Tomorrow morning I’ll head round the corner from my house and enter a community centre I never knew existed. I’ll be on my way to work and probably one of the first to enter. I’ll mark the papers, pop them in the respective boxes and be on my way.
I’ll have cast my vote for the councillors to represent me on Southwark Council and MEPs to do the same in the European Parliament.
I don’t yet know the names of the people I’ll vote for. Not that I’m undecided, just that I know very little about what they’re saying or standing for, or even their names.
There was an election flyer on my kitchen table, and my flatmate was canvassed a couple of weeks ago – and on that grounds alone likely to vote for the party to take that minor amount of effort. I think that flyer found its way to the bin.
If I were to go home tonight and scour the internet for policies and biographical details I would not need the contrition I feel towards my lassitude toward the democratic process. But I’m not, I know how I’m going to vote. I know enough about the parties and their positions on the national level to be frustrated by them all but aligned closest to one. And the names beside that logo will get my vote tomorrow.
Except tomorrow I’m not supposed to be voting on the national policies of parties, but on what they would do on my local council or in the European Parliament. And yet, my confession is not one scarce found among voters heading to the polling booth tomorrow. I would argue it’s the norm.
Most voters are not deciding which candidate gets their support based on a thorough evaluation of the options, or the specifics of the ballot, but on a wider, general, sense of support or disagreement with the parties across the country. Perhaps I do a disservice, there are surely many who do know who is standing and what their vision is; perhaps I misrepresent the population by projecting my ignorance onto others.
And while I am a lazy voter, I am also a determined one. Voting is not something to do lightly, or without thought, but more than that, and regardless of whether we take care, it is something we must do. I would rather the population opted for the party whose logo was in the colour they preferred than stay at home. Voting is too important, even when it seems pointless.
Before the last general election the oft heard cry was that a single vote doesn’t make any difference – the majority is too large, the party I support will never win, my vote will be wasted. But what if everyone took that view? What if everyone opted out?
Politics isn’t a consumer activity where our choice to participate or not is an active decision, and where exit is also a valid option. If we choose not to go to the cinema we are communicating our dissatisfaction, with the choice of films, the price of tickets, the location of the cinema, we are telling the cinema that something is wrong. In politics it doesn’t work like that. If we opt out we let others take the decision, and their decisions affect us all.
It’s why despite everything, despite my frustration with the parties, their leaders, their campaign tactics, their policies, or lack thereof, I vote because I must. And so should you. Because to not would be to let others make your mind up for you. You should also watch the video at the top – best voting video ever.
Also, if you wish to learn a bit more about the European Union and the elections, read this guide.