Should uninformed voters vote?

IT SEEMS AS if with every passing election, there’s a new poll released about just how apathetic our society has become, especially in terms of young voters. In addition to people who don’t vote, there is another growing trend in our country—low-information voters. As the name implies, these voters don’t know much about party leaders, the issues in their ridings, or anything about the election—but they vote anyway. The Fulcrum asks the students whether voters should fill in that little square if they don’t know why they’re doing it.

Point: If you don’t know, don’t vote

As a Canadian, I am perfectly aware of the importance of participating in the elections to fulfil civic duty and uphold the values of democracy. I have cast my ballot every year since I became eligible to vote, making sure that I at least understood the basics of each candidate’s platform. If you’re only voting because one of the politicians happens to be attractive or because they’ve read a book you really like, then you shouldn’t vote. An uneducated vote is worse than not voting at all.

Even a cartoon character like G.I. Joe knows that “knowledge is power.” Information is a powerful weapon that most people underestimate. Not knowing the basic facts about candidates and what they represent could result in the election of an incompetent leader. Voters and politicians share a very complicated relationship. Think about it—with a society of politically uninformed voters, politicians could feed the masses whatever information they please, and no one would be the wiser.

It doesn’t help that to many, politics isn’t the most exciting aspect of society. Why would you want to watch a leadership debate when you could play Angry Birds on your smartphone or watch another episode of Big Brother instead? The distractions of modernity are especially prevalent in the young, making it more difficult for them to become politically engaged and informed.

It’s definitely a tragedy, but if people can’t bring themselves to get interested in politics, then they shouldn’t vote. Why waste a perfectly good ballot on someone who would rather be at home watching TV than waiting in line at the voting booth?

There are those who would fiercely argue that because voter turnouts have dropped drastically in Canada during recent decades, we need to get as many people voting as possible to help keep our democracy legitimate. But the phrase “quality over quantity” applies in politics. If you want to vote, educate yourself. We live in the information age, so there is no excuse to not do a bit of research before checking off a ballot.

—Emily Manns


Counterpoint: A vote is a vote

Saying that uninformed voters shouldn’t vote is like saying that people who don’t know much about cars shouldn’t bother going to the dealership and selecting a vehicle if they haven’t read up on the car’s specs, its engine, its gas mileage, and everything else about it. Let’s be serious. If this were the case, a pretty small minority of people would be buying cars. Someone might buy a car because it is shiny and their favourite colour, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Likewise, there is nothing wrong with someone voting for a political candidate because they like the way they look, or they like the tie they were wearing during the leadership debate. Sure, these aren’t the most intelligent factors to base a decision on, but whose right is it to say “your reason for choosing that candidate isn’t as good as my reason for choosing this one.” If we start questioning, we’re start questioning the whole concept of democracy—the right of every Canadian citizen of voting age to cast their ballot.

And where would it stop? What if a voter only knew a particular candidate for one of their policies, which happened to be very meaningful to this voter? Whose right is it to say that that one issue they are informed about is not enough? Who would be the impartial judge? There is already enough self-righteousness in politics without some hypothetical standard to which every Canadian voter must live up.

During any given election time, if you look at pins, bumper stickers, and various other forms of self-expression related to the election, you will notice many of them say “Vote.” They do not specify why you should vote, which candidate you should vote for, or how long you should spend reading up on each party’s platform before you vote. This is the point of political freedom. The truth is, if people feel pushed to do extensive research before they head to the ballot box, they might not bother going at all. That’s just a fact of human nature that no amount of fist-shaking by political pundits is going to change. So people should be left well enough alone in their justification for their vote. If it’s getting people out there, then that is good enough. Period.

—Julia Fabian