EDITORIAL: Non-voters an affront to democracy

The real disservice to democracy was done on election day by those who couldn’t be bothered to vote.

The civic election is over, which means – as those familiar with politics in White Rock and Surrey recognize well –  the venerable hobby of grousing can now begin.

It’s a given that, as soon as results are known, some will complain it was a bad day for democracy that this team or that person was elected over other options. Or that low voter turnout means the victors don’t have the confidence of the electorate.

In the Surrey polls particularly, the landslide in favour of Dianne Watts and her Surrey First slate guaranteed opponents’ claims that all dissenting views will be shut out.

The danger of a single party controlling council, some will assert, is that it will relegate the media to official opposition status – and who trusts the media, anyway?

The real shame for democracy, of course, was indeed that only 28.7 per cent of the electorate turned out to vote on Saturday in White Rock – far worse than the shabby 36.86 turnout in 2008. Even in Surrey, where voting was up one point, it still represented only a paltry 25 per cent of the electorate.

But don’t dare blame the victors.

Those who want to complain loudly about our newly elected civic governments – but neglected to take action when it, quite literally, counted – should take pause for sobering reflection.

By not completing a ballot, non-voters did, in essence, cast their vote – in favour of whomever won. The very fact they abstained says loudly and clearly they did not care enough about the issues to vote another candidate into office.

Whether it was complacency, apathy or finding a unified voice that did it, the sweep of the polls achieved in Surrey by Watts and her slate and the ascendancy of Wayne Baldwin to the mayor’s seat in White Rock were made possible not simply by those who voted for them, but by all those who didn’t vote against.

In their election speeches, both successful mayoral candidates  made a point of saying they feel they won a “clean” victory. Some opponents will claim they didn’t, and that negative electioneering, in what was – away from carefully groomed external images – an often messy and ugly campaign, was at least partially responsible for their wins.

But however pleased or displeased one is by the results, it’s clear the real disservice to democracy was done on election day by those who couldn’t be bothered, quite simply, to vote.