Tuesday, 27 May 2014

So the bar on the graph of voting patterns

in the EU elections in the UK indicated that more than a third of the population didn't vote?
It does not surprise me. I often wonder how many people would vote in Australia if we did not have compulsory attendance at the ballot box. It is usually referred to as "compulsory" voting. This is of course incorrect.
Nobody can be forced to vote here. You have to attend a polling station, line up, give your name, get it marked off on the roll, accept the papers and put them in the right boxes. Although you are supposed to mark them nobody can actually force you to do that. Indeed, for the most part, nobody needs to know if you don't actually choose to vote.
I did once see a man of "alternative" appearance take his papers and go straight to the boxes. One of the staff questioned him but he told her, very politely, that he did not want to vote for any of the candidates. He then put the papers in the relevant boxes and walked out. I suspect most people who do not wish to vote go into a carrel and fold the papers in private or perhaps draw something on the papers?
I actually believe compulsion to attend the ballot box is wrong - just as I believe that failing to vote is wrong. No, the two things are not incompatible. Democracy should allow the choice but it also requires the individual to actively make that choice. Not voting simply because you cannot be bothered or think it won't make a difference is not democratic. It actually undermines democracy.
Our system of compulsory attendance at the ballot box is, in my view, just as undemocratic. It makes for lazy politics. It makes for complacency.
There are still parts of the world where not everyone has a vote or where just one candidate is put up for "election". There are places where the "elections" are carefully controlled by those in power. The results will be a foregone conclusion in such places. There are places where people are prevented from voting in large numbers through the threat of violence and intimidation - and where their votes can be bought for a bag of rice or maize.
We need to be aware of those things. Just as the bar at the beginning of the graph should be almost non-existent because almost everyone has exercised their right to vote the vote here needs to change. It needs to change from those who unthinkingly vote the way they have voted all their lives, the way their parents and grandparents voted to those who think about what they are doing.
It is asking a lot, probably too much for immediate change. I just hope it will happen before it is too late.

1 comment:

Philip C James said...

It is correct to say that "more than a third [of UK registered voters] did not vote" but not the whole truth.

In fact, it was more like TWO THIRDS who did not vote. Shockingly complacent...