DEMOCRACY IS ON the brain, with a spectacular UK election upset coming from nowhere on Friday. The UK election results arrived in on the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day, reminding us that the polls, the counts, the debates and the monster raving looney candidates standing onstage with the Prime Minister of a world power at 5am is a show that we didn’t get for free.
When it comes to politics it’s the few thousand extra voters on voting day that makes all the difference, that's why it is so important.
We see the turnout game play through in every vote, be it a referendum or an election. Those who complain the most about politics seem to vote the least, with areas that are currently taking part in ‘anti-austerity’ marches for example often failing to turn out the vote in the same strength as more affluent areas.
In one constituency I’m quite familiar with, when you divide it in half along local electoral ward lines into an essentially middle-class to plain-rich part and a working-class to plain-poor half, the vote of a person in the poorer half is worth 0.7 votes of a person in the richer half. This is because turnout is higher in the more affluent part, and those folks tend to avoid voting for left candidates.
Nevertheless I wonder somewhat if we really should be encouraging the apathetic to vote at all. If you can’t be bothered to fill out a form to get registered, or can only do so at the very last minute with some cajoling, do we really want you to show up to the next vote after this one to tick a random box? The uninformed and the uninterested get the same number of votes as everyone else, but through a process of electoral Darwinism they seem to self-select themselves out of the voting gene pool. Perhaps it’s better to not have the votes than risk an actual Monster Raving Looney Party candidate winning a seat because, well, someone thought it was funny and wouldn’t really matter anyway.
If you didn’t vote last Thursday, well you don’t need me to tell you that you’re too late and can’t complain if you don’t like the outcome, but it’s ok, we probably aren’t going to miss the vote of someone who couldn’t be bothered. You’re just creating pointless paperwork.