Why vote?

Voting is the most important way to make your voice heard on the issues that concern you. If you don’t vote you don’t really have a right to.. well… whinge, moan or complain because you’ve absented yourself from the process.

Decisions are made on your behalf every day, ranging from what is happening in local schools and what recreational facilities you have, to national issues like healthcare and education, to global issues like defence and the environment. In many countries around the world, including the UK, people have fought to gain the right to vote. The right for women to vote on equal terms with men in the UK was still being argued about only 70 years ago. Racial minority groups were considered inferior 50 years ago. Sexual minorities were (and still are) considered inferior as recently as 15 or 10 years ago. But having the right to vote is not enough. A strong and stable democracy also relies on people using their votes. By voting, you can hold your elected representatives accountable. Even spoiling your ballot is a way of taking part and saying you’re not happy with the candidates who have stood.

Voting is central to the way in which our democracy works. Yet the UK general election in 2001 saw a big drop in turnout – down from 71.4% to 59.4%. Fewer than six out of every ten eligible voters across the UK decided to take part in choosing the country’s government for the next five years. This apparently accelerating trend away from participation in the institutions of democracy contrasts with what seems to be a growing tendency for people to make their voice heard through a variety of forms of direct action rather than through the ballot box. It’s also interesting to note that Nadia won big brother with 3,863,696 votes, Will young won pop idol with 4.6 million votes, Alex Parks won fame academy with 4.5 million viewers’ votes. It’s not that we’re a nation who don’t like to vote- clearly we do. There seems to be a disconnect between voting on important issues and voting on frivolous issues.

There has been much talk about ‘voter apathy’ or people not understanding the issues but the reasons must be more complicated than this. Research shows that people do not vote for a number of reasons – including lack of information, distrust of politicians and inconvenience. For politicians and the media, communicating more effectively with potential voters and increasing the accessibility of elections must be key priorities for the future.

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