Okay, so I like voting. I think it's a good thing to do. Researching the platforms and the candidates and following the political process is something I do regularly, and will continue to do so. My political opinions are fairly moderate, and I have a decent amount to say about any policy that might be implemented, and I'd like to see that reflected back in the candidates I'm voting for. I think that important, and I think it's important that if I do vote, it's because my vote represents my real voice in a democratic society.
This is why I don't do any strategic voting, but it's also why I don't always vote. I realize there's a lot of people who don't vote because they don't care or are lazy, but I'm not talking about them quite as much here. I've been in some fierce discussions following the recent Alberta election about the old cliche, "If you don't vote you have no right to complain." The reasons I have for not voting are the same reasons that I have for voting: to have my message represented in the democratic process. In this case, the message is: my opinion is not represented in the choice of candidates. Whether or not I go out to the polls and spoil the ballot is a problem for analysts, not democracy.
Voter turnout this time around was hovering just over %50, which isn't bad considering the same party has had a monopoly on the government for 43 years, but if you're one of the unfortunate people who didn't vote, you'll get plenty of bullshit for having not done so. You'll get things like, "Why don't you just shut the fuck up!" "If you didn't care enough to vote, you're not allowed to care about anything the government does" and "Your opinion isn't as valid as the ones of the voters." There are a great deal of misconceptions about why people don't vote, I don't think the prejudice is always accurate.
To this point, I've made it fairly clear that I believe not voting is as valid a message as voting if done so deliberately. So why is it that I have no right to complain? I sent my message to the system (and based on how low voter turnout is discussed on local news media, it seems that message has been delivered), and now the democratic process can continue. Is my input worth nothing if I have something to say? Is only %50 of the population allowed to express distaste with their government? Doesn't sound like the point of a free vote to me.
The freedom to vote is very important, but any time you have a freedom, you also have the freedom to abstain. Freedom of religion means the freedom from it; freedom of expression means the freedom not to express; freedom of association means you don't have to associate with anybody if you don't wish to; the freedom to wave a flag is also the freedom to burn it in protest.
Now, like I said, voting is a great idea, and more often than not I will vote, because I typically have some of my ideas represented fairly well. But I think it's okay to be on the fence. Why not? What if you really like two leading parties and just have trouble choosing? What if you really identify with a certain party but there's no candidate in your riding? There's plenty of variables that make voting a difficult thing to do. There's other ways to engage in the democratic process if you don't fit under the umbrella of a party platform. You can champion specific causes, you can run for office yourself, and yes, you can complain. Complain about the choices in candidates and how you don't like the shape of the system -- nothing wrong with that at all. Voting for a party you didn't identify with, for whatever reason, shouldn't be an automatic license to bitch, and not voting shouldn't be an automatic conviction to shut up and stay out of politics.
If I say any more I'll probably go around in circles. Suffice to say that I think %100 of all citizens deserve their right to voice their criticisms about government at any time, no matter how they voted, if at all. And to quote Christopher Hitchens, "anyone who doesn't agree can take a number, get on line, and kiss my ass." How I wish I had an English accent.