The shockingly low turnout for the Police & Commissioner elections should worry everyone. If people don’t vote, democracy becomes increasingly unrepresentative and so do the decisions that are therefore made. That means the system will eventually break down.
As a great advocate for democracy, it is nonetheless easy to see why voter apathy and indeed antipathy are becoming so widespread in the UK.
Rather than simply moan about it however, I have four points that I believe if implemented, would greatly boost turnout in all elections and strengthen our democratic process come election time.
1) Political Television/Radio Ads: America’s political system thrives on political ads. It takes the message to people directly, both on a national, mass audience scale but also on a more localised radio level. It is incredibly lazy and naive to expect voters to constantly go to the politics – politics must be brought direct to the people. That means presenting arguments and messages on television and radio. It creates talking points on a medium that people can relate to, coupled of course with these videos being uploaded to YouTube to be passed around virally afterwards. A no brainer.
2) Internet Voting: The internet has become a place that people function and live. Where they host their photos, plan events, talk to friends and family. It must too become a place where people can vast their votes, from the comfort of their own homes. Of course there are huge security implications – but if people are typing in their credit card details all day long as they internet shop and sending private emails to loved ones, surely it can also be a place where people can participate in democracy? Imagine the buzz on Facebook of people prompting one another to vote on election day, there and then. An exciting prospect that would engage younger and first time voters particularly.
3) Hold Elections on Weekends: As a bit of a politico myself, I understand the argument that going to a polling station on election day is hardly a massive sacrifice. But people work, have kids to run around after and can be ridiculously busy and stressed on week days. Simply putting polling day on a Saturday would allow people on most of their days off to take the 10 or 15 minutes required to go vote when they are likely to be having a less hectic schedule. I don’t understand why this isn’t done now.
4) Proportional Representation: And no, I don’t mean the doomed Alternative Vote. 920,000 citizens voted UKIP at the last election. Yet they have 0 representation in the House of Commons. How can that be right? The safe seat/marginal seat situation cannot go on. It effectively places greater or less value on each voter based on their geographic proximity. This is wrong. Whilst a local link is good to have, there is no reason that a system that also has a proportional top-up element cannot be brought in, such as AV+. We cannot expect voters to be motivated to go out and vote if hundreds of thousands of them are doing so and are receiving absolutely no elected representation in return.
If all three of these steps were taken, I believe turnout would increase greatly. Politicians should not simply stand by as turnout plummets. It is a threat to the legitimacy of our political system.