Thursday 24 October 2019

John Downing: 'No excuses - just make sure you get out and cast your vote'


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Stock photo
John Downing

John Downing

The excuses for stopping at home are legion. Most - bar serious illness, work travel, a holiday booked long ago, family and other difficulties - are very poor fare.

The five usual abstention excuses are utter nonsense. So, let's quickly look at them one by one.

1. Absolutely nobody on that ballot paper is worth my time going out to vote for one of them.

That means there are many people on that paper you can go out and vote against. And our system of PR voting allows you do just that. One way of doing that is to count the number of candidates on the ballot paper. Start with the individual candidate and/or party you dislike most and work upwards towards the person and/or party you dislike least.

In politics, as in much else, the least worst option is sometimes our only resort. And there are worse ways of spending the time.

2. I don't know anything about those people on the ballot.

Here's a badly kept secret: some politicians don't know too much either. But there are ways of informing yourself even at this late stage.

Ask a friend or acquaintance who does follow politics, and whose opinion you rate, for a recommendation. If you have time, ask someone else, whose opinion you don't rate, and do a balancing act.

Politics, since the dawn of time, has been at times a rather approximate business.

3. Voting does not make any difference anyway.

But it does matter most of the time. Sometimes it matters a heck of a lot.

Areas where turnout is low are often marginalised as funding and facilities are directed to where politicians know they will get the returns in votes to be re-elected. Turnout is evident when votes are counted.

Your failure to vote may also be opening the way to bigots, incompetents and people just out for themselves.

4. I don't know the issues behind these elections.

Well, here again you can take some advice from friends and/or people with whom you are less friendly. You can also reflect on the world around you and what candidate or party has helped in the past or might help in the future. Rocket science this is not.

Remember, not all candidates are all-knowing political gurus - much less the other voters. Odds are your choice is as well-informed as that of many others.

Politics is a gut business. People often decide with their hearts and later have factual reasons to back those decisions. Remember Bill Clinton advising watching key television debates with the sound off?

5. This whole democratic carry-on will go on without me.

Well, a decision not to vote is a vote of sorts - but remember a few other searing facts.

In November 1918, barely 100 years ago, Irish men and women got to vote in big numbers for the first time. It cemented the path towards democracy and liberty.

Irish Independent

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