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Everyone Should Vote

If I remember correctly I have voted in every election since I was eligible to vote, but many people say that there is little point, for a variety of reasons. Some common justifications for rejecting voting are that one vote makes little difference to the overall result, that there is very little real choice and all parties “are the same”, that voting just reinforces the existing corrupt system, and that voting in some ways links the voter with the party instead of looking at all the options available.

All of these points have some merit but there are counter-points as well.

It’s true that one vote makes no real difference but if everyone had that attitude the democratic system wouldn’t work at all, and democracy seems to be the best system we have despite it’s obvious deficiencies (as Churchill said: it’s the worst form of government, apart from all the rest).

It is true that there is usually no significant difference between established parties (and newer, less established parties. which often have more innovative policies. usually have little chance of gaining power) but it makes sense to vote based on what differences do exist. Think of it as choosing the “least bad” option rather than the best.

Voting does suport the existing system but, as I said above, it is the best we have, and until someone can think of something practical which can replace it we should probably just make the most of what we have.

Finally voting for a party does create a sort of attachment to it. If they make mistakes (or should that be when they make mistakes) the voter is probably more likely to overlook the error instead of admitting they voted for the wrong party.

An individual can effect political change far more through alternative activities, such as activism, protests, and distributing information, but those activities aren’t mutually exclusive from voting. So maybe the most rational approach is to vote and then follow that up with activism between elections.

But the modern trend is for people, especially younger people, not to vote at all. In the 2008 New Zealand general election half of eligible voters under 30 didn’t vote. In 2011 that had risen to 60%, and the overall turn-out was under 70%. Clearly there is a problem.

Or is there? An “Act on Campus” (Act is New Zealand’s libertarian party) representative made the rather cynical point that people who aren’t interested in politics and have little knowledge of the issues probably shouldn’t vote anyway. That makes sense in a way, and I have made a similar point myself on occasions.

But the problem is that people who think they know enough to vote are often sadly deluded, usually even more so than those who don’t vote. I know many conservatives for example who have the most ridiculous beliefs which shape their voting decisions. I would far rather have a young, naive person vote than some conservative moron who thinks global warming is a hoax and that we should dig up all our National Parks to mine them for coal!

So yes, I am deeply cynical of the political process and I really don’t think we have the option to get the type of government we really want, but at least if everyone votes then the errors made by the old and young, left and right, experienced and naive, might all balance out and we might get something vaguely approaching a fair result.

Maybe. But there just have to be better ways to do this, but I think I’ll leave that discussion for my next blog post.

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