At the British Chinese Project, we are currently doing great deal of work in registering people to vote. During the London Chinatown Chinese New Year celebrations last week, we inflated our 30ft duck mascot along side Operation Black Vote's Voter Registration bus on Charring Cross Road and unleashed our energetic team of volunteers in the surrounding area to draw in people to register to vote on the bus. The initiative here is simple: people need to have their voices heard by voting and thereby need to register to vote. The suggestion here is that it is the people's responsibility to vote, and on the surface, this seems to be the logistically sound presumption to make; democracy relies on the people's voices and thereby people need to register to vote to ultimately make their vote.
However, it can conversely be argued that whilst people need to register to vote to ultimately make their final vote, it is the politicians and political parties who need to take the responsibility to ensure that people vote. This doesn't mean that the government needs to implement laws to force people to vote, it means that the political parties need to give the people something worth voting for.
Political apathy and dissolution are too often linked to the presumption that people take no interest in politics and thereby do not make their voice heard. In reality, at the British Chinese Project, we are constantly encountering people who do take an active interest in politics and want their voice heard but have no confidence in the current political landscape. These people will not register to vote until they believe there is something worth voting for.
In this respect, the political parties need to give the people a reason to vote that goes beyond democratic theory. Political parties need to relate to people and convince them that they are worthy of their vote - not simply that they are the lesser evil. In a politically insecure Britain, these parties need to go beyond the usual shallow election campaigning of cold calling canvasing and need to prove themselves.
It therefore can be argued that it is the current political parties' responsibility for lack of voter registration. 'Apathy' is forcefully labeled onto those who are not active in the voting process, but perhaps it should be placed upon political parties who fail to appeal to provide policies that are worth voting for. Perhaps politicians are apathetic in forming strong, convincing parties with strong policies that people can relate to and are too quick to blame the people for their lack of participation in politics. After all, how can politicians criticize people for being apathetic and not engaging in politics if there is nothing to engage with?
Perhaps politicians need to stop being apathetic and need to start engaging with politics instead. Instead of shifting the responsibility of voting to the people, politicians should take the responsibility of proving that they are worth voting for.