Thursday, 10 January 2013

Why democracy discourages voters

Now THIS is a voting queue
This post initially started out as a comment on a news thread discussing the low voter turnout at Romania's elections (around 40% if I recall correctly), and somebody had made a good point: the other 60% of voters that stayed home - presumably because they didn't care or felt that their vote wasn't needed - could in fact have swung the entire outcome if they'd all pitched up.

This got me thinking: why are people discouraged from voting? This isn't just applicable to Romania, but really in all democracies experiencing low levels of voter participation. 

It's like an episode of the gameshow, Survivor. None of the contestants knows how anybody else is going to vote beyond a shadow of a doubt, and that's even in a closed system. They spend weeks forming alliances and planning complex strategies ... and everything still crumbles as one or two fickle people change their vote at the last second. How much more chance is there of knowing how anybody else will vote, on a national scale? 

There would be no need to vote at election time if we were certain that our preferred candidate would win. Indeed, if you support an underdog, then you're discouraged from voting at all as well.

To rephrase that, the way democratic elections are structured then is problematic because there are the following scenarios:
- Your vote isn't needed because your chosen candidate will win without you (you can't know this)
- Your vote won't make any difference, because your least preferred candidate will win by a landslide (you might have suspicions about this)
The only time *your* vote would truly be important is if the two candidates were drawn, and only your vote could separate them. You would never know that.

Seems like a rubbish system if you think about it. The one time your vote is important, you'll never know it was your vote that resulted in victory. In all other occasions, you'd have been better served staying at home. Given this, are we really surprised that people don't go and vote?

We need a different political system. One where your vote goes towards your chosen candidate, and your chosen candidate has full control over your political decisions. That way you feel that your vote will count, and you will directly profit (or lose) from your decision. These days, even if your chosen candidate wins, if he's not part of the majority party he's going to have no real political power to effect change.

That will have to change. I have a feeling that electronics will come to politics' rescue, as everything in our lives has become programmable and customisable. Why not this too? Just imagine ... personalised levels of medical care, taxation and other Government-sponsored services, all based on who you voted for. Now THERE is an incentive to vote, innit?

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