Voting rural is different

A pole for the poll.

A pole for the poll.

CITY FOLKS went to the polls on Monday (Oct. 19), lining up in school gyms, church halls and even hotels to cast their ballots in the federal election. It was busy, with Elections Canada officials reporting that there were lineups even before the 7 a.m. starting time.

Country folks went to the polls, too, but they do things a little differently. The polling station we voted at was in a neighbour’s living room. The local version of a lineup was a guy who showed up a few minutes before 7 because he was anxious to vote so he could get to work. He was the only one there.

Over the next hour and a half, another dozen neighbours showed up, rapping on the front door and entering when someone inside yelled, “Come on in!”

Voting rurally is a time to exercise your democratic privilege and catch up at the same time — water systems, gardens and piglets (yes, piglets) are among the topics. No politics.

Showing your ID to confirm you’re the person you say you are is a formality because everyone knows everyone else by name. And where else do they give you cookies when you vote?

By the time you park in the driveway, walk in, say hello, vote and drive away, you’ve expended maybe two or three minutes. Or, if you pause to chat, a little longer.

That’s the way voting should be. Some people say we should vote on the Internet instead of at polling stations, but in my view that would be a major loss. Voting should be enjoyable, leisurely, not a chore to get done via a machine without ever talking to anyone.

I’ve voted in a lot of gymnasiums and Legion halls in my time and I’m not knocking it. In major cities, voters were backed up at some polling stations several dozen deep on Monday, often arriving in the dark to stand in line and wait their turn.

I applaud them for it. That kind of voting has a fun of its own, if you focus on the reasons you’re there instead of any inconvenience you may be caused. We all need to slow down once in awhile anyway.

But I favour the informality of the rural voting experience. To be sure, it has its challenges. Glitches in the Elections Canada site told some rural voters they weren’t registered even though they were. A couple of elections ago, changes to voting laws almost took the vote away from millions of rural residents because their home addresses were post office boxes. A new law required a piece of ID with a “civic address”— post office boxes didn’t cut it.

In other cases, where people live in isolated areas, it’s a challenge getting them registered. Still, Elections Canada goes to amazing lengths to make sure people are able to vote, registering homeless and sick people and, on occasion, delivering voting cards by helicopter.

Officially, there are urban ridings and there are rural ridings, though I don’t know the details of how they’re defined one from the other.

Anyone with a lick of sense knows that city folk and country folk think a little differently. They live, after all, in different environments. In the country, we have trees instead of street lights. Maybe we have cell service, maybe not.

Rural people concern themselves with farming issues, water supply and gun control.

Given the importance of the rural vote, you’d think rural issues would show up more prominently in political platforms, but the only difference I see is in regional variations — trying to satisfy the concerns of Prairie wheat farmers and B.C. cattle producers, for example.

The experts say there’s really very little difference in the way urban and country people approach major issues like health care, crime, social issues… even the refugee crisis.

Which is probably a good thing, but even if we do think the same way on a lot of things, I like the different feel of the rural polling station.

The above column was originally published in newskamloops.com.

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