Editorial

Editorial

If they won’t vote, don’t coax them

November 10 1956
Editorial

Editorial

If they won’t vote, don’t coax them

November 10 1956

Editorial

If they won’t vote, don’t coax them

Ever since the democratic ballot was invented, the intense and worthy people of the world have been making gallant efforts to persuade the languid and unworthy people to GET OUT AND VOTE.

Such efforts are now in progress in many of the hundreds of Canadian communities that elect their mayors, reeves, councilors and aldermen toward the end of the year. A particularly vigorous one has been going on in Toronto, a city justly noted for the ardor and occasional truculence of its local governors and the torpor of its electors.

Usually Toronto’s civic elections bring out about thirty percent of the eligible voters. Recently a civic committee was formed with the expressed object of doubling that figure, and perhaps even raising it higher.

Here are some of the schemes put forward at the charter meeting:

A labor leader wanted polling day changed to a holiday—preferably New Year’s. He said many potential voters were too tired to go to the polling stations after working all day. Others, tired or not, were reluctant to go in their working clothes.

A city alderman thought it might help to send traveling polls to industrial plants.

Finally the committee endorsed a proposal, made by a leading school administrator, that children be mobilized through the schools to persuade their parents to vote. His notion was that some form of recognition—pennants were mentioned — ought to be awarded to schools with the highest percentage of parents reporting to the deputy returning officer. A "receipt” would be handed out with each ballot. The school that produced the most receipts would win the gonfalon, flag or bunting.

We have some confidence that all these ridiculous ideas will have died a natural death well before voting day. Wc wish we could be as confident about (he fate of the muddleheaded attitude behind them.

We’ve never been quite sure which is the more dangerous theory: that for an individual to cast his tiny individual vote is a waste of time; or that for any old individual to cast any old vote for any old reason is a grand and glorious thing, per se.

To go around telling people who have no inclination to vote that they must get out and vote anyway strikes us as the height of irresponsibility. To coax a man to vote by wheeling a ballot box under his nose is to mock one of the hardest-won of all human rights. To say to a child, in effect: get Daddy and Mammy oat to vote or else oar school won’t win the pennant, and then the other kids will all he mad at you—to reduce the arguments in favor of the universal franchise to the arguments for social conformity is to reduce democracy itself to utter meaninglessness.

A man who needs telling that it’s his duty to vote is not yet fit to vote at all. Let us tell him by all means about the issues and the candidates and let us hope that he will come to know enough about them and feel strongly enough about them to decide where his duty lies of his own mature volition. Until he reaches that state let’s not disturb him. Leave him in the cloister or leave him in the barroom but don’t, for Heaven's sake, drag him unprepared, uninformed and uncaring to the polling booth.

It may well be that the most foolish slogan ever coined about responsible government is the one that says: Vote as you please, but vote!

We propose a substitute.

IF YOU DON’T PLEASE TO VOTE, PLEASE. PLEASE DON’T!