Have you ever been on a website and had one of those pop-up mini surveys appear, asking you to vote for your favourite car or food, most attractive celebrity or some other completely random thing?
We can vote about so many different things online and make our voices heard in the most obscure areas.
And yet a lot of people I know have chosen not to vote for actually really important things- such as who gets the power over our country. (Yep, that is what this is about.)
Their reason is: ‘Politicians have broken my trust so many times that I don’t feel I can vote for them anymore. Besides, politics doesn’t interest me.’
Now, I am not about to try and guilt-trip anybody into voting. Woe betides that. Free choice is free choice and besides, that would be unhelpful.
What I am going to do is explain why I think voting is the most awesome thing. I’m also going to try not to be boring about it. Let me remind you that I am only just of a voting age myself, and don’t really have the knowledge or the concentration to go all long-winded about things.
So what’s supposedly cool about voting?
Well, the alternative to having a voice, however small, in things is not having a voice in things.
That’s when dictators happen, when people get their rights and their freedoms taken away from them and can’t do anything about it because they have no power. The guys in charge choose how much you get paid, where you go when you’re sick, what you learn at school.
It’s a heck of a lot of power.
If you are lucky enough to live in a democracy, you as a citizen have that power. You also have, as a nation, a history that probably involves people fighting and dying to get that power. They probably knew the price of having somebody in charge that can’t be checked, because they have all the might.
I live in Europe. National Socialism and Hitler happened through many things, but ‘people failing to make use of their democratic rights’ was definitely one of the factors.
Not only do I know that my country and all other democratic nations had a long and difficult struggle until they were allowed to vote, I am also female. Women weren’t given the right to vote until very recently in many countries. The effort put into getting that right was huge and lives were quite literally lost. How ridiculous and disrespectful would it be if I did now not make use of that right when I have no reason not to?
Now, those guys I know say that they’ve lost their trust in politicians.
We all know that things don’t always work out the way we want them to. We know that politicians and governments can fail enormously and leave us with huge problems. They don’t mean to- of course not, they’re humans trying their best- but it happens. Power gets used wrong.
It seems to me a kind of counterintuitive reaction to that power being used badly to then give up your own piece of that power, i.e. your vote. So the guy in charge did a really bad job last time. Vote for the other guy this time. Vote for the least bad guy. Never forget that if everybody decides they no longer care, the really radical people- I’m remembering my European history again here- get all the votes, because they are the only ones voting.
On a similar note, there’s another thing, and this might seem strange if you take your system for granted. If democracy only works by people voting, and fewer and fewer people vote, we can no longer have that democracy. We would have to come up with an entirely different system, and, frankly, all the alternatives so far have tended to be Not Good and not very fair. Our countries need us to vote, or they will eventually fail.
And, if absolutely all else fails, if every single party seems like a terribly choice to you, there is always the wonderful maxim: ‘If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.’ If you are unhappy with the ideas of the party you used to vote for, go join that party and change those ideas. You can, as they say, do it online these days. It’s quite literally never been easier.
There are awesome groups and institutions around that help use power wisely and bring it to the people who don’t have it. I belong to an organization which represents the voice of 12 to 18-year-olds, and I had the oh-so-awesome opportunity of speaking in Britain’s House of Commons on live TV through them. (Which was very terrifying- think shaking hands and squeaking voice- but also WHOAH.)
Voting means choosing, with thousands of like-minded people, who you think should hold power and make decisions. It also means thanking and respecting the long history which gave us the right, and the people who paved the way. Also- as a fun extra- it gives you the right to rant about the person you voted for if they get it all wrong. After all, it’s you they’re meant to represent.
So if you still aren’t convinced (and are perhaps more of the glass-half-empty type), at least look at it this way: Voting means the right to rant as much as you want to about somebody who is meant to be representing you, personally.
Finally, I looked through the internet at ideas people have come up with to get more people to vote, and I’ll put them below.
So what’s your opinion on voting? Any ideas on increasing voting and democracy? I’m always up for discussing, so please feel free to comment below with your thoughts.
A few online ideas
On Tumblr, dethoreign says: ‘Why can’t there be places to vote ON college campuses. Majority of students have no way of getting to town halls or other schools that are OFFICIAL places to vote. Put official voting areas on campus and watch the number of people who vote skyrocket.’
attndotcom suggests that ‘Election Day should be a public holiday so that everyone has the opportunity to vote’.
Ideas on Twitter include online voting, more control over public service and a ‘none of the above’ box.