You're Going To Vote? That's It? You Can Do Better.

All right, so you want to send Stephen Harper packing, or maybe you don't! Either way, there's so much more you can do than simply head to the polls on October 19th (or this weekend if you're down with the whole advance voting thing). And if you're in a position where you can do more, you should. Here's a few simple things you can do RIGHT NOW to make a greater impact on the outcome of the election, whatever outcome you're seeking. Me, I think the Liberal plan for infrastructure investment and a modest push to reduce income inequality is the best approach, but everything I'm describing in this post can be applied to any political party. If there's any glaring examples of bias in what follows, let me know. I've tried to keep it pretty neutral.

1) Target your support. There's a lot of very competitive ridings across the country, and just about every possible matchup you can think of is accounted for. Want to see an NDP candidate take down a Liberal incumbent? Want to see the Greens pick up a second seat? Do you live in a riding where there's no chance of a Conservative winning but you want to contribute to them getting another 4 years in charge? You can do any of these things by looking at the riding matchups and finding a riding near you where the party you most want to help/hurt is in a tight race. If you live in downtown Toronto and you really want to send Harper packing to the point where you don't particularly worry about whether Mulcair or Trudeau is in the driver's seat October, keep an eye on your local race, but frankly there's no chance in hell that the Conservatives pick up a seat in downtown Toronto. ThreeHundredEight has done a great job of aggregating polls to try and project how every riding in the country is going to play out, and if you're looking for a source with a more explicit bent, there's also, who deserve special props for open-sourcing the algorithm they use.

2) Volunteer. There is not one candidate in the country who will not accept your help with open arms and many many thanks. If you can spare a few hours between now and election day, the candidate and their team will have work that needs to be done to help them win. Maybe it's door-to-door or phone canvassing, maybe it's putting in lawn signs, maybe it's just whipping up a dinner for the other volunteers. If you call their office and offer to help, you will have opportunities to do so, guaranteed.

3) Donate. Canada has kind of a ridiculous system of tax credits for political donations, in that you get 75% of all donations up to $400 back at tax time. You get less back for greater amounts, up to a cap of $1500 in total donations. I don't know many people who couldn't throw $50 or $100 on the credit card today when they know they're getting 75% back in a few months. So if it matters to you, and you can afford to do it... do it, and target that help to a riding where it has a real opportunity to make a difference. You can help finance ad buys for your party of choice if you give through their main website, but if you want to contribute on a local level? Contact the candidate's office to ask what's most convenient for them. Hang on to the receipt, claim the expense at tax time, get 75% back (or less if you choose to give over $400).

4) Vote on October 19th. All the donations and volunteer hours don't add up to much if you don't get out and vote for the local candidate you want to see representing you in Ottawa. If you're reading this far and you don't vote, seriously... what the hell are you doing? Governments have the exact same amount of power whether you vote for them or not. Yes, first past the post is kinda crappy as an electoral system, but it's the only one we've got, and any changes to that won't happen until a party is elected that wants to change things (to their credit, both the Liberals and NDP have platform planks on this very issue).

Is your voice small? Yes. Is one vote likely to change things? No, it's not. But a surprisingly small number of votes in aggregate absolutely does change things when there are ridings in every election decided by a fraction of a percentage point. By targeting your support, putting everything you can into it, and voting while encouraging others to do the same, one person can make a difference in this election that far exceeds the impact of just their vote.

I sincerely hope that person is you. 

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