Tuesday, 5 May 2015

6 reasons you won't vote... and why you should

Election day is fast approaching (Thursday in case you haven't heard) and one of the things that most concerns me is the number of people who have made a conscious decision not to vote. I recently did a stint in a call centre carrying out an election opinion poll. It involved cold calling random numbers (sorry!) and asking them to take part in a brief, five minute survey about the election.

The amount of people who when you introduced the survey responded with "Oh no, I don't know anything about all that!", "Oh no, I've had enough of all that, I just want it to be over.", "Oh no, I won't be voting, so very pointless, no one cares what I think!" was astounding!

And the reasons people give for not voting (not just within these surveys but also in conversations and in the media) are sometimes beyond belief.

CC Image courtesy of secretlondon123 on Flickr

So, here's six reasons you say you're not going to vote... and why you should.

1. I'm too busy

Really? The polls are open between 7am and 10pm and you can't find the time to pop into your local polling station to cast your vote? At the age of 30 I've voted in a number of elections - local and general. I've cast my vote when I was a student, when I was working full time and commuting two hours a day, and when I've been a full time mum. At no point has it interrupted my schedule in any major way and at no point has it taken more than a couple of minutes - even at busy times.

I can't find the exact statistics but I heard on the news yesterday that a large proportion of non voters in 2010 did not vote because they were too busy, raising all sorts of questions about the system and whether we should introduce online voting. Maybe this is something to consider for the future, although I can't help thinking it might resemble something similar to the X-Factor App, but for now, it is so quick and easy to vote if you are in the country and not house-bound or hospital bound. And if you are? Postal voting is easier than ever - you've missed the boat for this year but get on it for next time!

2. My vote doesn't count / It doesn't affect me

Your vote does count. That's the beauty of democracy. Here's 10 elections that have been decided by one vote, including this UK one in 1910:

Oddly, the only modern instance of a United Kingdom parliamentary election being decided by a single vote also occurred in 1910, when Conservative Henry Duke eked out a victory against Liberal Harold St. Maur in the South West England city of Exeter. St. Maur, the challenger, originally won by a four-vote count, but following an electoral petition and a series of subsequent challenges, the incumbent Duke maintained his seat at the House of Commons table by the very slimmest of margins, 4777 to 4776. ~ Mentalfloss
And for those of you who think that the election doesn't affect you... do you use the NHS? Pay taxes? Send your kids to school? Require a state pension one day? Enough said.

3. I hate David / Nick / Ed / Nigel etc. etc.

Well it's a good job you're not voting for them then isn't it? You're voting for a party and its policies. Yes, the faces of these parties might not appeal, I'm not sure I particularly like them either. But, it's the party that gets into power. If David got hit by an election bus tomorrow, it wouldn't be Deputy PM, Nick Clegg, who would become PM - we voted the Tories into power, the Tories will remain in power.

4. They're all liars / can't be trusted / they don't follow through on their policies

Never before has this been more relevant. In 2010 we ended up with a hung parliament because there was no clear majority. So yeah, the Tories maybe haven't fulfilled all of their promises and the Lib Dems certainly haven't fulfilled theirs. That's because they were forced into a coalition.

I'm not saying that had they won a majority they would have followed through on everything, it's unlikely. They make promises based upon the information they have available to them, based upon their hopes, but no one has a crystal ball over how these things will pan out. However, they're far more likely to be successful if they have a majority government without the burden of compromise in a coalition, and if everyone who doesn't vote, got out there and voted, that would be far more likely to happen.

5. My party won't get in anyway

So you've had a look and the party which best represents your beliefs is not red or blue. But you know what? Vote anyway! It still counts! And if everyone voted for what they actually believe in rather than tactically, we may be surprised by the results. The whole point of democracy is that majority (or coalition) wins at the end of the day, and maybe you're in a minority. But it still matters! Maybe your party will get ever closer to gaining a seat - the Greens have done it, UKIP have done it, but it took time. Who knows what the future holds if you start voting for your beliefs this year!

6. I can't be bothered / I don't care

You know what? People who say this clearly don't understand how lucky they are to live in a democratic society such as ours. In 1780 less that 3% of the total population of England and Wales had the right to vote. Fast forward to 2015 and if you are aged 18 or over, regardless of class, income, race, gender, sexuality, land ownership... you get to vote! Imagine if Emily Davison, who was trampled by the King's horse at Epsom Derby, consequently dying for the women's right to vote, woke up that day and decided she didn't care about the women's vote after all!

People died so that you could vote! It's not even 100 years since women got the right to vote on equal terms to men and already we have a generation who doesn't care! There are nations over the world today who are still run without democracy, where citizens don't get a say in how their country is run. People today are dying for their right to vote - and you don't care! Seriously people, you are privileged in that you have the right to vote. Use that right!

Whether you vote for the party who most represents your views (preferable), or whether you vote tactically (I'd rather you didn't), is not the point. The point is, vote. Exercise your right and perform your civic duty.

It's important.

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