VERNON - The voting process might seem straightforward to many people, but one first time voter in Vernon isn’t ashamed to admit she’s completely confused.
Meghan Rydde, 22, thought she was finally prepared to cast her first ever ballot on Oct. 19 — that was until she found out her understanding of the election system was a little off.
She thought she’d be directly voting for either Stephen Harper, Tom Mulcair, Justin Trudeau or Elizabeth May — but the only way you do that is if the party leader is also the candidate in your local riding.
After reading some local voter information, Rydde was faced with four new names — Jacqui Gingras, Mel Arnold, Cindy Derkaz, and Chris George — and no idea how these North Okanagan-Shuswap candidates fit into the federal election.
“I thought we were voting federally but now we’re talking about people in my own area, so what the heck? Now I have no idea what I’m going to do,” she says. “Are there two votes happening? It just seems like two different things.”
The bubbly certified education assistant is open and honest about her lack of political knowledge: She has no idea what the role of an MP is, no understanding of how the country’s riding system works, and only knows the name of local MP Colin Mayes because she was forced to memorize it in the Queen Silver Star program.
Rydde admits she’s never been very interested in politics, but felt it was important to cast a vote in this election. She did her best to get informed by reading articles and taking election quizzes to figure out who to vote for, but now feels like she has to start all over getting to know who her local North Okanagan-Shuswap candidates are, and what they stand for.
“I think it’s absolutely ridiculous — Mel Arnold and Stephen Harper for example are not the same people. What if I really like one but not the other? Then who do I vote for?”
According to a political scientist, Rydde isn’t alone in her puzzlement. Wolf Depner says many people are confused by the voting system and the role of an MP in general.
“It’s not unusual at all,” Depner says. “I sympathize with her. (Voting) can be very overwhelming and confusing… It helps if you think of the election as a collection of 338 mini-elections (for every riding in the country).”
And while you certainly don’t vote twice — once for a party leader and again for a local candidate — Depner says Rydde makes a good point in the sense that there are, in essence, two election races happening, and that voters need to pay attention to both.
“You’re choosing a local candidate, but you’re also casting a vote that will impact the composition of parliament,” Depner says. “There’s a local picture, and a bigger picture.”
He adds that many people view the role of an MP as someone who represents the country’s interests locally, but says it’s really the other way around.
“The primary role of an MP is to represent local concerns in Ottawa,” Depner says.
As for Rydde, she might not feel 100 per cent ready, but she's making a point of hitting the polls on Oct. 19.
“It’s really intimidating. No one has ever talked to me about politics and then all of a sudden I’m 18 and I’m told I need to vote. What if I vote for the wrong person? It’s a lot of pressure,” Rydde says. “I really don’t know what I’m doing but I never will if I don’t take this first step. Now that I’m looking into it, it’s kinda cool.”
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