What did you do in the election? your grandchildren may ask you one day. If you’re like most Crees, one thing you didn’t do is vote.
Because of ultra-low election turnouts, most Cree elected officials get in with only a tiny fraction of the total eligible vote.
Less than half registered voters bother to cast a ballot in most Cree elections. In many communities, only 25 percent usually vote.
Since it’s possible to get elected with as little as 30 percent of the votes cast, this means some Cree leaders really have the support of only one in 10 voters.
Why do most Crees stay away on election day? We put the question to 25 Crees on both sides of James Bay randomly chosen in a phone survey last week.
“I guess it’s the people who are running,” said one person in Whapmagoostui, echoing the most common response. “I guess they don’t think those people should be running.”
A Fort Albany woman who said she “usually votes” in elections said many people don’t bother to because “sometimes they say it’s fixed.”
A few non-voters said they don’t follow politics “or whatever the game is.”
One Wemindji woman who “always” votes said many people just don’t think their ballot will count. “The person they wanted to vote for is going to lose. Some people don’t want to vote for the chief, but he ends up winning anyway.”
One Cree woman said people don’t vote because elections are “boring.” “There’s not enough interest because they (the candidates) don’t capture the heart of the nation.”
A few people said some Crees don’t vote because they live outside the community on traplines or go to school in the South.
Another said: “Probably most people are not properly informed, especially the old people. It’s not explained in a way they would understand.”
But despite the complaints, a hard-to-believe 80 percent of those surveyed claimed they still plan to vote in approaching local and regional elections.