Thursday, 20 May 2010

Why you should vote on election day

This lengthy election day plea to vote appeared in the Bath Chronicle on, well,
General Election Day - May 6, 2010

So, at last, the waiting is over.

Today, after weeks of official campaigning - and seemingly years of build-up - voters will be given the chance to place their precious cross alongside the name of the party and the candidate they want to represent them in Parliament from tomorrow.

And in this column we want to try to encourage every single reader who sees this article today (May 6) to exercise their democratic right and get out to vote.

The reasons why we are encouraging everybody to do their bit are manifold.

There are so many instances around the world where people have died fighting for the right to vote (and tragically some are still dying for this basic freedom today) that for us not to even bother to walk a couple of hundreds yards to a local polling station seems like an insult to those who dream of democracy.

Of course, there will be many who may say that they would like to vote but just can't find a party that completely represents all their views. That is a very reasonable argument but the truth is there is no such thing as a 'perfect political party' that will represent every single thing someone believes in. Political parties are by their nature broad churches of opinion so you are best just to try to find the one that most closely represents your aspirations and ambitions.

And of course, if you just can't get excited by any of the parties then do look at the individuals who you have a chance to vote for today. Don't forget we are not just voting for a Government; we are voting for a man or a woman to represent us in Westminster during the course of the next five years. Yes, political parties are important but the quality of our candidates has a role to play too so if you can't find a party that ticks all the boxes you would like, then judge the individuals over what you have seen over the last few weeks to see if there is somebody that comes closest to deserving of your vote.

Still struggling? Well, it is not a crime to actually vote for the 'least worst option'.

That may sound like a negative point of view but it is actually a positive one. It is showing that despite any doubts you may have you are making a positive decision to honour democracy and vote for the option that worries you least. That is entirely credible.

The most important thing of all to remember is that if you cast your vote then you have every right to have a say in what happens in the future. You sometimes get the impression that some people prefer the holier-than-thou approach of not voting for anyone so no blame can befall them if their party or their candidate does not live up to expectations. This is just a huge cop out.
We should ALL have an investment in an election and even if we vote for a candidate or a party that doesn't win, at least we can say if things then don't go as we would have liked, that we took part and we tried to make a difference.

All of the above would be applicable in any election but this year there seems to be an extra reason to believe that we should take every opportunity to exercise our democratic right and vote. IF the polls are to be believed (note the word if has been capitalsied!) then anything is possible in today' s election so every single vote could indeed count.

Your single vote for a bigger party for instance could count in swinging a seat which may be won by a tiny margin. Or, if you back a smaller party or independent candidate and enough others do, then the bigger parties may have to think seriously about whether the current electoral system of first-past-the-post can truly be a democratic way going forward.

This may, indeed, be the first election where there is no such thing as a 'wasted vote'.

So, as we enter the final hours of a truly exciting election campaign locally and nationally, can we ask all our readers who see this on May 6 and are over 18 to get out and vote? Your vote matters. Your vote counts. And this is your chance to prove that our democracy, though not without flaws, is still worth supporting and fighting for.

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