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bohemiancoast
OK. So, for a long time I've reminded people that they have a limited lifetime supply of democracy ( XXXXXXXXXXXX ) and you shouldn't waste it... now I know (from the Does Your Vote Count) people, that only 1/130 votes count (though some of the seats they describe as safe aren't really rock solid safe so it's probably slightly better than that) in the limited sense of actually choosing an MP. I still urge them to vote -- if having meaningful votes matters to you and you're not in a marginal, you might want to consider voting for a party that supports electoral reform.

All the parties are not the same. As an example, in the Department that I work for, the parties have hugely different policies that would completely, and quickly, change the way that our major public services are delivered. There is much more difference between the three major parties than there was, for example, in 1997.

Anyway, vote; for those of you going out tonight, eg to Walkers, that might mean you need to vote early rather than late.

Anecdote: I was in the hairdressers the other day and talking about how busy we've been at work (election periods tend to be a fallow time for policy civil servants; but the people who are pulling together material to give to possible incoming governments are an exception to that rule). She said 'oh, could you explain to me what the point of this election is?' And I assumed at first she meant 'what's the point, all the politicians are the same, why bother?' but it quickly became apparent that she meant 'I have reached the age of majority without ever grasping the first shreds of a notion about how the country I live in is governed.'

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It does usually seem to mean "I pay no attention to the news, nor do I investigate that policies of the parties."

I'm not sure I want people with no knowledge to vote though. They might vote the wrong way.

This is part of my argument that all children should have a vote, (either exercised by their parents until they're old enough to say 'I know who I want to vote for and I'm doing it myself' -- say 8 maybe -- or on an opt-in basis where the child has to go and see the registrar (or perhaps a delegated authority to head teachers?) and explain that they want to vote) -- because it's clear to me that many children and teenagers would be just as competent to vote as adults, and I don't see any reason why they shouldn't have an electoral voice.

If you believe in democracy, you have to accept that stupid or thoughtless people get to vote and may make poor choices. Otherwise you're arguing for voting-by-the-elite.

But obviously, what we actually want is for people to first gain knowledge, and then exercise that whey they vote. In many ways the lack of fervour amongst voters is quite a good sign; it means that the quality of life for people has risen to the point where the poor are no longer forced to politicise as a means of meeting their basic needs.

I quite like the idea that someone has to opt in to vote. Then an intelligent well-informed 10 year old who is capable of expressing an opinion can do so, but a couldn't-care-less adult couldn't until they were prepared to go and register.

Sounds horribly open to corruption though. (Pretty much like any other system. God I'm cynical this morning!)

> open to corruption

http://www.crmvet.org/info/lithome.htm describes the "literacy tests" and other requirements used to discourage black voters in Alabama.

You can use almost anything to remove people from the voting registers if you put your mind to it. Look at what happened when they removed 'criminals' in the US last year - they used the excuse to knock of thousands of potential voters.

Misuse of something doesn't make the thing bad - it makes the people misusing it bad.

It's just as wrong, in my view to disenfranchise genuine ex-convicts as it was to disenfranchise people by pretending they were ex-convicts. Misusing it didn't make it bad: it was bad to start with, and the misuse is one of the things that makes it bad.

Can you think of a better example, a good reason for removing someone from the voting registers that remains good even when misused?

I'm not in favour of removing convicts either.

I quite like the idea that someone has to opt in to vote.

Heavens, no! They have that in America, and it's a disaster, the next worst thing to Jim Crow laws. I really dislike the philosophy of restricting the franchise to people who have knowledge (the 'voting the right way' impulse) or have the nous to register (the 'really wants to vote' impulse).

Democracy isn't about cleverness, it's about equity. An appointments board would be better at picking the most competent executive officers, if that was what you wanted. Democracy is a cybernetic device to minimise the tendency of executive officers to brush off citizens who can't do anything about it, which is why universal suffrage should be as close to truly universal as humanly possible, so everybody with an agenda, not everybody with a qualification, gets a say. That's why I'd like to extend the vote to children old enough to have an agenda.

As I've said before—stealing from someone else—you give the vote to everyone, that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Damn, I kept meaning to put the bit in about thinking Alison meant opt-in for the youngest children, in order to distinguish those with an agenda and those without. I agree with that, as it helps push the boundaries further out without risking including an age-cohort who are mostly to young to make a choice at all.

It's just the idea of opt-in for the traditional over-eighteens I disagree with; adults should be frog-marched to the polling station if necessary. I like the Australian idea of fines for not voting, although I'm also fond of suggesting we find a few hundred million pounds to give people who vote a crisp twenty for their trouble (we pay jurors, don't we?)

Well, to be fair we don't fine people for not voting, we fine them for (a) not registering and (b) not turning up and getting their names ticked off a list, but in practice we harldy ever fine anyone anyway. What you do with the ballot papers once they've been handed to you is your business, so long as the returning officer at the polling booth either (a) gets them back, or (b) can certify that they have been destroyed. I think: I more or less trained as a polling booth officer for our last election, but ended up not working...

Further to my other post - I'd have no problems with an informed child voting. The only problem tending to be their lack of understanding of consequences and the fact that idealism tends to have unintended ones. But then this seems to afflict a large chunk of adults too, so whatcha gonna do?

Anyone might vote the wrong way.

That's the risk in any system, whether it's universal suffrage, a hereditary autocrat who might make the wrong decisions, or anything in between.

I have no objection to people voting the wrong way _deliberately_. I have friends who will vote Conservative, and if they have thought about the issues and believe that this is the best thing to do, then that is what they _should_ do.

I object to people voting without knowledge or understanding. I'd happily have a (very simple) quiz before the election. One that asked people to identify the leaders of the three parties, and identify a couple of policies of each. One that could be passed by anyone who spent five minutes reading up on things before the vote. Because then at least people would have had to spend 5 minutes taking an interest before they voted. They might even learn something.

it quickly became apparent that she meant 'I have reached the age of majority without ever grasping the first shreds of a notion about how the country I live in is governed.'

I have (young) colleagues at work in exactly the same position. Since my work, like yours, is a government department, you'd expect them to have some idea of governments and elections, but apparently not. Repeatedly, over the past few days, I have found myself explaining to them the sort of things that one expects people to graps instinctively -- what a general election is, what a marginal constituency is, how the results are counted and declared...

Vote! I tell them; your forebears fought and died to win you the right to vote, so damn well use it!

Hear, hear!

And I like the idea of children being able to vote if they wish. Many adults are very susceptible to unfair influence, after all...

I find myself deeply admiring both the pint and the vote icon today :-)

Every vote counts. Apart from anything else, there's the question of lost deposits.

election periods tend to be a fallow time for policy civil servants

As one policy civil servant to another, and one for whom that should be true, I think they forgot to send us that memo. We've been swamped with work.


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