Posted by: Ciaran | April 9, 2010

Democracy and demography

Countering voter apathy is going to be, once again, a big issue at the General Election. Whatever people say about feeling angry with politicians or disenfranchised by Parliament, the truth is that a lot of people still won’t bother going to the ballot box on May 6.

At the last election, turnout in the UK was less than tw0-thirds. That was actually an increase from the 2001 election, but a paltry show in comparison to just 55 years previously in 1950, when almost 84 per cent of people exercised their right to vote.

Suggestions for increasing the number of people heading to polling stations have included trials of voting in supermarkets, proposals to have more than one day of voting, and e-voting by email or text message.

But, as the old adage goes: ‘You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.’ Taking polling booths to the voter may achieve a modest rise in turnout, but tackling attitudes and the lack of public engagement with Parliament are the real issues when it comes to boosting voter numbers.

The Voter Power Index is a tool for measuring how “effective” your vote is likely to be, based on the safety of your MP’s seat and the size of the constituency. It’s interesting and informative, but the danger is surely that people see their vote as counting for nothing and decide it is not even worth going to mark their ballot paper next month.

Every vote counts – whichever party can remind the public of that will surely be in power come May 7.

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