With the results from last Thursday’s election looming, it can only be right to dedicate this week to voter turnout among British elections. In 1950, voter turnout was at 83.9% which was the peak of both the 20th and 21st century. Unfortunately, the highest voter turnout among the 21st century was in 2017 at 68.7%. Even the recent election was lower than this at 67.2%. This immense drop depicts a lack of trust and interest in our democracy. Reasons could extend from being busy to not trusting politicians. Within this blog, I am going to try and explain why people choose not to vote and hopefully persuade people to vote in the next election as it is so important for our democracy!
One reason that people do not vote is because of the idea of ‘safe’ seats. Before going into that, I am going to explain how our political system works. Britain uses the first-past-the-post system. The UK is divided into 650 constituencies all of which reflect a seat in parliament. Within these constituencies, citizens vote for a political party. The MP who gains the most votes within that constituency will represent them in parliament. For a majority government to occur, 326 seats must be won by a party. The leader of this party will become the Prime Minister. Otherwise, a hung parliament occurs. In this case, the Prime Minister before the election stays in power and is given the chance to create a government. They may decide to negotiate with another party and create a coalition, as seen in 2010. Otherwise, they can try to govern with a minority or they can resign. Resignation usually occurs after failure to negotiate. In this case, the leader of the largest opposition party steps in. As a result of this system, many people believe that their votes do not count. This is especially the case in constituencies that have ‘safe’ seats. This is when the same MP or same political party continues to get re-elected in a constituency. This would put people off voting because if the same party continues to win within their constituency, they may think it is a waste of time to vote at all as nothing will change. After all, why go out and vote if nothing is going to change?
Another reason why people may choose not to vote is due to a lack of trust in politicians. Within political campaigns, parties say that they will do some ‘amazing’ things for the country. When it comes to actually being in power, many fail to fulfil their promises. In fact, only 17% of people trust politicians. An example of unfulfilled promises can be seen with the Liberal Democrats, who campaigned to remove tuition fees. When they got into a coalition government, they tripled tuition fees. In the lead up to the election, they got a large amount of support from students. Unfortunately, they broke their promises. Examples like this have led to a nation that no longer trusts the words of politicians. Why vote for parties to get in power if they won’t do what they promise anyway?
The final reason that I am going to discuss in this blog is a lack of knowledge. The new generation is a lot busier than the last, with improved technology, larger activities and less time. Political participation then goes to the bottom of the list. Whilst there are many debates in a lead up to an election, people do not always have the time to watch them. This leaves them in a position where they do not know what the parties stand for. Why vote if you do not know what you are voting for?
The most recent election had a turnout of 67.2% which was lower than in 2017. There are many reasons why people chose not to vote last Thursday. Some of the reasons I have discussed above. However, there are many more reasons as to why people do not vote. The action of voting is very important within our democracy. By voting, you are choosing who you want to represent your views and policies. If you do not vote, then the government will not represent your views and it will become biased to the people who did vote. If everyone chose not to vote, then we would not have a democracy and therefore it is very important. If, for example, you do not know what the political parties stand for, then there are many quizzes online that can help. You just complete it and see which party is closely aligned to what you believe in. If voter turnout does not increase, then our democracy will continue to go downhill.
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