Voter turnout up but not enough

We shouldn’t be applauding our 53 per cent voter-turnout rate, even if it is up from the last municipal election four years ago. It is still a failing grade.

History is marred with revolutions fought for democracy and representation — and it is also filled with advocates for equality.

Conflicts continue today. Afghan citizens head to polls to cast their ballots despite bombings and kidnappings.

Here in Toronto, we don’t have to worry for our safety as we cast a secret ballot. Candidates reach out to us personally and independent media organizations scrutinize them on our behalf.

Yet almost half of us just didn’t show up on Oct. 25 or to the several advance polls before that. Half of us didn’t bother to express our views on how we want the system we live in to be organized.

Some of us may not have voted because we did not like any of the candidates, but we could have handed in blank ballots showing we cared about the election while sending the message we didn’t like any of the options presented to us.

For whatever reason, half of us simply chose not to participate in a key process of a democratic society.

Fortunately, however, democracy does not end on election day. Election day may just be a gauge of participation, providing some concrete statistics showing how many of us actually care enough to come out.

But whether or not we voted, and whether or not the person we voted for was elected, our mayor and councillors are still public servants who represent us. After and between elections, we can still assemble peacefully, circulate petitions and attend city council and committee meetings.

So even if we didn’t vote, let’s not see democracy as something that happens once every four years. Instead, let’s take lessons from history and from abroad and not take our system for granted, letting our apathy erode it.