Erin Jamieson

Voting with faith

By  Erin Jamieson, Youth Speak News
  • February 13, 2015

This week wraps up election week for the University of Waterloo’s Federation of Students, or FEDs, as we call it. It’s been a busy two weeks of smiling, shaking hands, social media campaigns and general lack of sleep for the candidates. I can’t help but wonder if any of it is appreciated, or even noticed, by the majority of students on campus.

Last year was my first year on the Waterloo campus and I became very interested in the elections. I spent the campaigning weeks making sure my friends knew who the candidates were and I spent the voting period trying to force my friends to register their vote as well. When all was said and done, fewer than 12 per cent of the student body had registered a vote.

Now maybe this low voter turnout is simply because students don’t care that much about student government. If that were the case, I’m sure we’d be seeing a huge jump in youth voter turnout. And yet, in the 2011 federal election, only 38.8 per cent of 18 to 24 year olds showed up to the polls. More than six out of every 10 people in that age demographic stayed home.

In the last provincial election, I went on June 12 to my voting station to vote in an official government election for the first time. I was finally 18, and ready to exercise my rights. And let me tell you, it was a fiasco.

There was a problem with paperwork, and at one point the person running the registration table quit and walked out. And this was at 10 in the morning.

Yet, I persevered, and I cast my vote, as did reportedly 52 per cent of eligible Ontario residents. The news that night was about the Liberal victory. In the following days, stories took the positive tone, saying that for the first time in more than two decades, voter turnout in Ontario rose.

I cast that vote because I think the issues of my province affect more than just me. I considered the platforms of the candidates, knowing that even cuts and losses that didn’t affect me might cause distress for someone else.

Jesus did not tell us to sit back and let what happens happen. He did not tell us to think of ourselves before making a decision. He asked us to live our faith. He asked us to love our neighbours as ourselves. Living faith isn’t just church on Sundays. It’s going out and making a statement of belief through actions. One of those actions should be casting a ballot.

This fall, I will go out to vote in the federal election and I will encourage my peers to do the same because I still believe that is my responsibility in a democratic society. But I also believe that it is my responsibility, as a person of faith, to care about the message our leaders are sending to the world.

We need to care about the kinds of things our leaders believe in — their stance on life, on war, on providing care for those who need it. Our ballot is a statement of belief. It is our duty not just as citizens, but also as believers, to make it count.

(Jamieson, 19, is a second-year Knowledge and Integration student at the University of Waterloo, Ont.)   

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