Why your election vote really does count
TODAY is the last day for registering to vote.
Are you registered? Do you care?
It can feel quite difficult to find the energy to bother about an election when it is the third general election in three years and when, for us in Scotland, we’ve also had two referendums in five years plus our Scottish Parliamentary elections.
But think what a privilege it is to feel worn out by too much democracy.
Hong Kong was literally on fire as the backdrop to its local elections last week, so at least we’ve avoided riots among our current political mess.
Though that’s really damning with faint praise.
Voters there queued for up to an hour to cast their ballots.
When polls closed on Sunday, more than 71 per cent of the electorate had voted – or, more than three million people, nearly half of Hong Kong’s population.
Many were voting for the first time.
The turnout was described as a powerful rebuke to the government.
An hour long queue? That’s dedication.
There has been much speculation that voter turnout will be lower at this election because it is being held in winter and the electorate will find it harder to get up the energy to go out and perform their civic duty. What a depressing indictment of voters.
More likely, if turnout is low, that it is because voters feel a sense of apathy at just what their vote is worth.
They feel a sense of exhaustion at the relentless gum-bumping over Brexit.
And they feel their vote doesn’t count anyway, in a first-past-thepost system.
Tribal, partisan politics – voting for the same party you’ve always voted for, or that your family votes for – is not going to cut it this time round.
Voters feel let down by all three main sides. The Conservatives are headed by the UK’s least popular Prime Minister of all time. Plenty of staunch Labour voters feel they can’t trust Jeremy Corbyn to adequately deal with the growing scandal around antiSemitism in his party.
The LibDems have Jo Swinson, a party leader with a Westminster voting record the electorate will not forgive, heading a party that backed the Tories on policies voters will not forget.
When there’s no party persuading you it is trustworthy, no politician responding without sloganeering to nuanced concerns, then what do you do? You likely give up your democratic right and pretend the whole thing isn’t happening. Especially when, as just one of tens of thousands of people in your constituency, you can feel powerless. Looking at a breakdown of the areas with the largest proportion of non-voters in the 2017 General Election, of the top 10, four were in Glasgow. Glasgow North East was first with 47 per cent, then Glasgow East at 45 per cent; and Glasgow South East and Glasgow Central both had 43 per cent.
For those who don’t turn out because they think their vote just doesn’t matter, they’re wrong.
According to figures shared by the BBC, the number of non-voters was greater than the majority of MPs who were voted in during the last election in 551 out of 650 constituencies.
That means that in more than 80 per cent of seats, if non-voters had turned out the results of the last election might have been quite different.
In some seats the MP won by fewer than 100 votes – but in each of those between 12,000 and 30,000 electors didn’t take to the ballot box to cast their vote.
But if all of those unused ballots had been added up and counted towards a single separate party, that party would have won more than 140 seats in the House of Commons.
Young voters, in particular, are expected to have a big impact in this election.
The 2017 snap general election was noted for its “youthquake” – the number of young voters who turned out and made a noticeable difference to the results.
Hearteningly, 1.35 million under-35-year-olds registered to vote during the first two weeks of this campaign.
That sits around twice the rate of 2017.
Look at the problems the country is currently facing, if you can put aside Brexit for a moment: the climate emergency, the housing crisis, cuts to the NHS in England that effect Scotland too, an insecure job market, sub-par public transport.
It’s not easy – two weeks to go and I still have no idea who I’m going to vote for – but it’s vital to be involved.
Given how unpredictable politics has been, it feels all to play for.
In Glasgow, in particular, we’ve been hit badly by austerity and cruel Tory policies.
If you want something new, your vote might be the one to make the difference.
What to do when there’s no persuasive party?
Voters and activists outside the polling station at Notre Dame Primary School at the 2015 elections