general musings – get out the vote

vote-none-of-the-above.jpgI’ve been holding my head in my hands over BrExit and the impending Trump/Clinton election. What is so wrong with these situations (other than the number of fights reported at Trump rallies and the surge of hate crimes – up 42% – in the UK post Brexit),  there also seems to be an overwhelming amount of people no longer voting FOR something, rather, they are voting AGAINST something.

In an either/or situation, we are forced to decide between things, what we might consider the better of two evils. And with a 50/50 (+/- 2) spilt, this is not a majority vote …this is a got in by the skin of my teeth. A fine approach for the winner of a 100 meter dash, or a poetry competition, but not for a democratically elected head of state, or a country’s exit from its union.

Granted there have been former attempts to discuss alternative approaches to the Union prior to the BrExit vote, and third candidates that may have dropped out along the way (eg: Mr. Sanders), but this still leaves the general population – who let’s face it, are not really fully  aware of the detail or implications of what they are voting on – with a situation where a binary Yes/No In/Out  vote leaves those who don’t agree with either option, to cast their vote against the one they REALLY don’t want, or to not vote at all. But currently, their no vote means nothing.  If Britons had been given the option of a white vote, would the result have been the same? With a counted white vote, the population would have a true voice, and if there was a majority, or equal count, this would demand the ‘powers that be’ come up with another solution.

The fall out of Brexit has left a complete state of disarray – the underbelly of politics exposed – an embarrassing mess and blatant acknowledgement of bias, distortion, exaggeration and fear marketing leading up to the vote – our system is a farce and a sham. 1.2 Million people have now been counted as (up to 7%) regretting their choice! (Opinium Research) and another interesting article on the media’s influence on Brexit opinon, show stats that “Only 22% in their penultimate survey thought they understood what they were voting on “well or very well”. And where did they get their information from?  BBC ~34%; newspapers ~20%; family members ~18%; social media ~16% … A quarter of over-65s claimed the Leave campaign itself was their most important source of information; a stunning 48% of all Ukip voters also made that claim.”

Back in the day, Athenian democracy believed it was every citizen’s duty to vote and participate in society’s decision making. Whilst assembly was voluntary, lack of attendance was frowned upon and the no-shows could be subjected to public disgracing.

This principal is echoed in don’t vote, don’t complain, and we also consider it our right – something that women had to fight for, a right that is less that 100 years old in the UK (other women voting rights: New Zealand, 1893, South Australia, 1894, Finland 1907, Denmark, 1915. Britain, 1918, Holland, 1919, America 1920).

But on average, voter turn-out is around 60-65% in the UK and US (in 1996, US voter turn out was 49%). It is also skewed by education and income level. So what about Compulsory voting? Could Voting be considered an extension of civic duties, just as taxes pulled for common services, or jury duty. Voting as an obligation could also help overcome the inconveniences, or concerns that voting imposes on an individual, along with the I can’t be bothered, I don’t understand, or I don’t like any of the options. Other benefits range from:

  1. a higher degree of political legitimacy – the victorious candidate actually represents a majority of the population, not just the politically motivated individuals who would vote without compulsion
  2. more accurately reflecting the will of the people rather than reflecting who was more able to convince, bribe voters to take time out of their day to cast a vote
  3. White (spoilt or blank) votes being counted – indicating dissatisfaction with the candidate list rather than simple apathy at the whole process
  4. decreased the role of money – no need for campaign funds to goad voters to the polls
  5. decreased influence of “charismatic” but sectionally focused demagogues.
  6. stimulating a broader interest politics, as a sort of civil education and political stimulation, which creates a better informed population.

For Brexit, 72% of the population turned out to vote. Almost a 10% increase from general election turn out. 17,410,742 voted Leave (51.9%) 16,141,241 voted Remain (48.1%). We are hearing a scary amount of “I voted for it but I didn’t think it would happen”, “I didn’t think it would mean this”, or “I didn’t know what to vote for”… so we asking the population to vote on things they didn’t really understand b) based on a bunch of lies and false promises, and c) to make a decisions between the lesser of the two evils.

While there may be those who consider compulsory voting an infringement of their rights, beliefs or their religion, I think it’s an option worth considering. How else can we move from a position of apathy, or backing into a vote, to moving forward with positive cast?