Thursday, October 25, 2012

I think I'm developing a polling allergy

Speaking of voter turnout in general, maybe it's so low in the UK (65.1% in 2010) compared with Sweden (84.63% in 2010) not just because of a cultural difference (Swedes often feel it's their duty to vote, and would rather go and submit a blank polling card than not go there at all if they want to protest), but because a vote in a Swedish general election actually feels like it's doing something.

In Sweden, you vote for a party to get into parliament, so every vote really does count. In the UK, it's done on a constituency basis, where only the winner gets a seat in parliament. All the other votes in the constituency are only good for the bin.

[Source]

Everyone's votes aren't represented in parliament, which is unfair on smaller parties. You would still have most people voting either Tory or Labour, regardless, but the party who wins the most constituencies get majority in parliament, even though overall, the other party might have actually got more votes nationwide. Like Al Gore got more people actually voting for him, but George W Bush won the presidency because the US voting system is even more broken than the British, and they both work off the same principle: winner takes all. Which simply isn't fair. On anyone.

Yes, if every vote counted and there was a representative system, it means that it would be easier for the BNP to get seats in the parliament, but it also makes it easier for parties like the Greens to get in. You might consider the Greens to be "goddamn tree-huggin' hippies", but they're generally the sort of party I tend to agree with.


There was a big uproar in Sweden last election because the Sweden Democrats (BNP, Swedish style) got over the 4% threshold. There were calls for them to be kicked out and what have you. "Down with this sort of thing!" While I seriously disagree with SD/BNP politics, they were democratically elected. ("As was Hitler and see what happened there!" Yes, thanks, I am well aware.)

Last time I went to the polling station (for the local council elections), a protest group had gathered outside and were trying to dissuade people from voting BNP, which I saw more as a group trying to kick democracy in the balls. Don't tell me what I can and can't vote for, that's none of your bloody business! I was actually tempted to vote BNP just to spite them, but alas, I have moral standards that prevent me from voting for that party regardless of the anti-lobby. As it happened, the options in our area were Labour, Labour or Labour - because I wouldn't vote for the BNP, the coalition government has really shot LibDem credibility to pieces so they're out, and I'd only vote Tory over my dead body. At least in Rushcliffe, there was a Green Party option. We're not in Rushcliffe anymore, Toto.

Telling people they can't vote for fascists ... kinda
makes you sound a bit like a fascist yourself, actually.
[Photo source]

If you don't like the far-right coming into power, the mainstream parties need to make people less disgruntled in general, as a vote for nationalist parties tend to be protest votes, and are a symptom of how society has gone wrong somewhere. And by that, I don't mean "too many bloody immigrants nickin' all our jobs, innit". I mean "you've let society gone to pot and you need to fix it".

Anyway, this post started out as a follow-up response to someone's status update about the upcoming elections here in Nottinghamshire. On 15 November, we're to go to the nearest polling station to decide who we want to see as the new "Police and Crime Commissioner for Nottinghamshire police area". Comments on the status update predicted a low voter turnout, and that's how my cogs started turning.

If 65% of the people eligible to vote actually do so, I think a lot of us will be surprised. For me personally, I just feel like this is exactly the sort of thing we elect councillors to sort out for us. Why are we the public the ones to choose the head of district police? Sure, I guess it's nice to be asked and everything, but I don't see the point in this vote. And voter turnout is likely to reflect this. Is a commissioner who gets voted in by maybe 25% of the public so much better and more democraticaly elected than one that has been selected by a committee of local governors?

A clue: We might be persuaded to vote if the job title in question
was "Sheriff of Nottinghamshire" and came with leather-clad
henchmen of the tall, dark and handsome variety. Vote Vasey! :D

Aside from this, the only information I've seen about this election is an ad on telly that I haven't even listened to properly. I'll probably go and vote on the day, because of the whole "have poll card, will vote" thing (and I was once told off by my mum when I wasn't going to bother voting for the European Parliament representatives), but I have no idea who the candidates are, or why I'm supposed to pick one over the other. Surely there should be some sort of information delivered in our mailboxes if they want us to chip in? Or else, what's the point other than wasting tax-payers' money?

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