No one could have failed to notice that today is election day. There are polling stations dotted around our streets and communities, there have been leaflets through the door, and it has been mentioned by every news channel. I had an interesting start to my day trying to vote at 7.10am and being the first one with a less than prepared two person team staffing the polling station. And I had to be the person telling them that I needed two voting slips as there were two elections taking place!
Surprisingly though many people will not remember or even know that today is voting day a fundamental part of a democratic society. They will continue their day-to-day activities and will fail to frequent any polling station, and don’t even ask them about postal voting.
So why is this? What is it that has meant people don’t want to vote? Why when youngsters turn 18 is it not one of the things they look forward to doing? I remember being really excited when I was able to vote in the first election. I felt as though I was able to make a stand and highlight a viewpoint, and if it didn’t change the result I didn’t care because I had a voice.
The situation may have arisen because politics seems so far removed from the majority of people’s daily lives. They don’t see the relevance to it or understand how it is a crucial element if we are to have a truly democratic society. Yet we are all affected by politics throughout the day. Whether it is not being able to go to the library because it has been closed, the concern about household budgeting, or even the street light that has been out for a number of weeks, these are all aspects of life that are impacted by politics.
If we can’t get people to be genuinely interest in politics and voting then how are we ever going to be able to get them to work together in communities to solve problems? It sounds like a huge challenge and I think it really is. What we need is to get people to see their communities as a different thing, as more than places where they just live but as living, breathing entities. How we get there is going to be even more problematic as most public sector agencies are now too focused on internally concerns and how they make reducing budgets stretch further. It may be time that interested groups from within communities started to make a difference.
Perhaps if there is a move towards this new active community we would finally be able to encourage people to make use of their vote.