Wasn't the weather yesterday beautiful? It was over twenty degrees, the weather was flawless. What a perfect long weekend.
And, even better? Yesterday, I voted. For the third time since I was eighteen.
And so here, my friends, is the story of The Day I Voted in the 2011 Canadian federal election, doing my part to have my say in electing Canada's 41st Parliament. It was such an awesome voting experience (minus the glitches), particularly because of my encounter with the Elderly Registration Officer discussed below.
BUT FIRST, THE GLITCHES...
My story stretches back to this past Wednesday, when I arrived home from Kingston for the first time in two months. TWO months. And, to tell you the truth, I was excited to vote in my riding. I knew I'd be voting in my riding no matter what, so my parents and I made plans weeks ago to vote in the Advanced Polls while I was home. Since I'd be Kingston on Election Day, you know?
But, the thing is, as I chomped down on my first homecooked meal in months that evening, my mother informed me that I didn't receive a voting card in the mail. My parents received theirs, but mine was missing. And I knew my Kingston address wasn't listed as my permanent one.
What? I know. I went from confused to worried in a matter of seconds.
So I hopped on the phone and dialed my local Elections Canada information hotline, and chatted with the representative I was sent to. After a few minutes, it was apparent that he couldn't find my name on the voters list.
Cue my panic.
What?! I've lived in this city since I was eleven years old. Don't do this to me! Why am I not a registered voter in my home riding? I need to vote! I NEED TO VOTE! I WANT TO VOTE! And so, half an hour later, after some nagging and persistence, I was on the list.
After that little glitch, I was ready to vote!
VOTING ON ADVANCED POLLING DAY...
So yesterday evening, my parents and I were heading to the Living Arts Centre (where I had to play piano for the evening). But prior to driving over, our first stop was the local middle school where an Advanced Polling station was set up.
We thought it would only take a few minutes. You know, walk in, vote, walk out.
But, no. Apparently, it wouldn't be that easy. We reached the entrance of the middle school and the line was so long that it stretched all the way out the middle school.
There was only one table facilitating the exercise. Apparently, advanced polls take twice as long as voting on Election Day, because of the hassle of taking us off the voters lists used on Election Day.
The 5 minutes we expected to spend at the polling station stretched to 55 minutes.
ONE HOUR. Waiting to vote. Needless to say, many people gave up and left.
We were running late, but decided to stick it out. And I'm glad we did. There's nothing better than watching democracy at work. And better yet, people enjoying exercising a democratic right.
And so, as per usual habits, my parents and I made friends with the people standing around us in line. Nothing bad about being neighbourly, yea?
Honestly, it was such an awesome voting experience. It warmed my heart to meet all these people who were EXCITED to vote.
We met an eighteen-year old boy voting in his first election.
We met a young Chinese family who arrived in Canada five years ago, moved to our neighbourhood a year ago, and was voting for the first time as Canadian citizens.
We met an elderly couple who filled me in on all their years of voting experience. The history nerd in me wanted to hear their take on the 1993 federal election.
And then came the most adorable encounter with an old man so fervently enthusiastic over watching youth voting.
I was taken aside by an Elderly Registration Officer who wanted to double check that I was at the right polling station because I didn't have a voting card.
CURSE MY MISSING VOTING CARD.
However, Elderly Registration Officer was adorable and so helpful. He worried that I would up and leave since I was going through such a hassle figuring out this voter registration business.
"YOUNG PEOPLE DON'T VOTE ENOUGH. I'LL SORT THIS OUT. JUST PLEASE DON'T LEAVE!" he begged, taking my driver's license to double check the voters list.
Aw. Of course I won't leave. I want to vote!
Finally, after my registration issues were cleared up, my parents and I reached the front of the line to vote. We were crossed off the voter lists, handed our ballots, and we each walked behind the cardboard box to mark our ballots.
As I walked over to stuff my ballot into the ballot box, I looked up to see the Elderly Registration Officer standing by his table clapping. And I swear I saw tears in his eyes.
Aw. Isn't that adorable reaction to voting, ever? I was so touched.
He shook my hand as I walked out. So proud that he was witnessing young people voting so enthusiastically in a federal election.
There's just something special about exercising our right to vote. And I'm not just saying this because I study politics. There are so many others, in countries all over the world (including the one I was born in), where people only WISH they could participate and vote in a free and, most importantly, fair election.
So let's do that Elderly Registration Officer and our country proud by voting in this election, yea? We live in a country where we can actually do that.
DON'T FORGET, ELECTION DAY IS ON MAY 2, 2011!
ALSO, Rick Mercer has a message for all of us. CLICK HERE.
"There are more than three million young eligible voters in this country and as far as any of the political parties are concerned, you might as well all be dead. In fact in some elections, in Quebec for example, the dead have a higher voter turn out.
It is the conventional wisdom of all political parties that young people will not vote. And the parties, they like it that way. It's why your tuition keeps going up.
So please, if you're between the age of 18 and 25 and you want to scare the hell out of the people that run this country, this time around, do the unexpected. Take 20 minutes out of your day and do what young people all around the world are dying to do.
- Rick Mercer, March 30, 2011