Emma Does Politics

There is such a thing as society. It's called politics.

None of the Above

Voter election turnout is pretty bad. It’s down about 10% since I first started voting. It now stands at around 65% for the last general election and 35% averaged over the last two local elections. The local election before that was simultaneous with the general election, explaining the (for a local election) high turnout that time.

This is really bad. It’s shockingly bad in fact. These jokers decide things that affect us in very real ways. To take housing owners as one specific example, 64% of people are home owners. I’m guessing the rest of us are a mix of renters, homeless (yes, it still exists, and is getting worse), “people living in temporary accommodation”, and people living in a family member’s house. Lots of different circumstances there. But if you have a mortgage, or if you pay rent (and thus are covering the costs of someone who has a mortgage), your government’s policies affect you in a very direct way. And this is just one aspect of government policy that affects people.

There’s a significant fraction of people whose economic welfare is being directly affected by government policies in a very real direct terms, but can’t even be bothered to decide who (or whether) politicians get to push them into penury. Is the problem simple apathy that can be cured by “rock the vote” campaigns? I do not think so. No matter how fired up you are about voting, you won’t actually vote if the available candidates on offer only represent their professional lobbyists and do not represent their alleged “apathetic” voters.

There’s a significant fraction of people who don’t vote because no party represents their views. That is a legitimate viewpoint. But under the current system, such voters get identified either as “apathetic non-voters” if they stay home, or as “spoiled ballots” if they choose to air an opinion on the ballot paper.

Incidentally, a “spoiled ballot paper” is examined just long enough to verify that it is not a clear vote for any candidate. A low-level party functionary may ask to examine the spoiled papers pile to verify that none of their party’s votes have been misfiled. This pile is then counted and the number written down. The papers are then placed in a large sack for archiving. At no point will anyone of political significance actually read any comment written on a “spoiled ballot paper”. Spoiling a ballot paper is time-honoured, fun, and cathartic, but doesn’t actually achieve anything. The people counting the votes don’t read them either; there simply isn’t time.

We need a way for the dissatisfied to be counted separately from the disinterested and the ballot papers spoiled by accidental error. We need a “None of the Above” option on all ballot papers. This would be a first step in distinguishing those who want to vote but can’t find an acceptable candidate from those who are simply not interested. It’s an essential first step towards making our representatives actually represent us instead of their lobbyists.

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