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So, I voted this morning – yes, I did. In fact since I was 18 I’ve voted when I’ve had the opportunity to. 

In the last election, I pretty much wasted my vote, I’d always been a labour supporter, but after the Iraq war fiasco, and then the credit crunch, I decided to vote for the Liberal Democrats. Suffice to say I’m not making that mistake again.

But I’m not going to preach about who I voted for and what my political ideals are

(I voted for our Mayor to be elected in the referendum and for the labour candidate)

I think that voting is probably the most empowering thing that we has a modern society can actually do. Being able to choose the leaders who make the decisions that effect our lives. I wrote a previous blog about the importance of politics a couple weeks back, and how it’s astonishing to me that more people vote in the X – Factor final than they go in a general election.

There are plenty of things to complain about; the austerity measure, the prices of a train ticket, Tax avoidance by the very wealthy, the NHS – we all have an opinion about these things, even if as we get older and we notice that more and more politicians seem to break promises to a point where a party manifesto is totally meaningless, but it’s only meaningless if the party is actually in power – if they are not doing the job you want them to do, or you don’t trust that they are acting in your best interests, it’s important that you vote, if anything to make a stand – I always say, if you don’t trust any of the main parties, then vote for the Green Party, as environmental issues should be heard and it’s good to give this small party a louder voice when it is needed.

In Australia, it’s interesting that it’s against the law not to vote. Which I believe is a great cultural advantage they have. The Australia electoral commission cites these reasons as the advantages to compulsory voting:

  • Voting is a civic duty comparable to other duties citizens perform e.g. taxation, compulsory education, jury duty
  • Teaches the benefits of political participation
  • Parliament reflects more accurately the “will of the electorate”
  • Governments must consider the total electorate in policy formulation and management
  • Candidates can concentrate their campaigning energies on issues rather than encouraging voters to attend the poll
  • The voter isn’t actually compelled to vote for anyone because voting is by secret ballot.
I think people can choose to spoil their ballot papers if they are disillusioned by the choices on the ballot paper, and spoiled ballots are still counted. Whereas I do have an active interest in what happens in Westminster, I do appreciate that there are people out there who don’t, who’ll most likely find the disadvantages to compulsory voting compelling:
  • It is undemocratic to force people to vote – an infringement of liberty
  • The ill informed and those with little interest in politics are forced to the polls
  • It may increase the number of “donkey votes”
  • It may increase the number of informal votes
  • It increases the number of safe, single-member electorates – political parties then concentrate on the more marginal electorates

Frankly, I think people who don’t vote “can’t be arsed” or in some cases just don’t know to vote for, but people have literally given their lives for the right to vote, and across the middle east the Arab Spring is bringing a new wave of revolution as people spill their own blood, so they can have the right to choose their leaders.

So go and vote, and if you don’t want to do it for yourself, then do it for them.