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It's an Election Not a Horse Race: Local Elections 2013

01/05/2013 11:04 BST | Updated 30/06/2013 10:12 BST

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Unless you've had your head in Cloud Cuckoo Land these past few weeks, and have successfully avoided the dreary public election broadcasts, there is a forthcoming election that will allow you to choose your local and county council representatives. These broadcasts have neither the wow factor nor the ohmygosh! moments of US presidential elections, but they do a good job of highlighting the many parties and policies you have to choose from on May 2nd.

In spite of this pick 'n' mix bag of choice, when you tell a friend you're going against the grain and voting for another party in a 'safe seat', you are guaranteed to hear the words "That's a wasted vote." Let's get this straight: a vote is never wasted as long as you use it. And the people who say this are wrong. Let's briefly explore why they're wrong.

They don't understand the basic principle of democracy!

Democracy is about a person's equal right to participate in an election in order to choose who they believe will best represent them in government at all levels. The act of crossing that box with an X on election day is your uninhibited participation in the democratic process. So, whether the party you vote for wins or loses, you will have had your equal say. Voting for a party you don't believe in on the basis of its popularity in your area means your voice in an election will go unheard.

Take the 2010 general election. To the British public's surprise no party won a majority, which signalled there was no consensus on policy issues like gay marriage, tuition fees, or the economy between voters. A coalition had to be quickly formed between the Centre-Right Conservatives and Centre-Left Liberal Democrats. Even though the Conservatives have more power in the Coalition than their Liberal counterparts, this lack of a majority signalled to them by the British electorate, demonstrated that they would have to adjust some of their stances, on gay marriage for example, to suit the broad demands of a splintered electorate.

In that election, although the general public couldn't come to an agreement, they certainly had their equal say in the election and shifted thinking in Westminster.

This month everyone going to the ballot box must remember this is not a horse race; you don't have to back the party most likely to win in your area if you disagree with its policies. There is no ticket stub to trade in for cash when this kind of race is over. If you vote for a party you disagree with it will be you who has wasted your vote, because you won't have had your equal say - you'll have simply given it to the next best thing.

Instead, get more informed about each parties' policies and choose which is right for you. VoteforPolicies.org is an excellent website where you can take a blind survey in order to help you decide.

There is an adage in Netflix blockbuster House of Cards that goes, "[v]ote your district, vote your conscience." It's time you just started voting your conscience.