Why I spoilt my ballot: Be True to Yourself – Even When Voting

Canadian federal elections take place on Monday October 19th and I encourage every eligible voter to exercise their right to cast a ballot. It seems odd that in 2015 there still exist countries where free and fair elections are not the norm, or where the process is flawed if not downright fraudulent. I have voted in each and every federal election since 1979 when to my great dismay, Joe Clark defeated the once charismatic but tired Pierre Trudeau. I was in Ottawa attending Carleton University when the short-lived Clark government fell necessitating another election shortly thereafter in February 1980. As I look back to that election I recall casting my first protest vote – I voted for the Rhinoceros Party. I did other silly things that year – like jumping out of a plane, but I digress. I hadn’t registered another protest vote until this past week – where I voted at an advance poll.

For reasons not for this space, I am personally dismayed by all the available political choices in this election. I am more than dismayed; I am appalled, disappointed, repulsed and generally fatigued by the cast of characters put before us to represent us in Parliament – leaders and candidates alike. I take the privilege of voting quite seriously as you should glean by my steadfast commitment to cast my vote ever since 1979 – my first year of eligibility. So what I am to do? Well, like most things in life, I realize that I actually have a choice.

A choice! What a novel concept. I have free choice legitimately exercised within the boundaries of the law and acting responsibly to not be like sheep doing what everyone else is doing or what is expected of me. And, as I noted, voting is serious business to me. I took the time and diligence to register well in advance, I walked the seven minutes to that advance poll (I choose not to drive), I produced the proper identification, I was handed my ballot and then proceeded to the voting booth. Then I resolutely acted as I chose to and marked up my ballot – spoiling it by leaving a very direct and pointed message on it. According to Elections Canada a spoilt ballot is collected and counted as such. In extreme cases a disproportionately high number of spoilt ballots can invalidate an election.

I am not suggesting for a minute that you follow my lead. This decision I took was a very personal one to me. But how many times in the course of our day do we act like sheep without even thinking? Acting by rote, not knowing why we do – we just aimlessly do. Where is the meaning and purpose in life by taking that course of action? We are only kidding ourselves if we don’t act with purposeful intent; full in the recognition and accepting the responsibility of the beautiful gift of life we have received. I try to listen to my “inner voice” especially when I am feeling lost – and it happens often. I know that I possess the ability to not simply react but to contemplate what I am doing first. There is pain and uncertainty at times that is for sure, but choosing to think about my actions brings light to my journey. When faced with the ups and downs of life, I pause and accept those feelings whatever they are; I concede the impermanence of life and that gives me both the courage and strength to be true to myself – even in the voting booth.

8 thoughts on “Why I spoilt my ballot: Be True to Yourself – Even When Voting

  1. With respect, I think it is very problematic to model the behaviour of not voting as a responsible adult behaviour. I don’t think this is mitigated by the statement “I am not suggesting for a minute that you follow my lead.”

    We cannot let the perfect be an enemy of the good. We have to chose among existing choices, which are certainly not all equally bad.

    The current government is clearly the most competent of the available choices from a financial/economic perspective, and is the only party with a reliable and proper perspective on foreign affairs, especially in the Middle East. The other parties are all easy dupes to moral equivalency.

    • Michael – thank you for taking the time to comment. The truth is I did vote so to speak. A spoilt ballot is counted as such according to Elections Canada. I fully participated in the process by exercising my right to vote. I did not stay home as 40-50% of Canadians are likely to do. Would you say I wasted my vote had I “voted” for a fringe party instead?

      • I would grant you that spoiling your ballot is marginally better than not voting.

        If you voted for a fringe party merely as a protest, I tend to think that would be the same as spoiling your ballot.

        But at the end of the day, I think that the responsible citizen would have a moral obligation to vote for the party/candidate that they think will be better than any of the other existing choices, (even if they are not satisfied that that is as good as it should be).

        • This responsible citizen has participated in each and every national election since 1979 including this one. In the past I have campaigned, been a scrutineer and set up lawn signs. More responsible than many. But due to the actions of ALL the party leaders (for reasons I will keep to myself) I choose a different way to participate this time around. But participate I did. Again despite this debate, I was making another more important point in my blog, using the election as an example – has turned out to be quite a clear example by virtue of the feedback – which I will continue to write on.

  2. I must agree with Michael. Spoiling the ballot is an act only recognized by yourself. In my opinion it removes oneself from fully participating in the system. Instead, engage to work towards change in a system that of course will never be perfect.

    • Thanks for participating here Lars – much appreciated. The key point is what is meaningful and important to me. Hey, usually a vote is private – most don’t necessarily know how another has voted. I made my decision public. But each and every ballot is counted. Including my ballot as spoilt. Elections Canada says so. I believe I have participated – more than at least 40% who won’t even bother showing up.

      • Of course you participated, and by doing so you have done more than almost 40%. But have you used it to its full potential? I am a conservative. I may not agree with everything they currently stand for, but by not voting I am potentially creating a win for the wrong party. A party whose economic policies would do great damage to Canada. I believe that is fully participating.
        I am actually more concerned with the 40% not voting. Unless we find a way to change this we stand to possibly have a country that people care little about.
        Important change can happen if we include civic engagement and history starting at an early age in our schools. For example, having only one mandatory history credit in high school results that kids come out knowing very little about Canadian history. This is especially bad with so many new Canadians. If you do not know your countries history, do you actually have a country? Or will more and more people just be visiting?

        • Even on some multiple choice tests, the correct answer is “None of the above” – as it was for me this time around. Likely a one off … But I do hear you Lars and fully understand and respect what you are saying my friend. Thank you for participating here. Stuart

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