THE BLOG

We Need To Address 'Voter Apathy'

08/05/2017 13:25 BST | Updated 08/05/2017 13:25 BST
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It is depressing to see so few people vote, and it is depressing to see how little we care that so few people vote. Voting is the smallest amount of democratic participation we should all be doing, and yet, time after time, election after election, millions upon millions of us fail to do so.

It isn't good enough to say that all politicians are the same, or that your vote won't make a difference to the result. Vote for the candidate you believe in, or vote for the least worst one. Vote for the ideals that you support, and if your candidate loses, campaign and try to change the views of your friends and your neighbours for the next time.

Democracy didn't simply appear out of thin air. If only our schools taught us meaningful history of the struggles and sacrifices of our ancestors here and abroad, rather than merely the traditions and tribulations of Tudors and Stuarts. However, we don't have to look far to witness what those struggles must have been like. Switch on the news on any given day and you will likely learn statistics of people who have died that week as part of a quest for democracy, or as a result of the actions of those seeking to destroy it.

On the 8th of June, we will be asked to choose the person, the party, and the ideals that we want to shape our future society. A hundred and four years to the day before that, there was a woman who died in hospital after stepping in front of a horse. Her name was Emily Davison and she was someone who spent much of her life fighting and campaigning for women to have the right to vote. She was sent to prison nine times and undertook protests which included hunger strikes and hiding in the chapel of Parliament on the night of the Census. She is said to have died trying to throw a 'Votes for Women' sash around the neck of the King's horse at the Epsom Derby in 1913.

But it is not enough to recount tales from the past and then expect people to vote. In April, the Government announced that they will erect a statue of another suffragist, Millicent Fawcett, in Parliament Square. To me, it is irritating, to say the least, that we have Governments that will honour campaigners with statues but dishonour the ideals they stood for by doing nothing to reverse what has become a democratic decline.

The recent "Metro Mayor" elections which took place across England saw voter turnouts of less than 28%. In the West Midlands, the election was decided by under 4,000 votes, whilst at the same time over 1.4 million did not take part at all. Why is that? Is it really because people believe that it doesn't make a difference? Every object we touch, every pavement we step on, every item we eat, will have been impacted by a political decision. It matters. If it is the case that people do not recognise that, then we must rectify it, and it is the Government's responsibility to do so.

Those elections were not a one-off, they symbolise the problem we face. In the least known about elections, such as those of Police and Crime Commissioners, as much as 85% do not participate in the vote. But even in the most talked about votes, the ones covered day after day by the media, the ones in which millions of pounds are poured into, and where every celebrity from List A to List Z is telling people to take part, the problem still prevails.

In the EU referendum last year, almost 13 million people did not cast a vote, and the result was decided by a margin of just over a million. At the 2015 General Election, there were more than 15 million non-voters. In my opinion, it is a crisis. It's a crisis that is largely ignored by the media, and largely ignored by the Government. If the Government acknowledged it, I do not think they would prioritise electoral reforms such as identity checks at polling stations. Or so I would like to think.

It's a crisis that is not just down to individual responsibility. People are not simply "lazy" and I do not believe that there is anyone out there who is truly "apathetic" and cares nothing about how their future will be affected. Undoubtedly, millions again will not vote on June the 8th. Maybe it will be 10, 15, or even 20 million this time. How far must turnout fall before we decide to take action? There needs to be a political awakening and a democratic drive by the next Government to undo this decline. Otherwise, year by year, election by election, we will slowly become a democracy in name only.