On Thursday, there’s a general election. Have you heard? I can’t imagine you wouldn’t have done; what with all the campaigning and the costings and the charges and the counter-arguments, there’s not much escaping it.
But why should we vote in the first place? Well, never let it be said that I won’t answer my own rhetorical questions, so here are a few reasons why I suggest it is important to vote.
- It gives you a voice. You can direct the political conversation locally and nationally. A third of voters nationally didn’t vote in 2015; a third. Imagine the conversations that could be started if all of those came out and voted.
- Politicians will be influenced more by those who vote; if a certain demographic’s turnout is high, then decisions can be skewed in favour of that one. More than 70% of over-65s voted in 2010 compared to 44% of 18-24 years olds.
- “Oh, the party I want won’t ever get in, so I won’t bother.” Do you honestly think you’re the only one who thinks like that? We’ve had a two-party system in this country for a very, very long time, and a lot of people feel like their views aren’t being heard as a result – but there’s something very easy that can be done about that. Get out your front door, go to your polling station, and actually vote for who you want. When that happens, safe seats stop being safe, and the electoral system will never change to benefit these smaller parties if people don’t vote for them.
- The Chartists and the Suffragettes are two of the more well-known groups that have campaigned for more open and equal voting rights for everyone, but to all those who have, we dishonour them by not giving our vote the respect it deserves.
- We shouldn’t take democracy for granted. Millions of people across the world don’t have the same right to vote; we actually have the ability to change our government on a regular basis should we choose through peaceful, ordered change; others have to incite bloody revolution to even get a vague taste of we enjoy.
- It’s so incredibly easy to vote (although it could be easier); you can do it in person, via a postal vote, or a proxy. Your polling station isn’t that far from where you live. Are you really so busy that you can’t find five minutes between 7am and 10pm to cast your vote? Of course you’re not; it’s a pleasure and a privilege to have your voice heard, and it’s a useful reminder to politicians that they work for us.
With every election, the “have not voted” section on the pie chart is – by and large – depressingly large. So many people are convinced that their vote doesn’t matter, but look at three votes in the past couple of years; 2015 general election, Brexit, and Trump. Whatever you think of those outcomes, the opinion polls didn’t predict any of these outcomes, because people bucked the trend and came out to vote. If you disagree with those decisions, then use your own vote to challenge – but don’t just sit back and criticise. Put a piece of paper in the ballot box; it gets your voice heard.