Even if one is disillusioned by the political party options, it’s imperative that people who have the right and ability to vote on 1 November should do so.
Unfortunately, but not surprisingly so, the lead-up to the coming local elections has been less than ideal. The fiasco of missed candidate list deadlines, disputes and appeals to the Independent Electoral Commission and courts for decisions have eventually led us to a delayed election date of 1 November.
It is sad, however, that voter turnout at these crucial upcoming elections is likely to be negatively affected, not only by the Covid-19 pandemic, but more worryingly by the growing lack of interest in political party posturing that appears to leave undesirable options for many. Endless empty promises and a dearth of political parties adds more mud to the already murky water, and voters might be forgiven if they used the excuse of “I’m not voting because there’s nobody I like”.
That would be a mistake.
By not voting, a lower turnout leads to the status quo and a less representative political landscape. Low voter turnout means that people who might not have won and probably shouldn’t be in a position of power, get elected. The declining voter turnout has a large role to play in problems that have beset us as a nation and in many cases, why our towns and cities have been trashed by people who shouldn’t be running them.
Tactical or strategic voting occurs when a voter supports another candidate more strongly than their sincere preference, with a view to preventing an undesirable outcome. Undesirable outcomes are those which place the worst person or party in charge of your municipal affairs. In such a case, you may wish to vote for one party or person, but doing so may simply weaken the votes for what could be the best option to reduce or steal the power away from the “undesirable outcome” option.
You may like a certain political party on a national level, but in your ward someone else from another party might resonate more closely with your outlook and desired solutions for your municipality.
When voting, we should remind ourselves of the dire situation that most of our municipalities are in or moving toward. Collectively, people have the power to change that, but only when more people get out there and vote and by doing so in a conscientious manner.
Some suggest that an alternative is to spoil one’s vote when not sure who to vote for. The flawed assumption behind the “spoilt vote” option is that if the spoilt vote count is high enough, this might send a message to authorities that citizens are unhappy with the political choices they have. But that’s ludicrous, as those who win and gain control couldn’t give two hoots about the spoilt vote percentage. In fact, they will love you for it.
The excuse that “my vote won’t make any difference” is a worrying one. There is many an incident where wards have been won by a handful of votes, and the worst contender managed to scrape home. Additionally, how often have we seen an extra proportional representative seat that could have been won by a party that might have made a difference, if they had gained a few hundred more votes?
Imagine if everyone felt their vote was not important enough to change the outcome and no one arrived at the polling station? US labour rights activist Tyree Scott once said: “The people who made the biggest mistake, are those who did nothing, because they felt they could only do a little.”
If we are going to fix our towns and cities, we need to become more active as citizens, and it starts with voting. The worst option is doing nothing. Those who choose to do nothing have no right to complain about the state of their towns and neighbourhoods. DM