What if no one voted?
I’m trying to figure out whether it was a wishful dream, or a nasty nightmare. Whichever it was, I know what prompted it.
Before bedtime I had been reading opinion columns on what might happen in the June 7 Ontario provincial election. One piece, by Margaret Wente of the Toronto Globe and Mail, noted the indigestibility of the choices.
Although I don’t always agree with her opinions, I respect Ms. Wente’s work. So I was interested to read her view that Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals have zero chance of being re-elected and her labelling Doug Ford as a “blustering ignoramus” who has no grasp of policy, platform or budget.
The other choice was New Democrat Andrea Horwath, who Ms. Wente wrote “plans to run gigantic deficits for years and years, until Tinker Bell arrives with magic bags of money.”
All that reading heightened my anxiety over this election, and no doubt the anxieties of voters who can’t see a palatable choice among the three major parties.
Ontario is in trouble, and has been for some time. Its manufacturing sector is evaporating, its health care system is a mess, its hydro policy is sinful and its debt load is shocking.
It is doubtful that any party will make the hard choices needed to pull the province out of its nosedive and onto the straight and level. A Sir or Lady Galahad is needed to take charge but there are no such persons on the political horizon. They exist, but they are unwilling to enter the fanatically partisan circus that politics has become.
All that was floating in my mind when I went to bed.
When sleep took me I found myself back as a junior reporter assigned to gathering lesser aspects of the election, what is known in the news business as getting colour. I decided to visit polling stations just before closing to interview last-minute voters.
I walked into one polling station and found the place as silent and still as a cemetery. The returning officer, various polling clerks and scrutineers all sat staring at the ceiling and looking bored. There wasn’t a voter in sight.
“Pretty quiet here. The rush must be over,” I said to no one in particular.
Several officials stared at their hands, Others began to look busy.
I walked over to the table where you check in to vote. On the table was a sheet listing the names of eligible voters in that polling district.
When a voter approaches the table to get his or her ballot, one clerk checks the person’s eligibility and hands out a ballot. The other clerk, usually holding a pen and ruler, puts a line through the voter’s name to show he or she has voted.
The sheet in front of the poll clerk had no lines drawn through any names. No one had voted all day at that polling station.
I checked other polling stations. Same result. No lines through any names. No one had voted!
I went to the polling stations of the three major party leaders. No one, including the leaders themselves, had voted.
I ran down the street, searching building after building for a telephone. This was the biggest story any reporter could hope for and I needed to call it in.
Wherever I went there were no telephones. The more I searched, the more panicked I became. It was terrifying having a massive scoop and not being able to file it to your editor!
I ran until my lungs ached. I was sweating and screaming when a ringing telephone woke me. I never thought a marketing call could make me so happy.
It took me a few minutes to return to the real world, and I began thinking about the June 7 election. What if it really happened? What if no one turned out to vote?
That seems impossible, of course, yet just the thought is scary. We already are partly there. In the last two provincial elections combined, fewer than one-half of eligible voters turned out.
Troubling as it was, my dream gave me an important realization: There are times when we dislike our voting choices, but at least we have some.