This was originally written in three separate messages for social media shortly before the last election. In it I address three basic arguments against voting that I think are wrong footed.
1. Voting makes you complicit in a corrupt, undemocratic or failing system
How many people would it take not voting before that system collapsed? How much will you influence other people by not voting?
People that vote Tory or UKIP are unlikely to stop voting because they think the system is failing – do you want to give them more representation in a corrupt system? Do you think they are going to create a less corrupt or failing democratic system with their increased power?
Not voting is not going to help, more importantly it will make things worse.
2. Our democracy doesn’t work
Not everyone votes, first past the post drowns out many votes, the electorate are not always well informed, sometimes they vote in biased ways, minorities are not as well represented, corporations have powerful lobbies, political parties don’t stick to their policies – all these things could be improved to make the state something that is truly controlled by the people. But look at countries that don’t have a vote, look at the welfare of those people and how well their views are represented. This isn’t a coincidence.
Choosing between two parties that don’t represent your views can be frustrating, but those parties do at least, to some incremental degree, have to appeal to you – the electorate – in order to get that vote, even if it’s only when it interests them.
Voting if nothing else can act as a safety net that will stop standards falling below what the majority deem acceptable.
Yes there are countries that have democracy and the people’s welfare is still in a very bad way. Those countries are corrupt. Democracy doesn’t cause corruption; corruption is undemocratic and often damages democracy further.
3. Voting in a constituency with a strong majority is a waste of time
First of all – you better be sure about that.
Secondly, if you are, then great! Vote for the parties who most closely represent your views.
Political parties don’t gain public approval overnight, the minority party that represent your views will never be anything but a minority if you don’t vote for them. The dominant party in your constituency still want your vote as well, they will look at how you voted, and if they think they can realistically make a policy change to get your vote as well then they will.
The whole system of voting is based on the principle of collective agency, you are only one of thousands in your constituency, but what an important thing to be one of.