talk. Do you think I’ve hit on a topic?)
What do you think? Hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org.