Why does it take a General Election to get people to vote?

West Sussex County Council elections 2013 ENGSUS00120130305132659

West Sussex County Council elections 2013 ENGSUS00120130305132659

  • Voter apathy is often accompanied with the claim one vote can’t make a difference – an argument that holds no water when millions of people make the same excuse
0
Have your say

Ask anyone in the street why they did not vote and the answer is likely to be “it wouldn’t make a difference”.

jpco-12-3-14 Crawley MP, Henry Smith, has branded the image of Queen's Square as not being good enough for the standard local consumers and shoppers visiting the town should expect. (Pic by Jon Rigby) SUS-141003-105934001

jpco-12-3-14 Crawley MP, Henry Smith, has branded the image of Queen's Square as not being good enough for the standard local consumers and shoppers visiting the town should expect. (Pic by Jon Rigby) SUS-141003-105934001

The figures show that argument to be flimsy in the extreme.

In Crawley’s 2014 borough elections, only 35.21 per cent of those who were registered to vote bothered to head to the polling station and choose a candidate.

That’s roughly 23,000 people out of a possible 65,500, meaning more than 42,000 didn’t vote. That’s an awful lot of people who felt they couldn’t make a difference.

The issue is obviously not just centred on Crawley. It’s country wide.

Councils determine many day-to-day community issues, so people should have their say in my view at the ballot box

Henry Smith

According to the Electoral Commission, some 45.6 million people were registered to vote in the 2010 General Election – but only 29.7 million valid votes were cast.

That’s 15.9 million votes – five million more than the Conservatives earned to put them in power, and more votes than were cast for Labour and the Liberal Democrats put together.

No matter your politics, it’s hard to deny 15.9 million additional votes could have left the country in a very different position – and may have made the Coalition totally unnecessary.

Some of Crawley’s Parliamentary candidates have shared their views on the historically poor levels of voter turn-out at both a local and national level.

Harriet Harman MP and Cllr Chris Oxlade SUS-140315-110528001

Harriet Harman MP and Cllr Chris Oxlade SUS-140315-110528001

Henry Smith (Conservative) said it was a shame turn-out in the local elections was so low and added: “Councils determine many day-to-day community issues, so people should have their say in my view at the ballot box.”

Henry felt giving people more power over local decisions, such as the running of the NHS or housing would engage the electorate more and help banish the feeling of pointlessness when it came to elections.

He added: “ I think councils could do more to explain how services from pot hole filling to recycling collections and from planning to roads are directly affected by the decisions those elected to local authorities – therefore voting for the councillor you want is important to the future of our community.”

Chris Oxlade (Labour) has supported the idea of lowering the voting age to 16 as a way of bringing young people into the democratic process from an early age – and encouraging them to carry on voting.

Chris Brown Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for UKIP Crawley'jpco-11-02-15-ukip SUS-150502-131421001

Chris Brown Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for UKIP Crawley'jpco-11-02-15-ukip SUS-150502-131421001

He said MPs and councillors who broke their election promises once they were in power had done a lot to turn people away from the ballot boxes.

Mr Oxlade added: “If people are unhappy on issues such as care homes closing, not being able to get an appointment at your local GP or your child being in a class over 30, the General Election is your one chance to have your say and make a difference.

“Politicians need to deliver on what they promise to bring back a renewed belief that voting can be a change for the better.”

Chris Brown (UKIP) said he felt many people did not understand or care about local politics – and did not trust those in power.

He added: “Party politics has infected local government and we need to get back to the original intent of having councillors that work together in the interests of local people.

“We need to end the chamber council systems where dominant parties can make it difficult for other councillors to oppose their plans.

“A committee system would be much fairer and more effective. This would improve confidence amongst voters and improve turnouts at elections.”