The Importance of Voting

It’s the 8th May 2015 and I woke up disappointed.

Yes, like most (63.1% at least) I had hoped we may be out of David Cameron’s clasp by that morning. However, that’s not why I am disappointed. I won’t go on about the NHS or the lack of funding for anyone but the aristocrats we, supposedly, “don’t” have in charge.

No, what I will preach to all who will listen is the importance of being involved. I’m a thoroughly annoyed with the lack of respect our country has for the democracy we live in. I am the first to say we live in an unjust and unfair system – Green Party getting over 1 million votes and only one seat for example – but that does not, under any circumstances mean any citizen is allowed to just ignore politics.

Voting is the simplest form of giving your view to those who are able to influence and by omission of that you are basically saying you don’t associate yourself with country you live in. 66% of those who could vote did this year and we’re supposed to be happy? It may be the highest turn out since 1997 but that does not make it good. Not even ¾ of our country voted.

For democracy to work we need everyone involved. We need everyone to understand the importance of voting and how each and every vote matters wherever you live.

Whilst at the count in the Brighton Centre on that Thursday night I asked 10 people “Why is it important to vote?” I left all anonymous because no matter what age, sex, political stand point or ethnicity each answer was important – and, unsurprisingly, very similar.

As you may expect from liberal Brighton over half the answers were “to keep the Tories out!” However, like me, everyone agreed on this being the easiest way to give your input into what happens in society.

The first person I asked referred to the lack of participation in the young and poor of our country. The largest demographic of voters are in the eldest age bracket and, through an educated guess, vote Conservative. “If you don’t [vote] then it would allow people to get in who shouldn’t.”

The policies that will have the biggest affect are also the policies that will harm non-voters most and politicians play on this; knowing that policies to please the demographic that do vote are winners.

One of the biggest reasons to vote comes from person two. “I don’t know about important but I wanna vote because I actually have an MP I can believe in which is really nice feeling for me, Caroline Lucas. I have a lot of respect for her, I mean, there’s very few MP in the last 50 odd years you can think of like that. Tony Ben is an obvious one.”

“Ann Widdecombe did actually believe in what she was doing. I didn’t agree with her – but we need more people who are in politics because they believe in what they’re doing.”  This is vital to energising voters and raising the turnout in elections. When people see their representative passionately trying to make a difference they’re more inclined to go out and keep them in power – Caroline Lucas receiving 8000 more votes than the last election proves this.

If this election demonstrated one thing it’s that tactical voting really is declining. UKIP, SNP and Greens all received a much higher concentration of votes shows people are really warming to the idea of voting for who they believe in: not “the better of two evils.”

As well as demonstrating the complete disengagement with the two main parties it accentuates the need for a new voting system. We live in a community reliant on voting for who you feel represents you.

The Burkean model states that individuals elect those they feel will represent them well in a wider society. To tactically vote is a disregard to the theory we’re trying to uphold – “ I think it’s also very important, even in the context of the electoral system, to vote for who you believe in. It’s part of being a citizen in a democratic country.”

The main consensus of the interviews was: “In the kinda imperfect democratic system we have, this is – in terms of national governance – this is really the only opportunity you’ve got. You’ve got one opportunity every five years. It’s in no means perfect; I don’t think First Past the Post works very well at all. But it’s the best you have got. People fought and died for it and I think it’s imperative you express a choice.”

But, more than anything else, through the unfair electoral system we have and the proposed boundary reforms to favour to Conservatives in 2020 nothing is more important than casting your vote. “I would urge you all, the people of our generation, to cast their vote and cast it wisely.”

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