Sunday, November 16, 2014

Modern Democracies – WHY VOTE?

It is good to have my feelings about politicians supported by an august journal such as the New York Times - I thought my one loyal reader might be interested in the following quote from the NYT:- 
"The Worst Voter Turnout in 72 Years
 Turnout this month was the lowest in any federal election since 1942.

Showing up at the polls is the best way to counter the oversized influence of wealthy special interests, who dominate politics as never before. But to encourage participation, politicians need to stop suppressing the vote, make the process of voting as easy as possible, and run campaigns that stand for something.

Over all, the national turnout was 36.3 percent; only the 1942 federal election had a lower participation rate at 33.9 percent. The reasons are apathy, anger and frustration at the relentlessly negative tone of the campaigns.

During the same period, negative campaigning has become ubiquitous in the United States and elsewhere and has been shown to impact voter turnout. Attack ads and smear campaigns give voters a negative impression of the entire political process.”

The sentiments expressed above fit very well with my thoughts and feelings regarding the 2013 Australian General Election. The only difference is that in Australia there is that odd “democratic” law that voting is compulsory (and people are fined for NOT voting). But informal votes – “invalid” votes - have increased from 2.1% in 1983 to 5.9% in 2013 (approx. 940 000 voters out of a total of approx. 15.9 million on the electoral roll).

The NYT editorial’s comments about running campaigns that mean something and voters “apathy, anger and frustration at the relentlessly negative campaigns” certainly resonates with me. Even with Australia’s “compulsory democracy” the actual voter turnout for the 2013 election was only about 81% and even lower if the 1 million odd Australians living overseas who did not bother to vote (or were not even on the electoral roll) are taken into account.

As in the USA there has to be a reason for this low turnout and I suggest that “disenchantment” with politicians is the prime cause – lack of trust and because politicians lie. They say one thing (“read my lips”) before an election but then promptly ignore this and do something which was not voted for.

Politicians need to treat voters as human beings with hopes and aspirations and not merely as an inconvenient, if necessary, means to get elected and politicians need to give voters something relevant to actually vote for - then see the voter engagement improve!!

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