- Fri Nov 01, 2013 8:53 pm
Indeed. Rob has it right. I'm not hostile to the notion as Crabcakes seems to be suggesting, I simply don't think it will reveal anything that we don't know already about people who view voting as a waste of their time, or more pertinently, have any practical or discernible effect on the continuing problem of voter disengagement.
Of the abstainers, I think there is a significant core of people who are quite simply congenitally averse to voting and genuinely are incapable of understanding how democratic representation can and does affect their lives. They don't engage, broadly because they never have engaged.
Another group of abstainers affects cynicism : "they're all the bloody same - voting makes no difference" is the too-often parroted turn of phrase that some imagine to be the height of sophistication, a mark of how their unique, dazzlingly perceptive insight has rumbled the whole sham for what it is. These are the people who won't bother even spoiling a ballot paper with a NOTA message, and - yes, Crabcakes - I do consider that attitude to be not only phoney, but indeed lazy. I've lost count of the number of people I've told that far from voting never changing anything, it is in fact, short of bloody revolution, the only thing that ever does change anything. My view is that such people simply haven't thought things through. How do we reach them? We just keep trying, is the only possible answer.
Then there is the constituency that Crabs, if you will, advocates for. A deeply principled band of active objectors for whom the appearance on a ballot paper of a candidate they deem worthy of receiving their vote is akin to hens' teeth on a blue moon during a month of Sundays. They think it's all shit, and they say so by sending a message on a ballot paper that grants nobody their vote. But nobody knows about this message - apart that is from all the candidates in the election, their agents, the returning officer, and some of the counting staff. I suspect that actually, the actively protesting abstainers form a relatively small constituency. But I'm not convinced it would get much bigger if more people officially knew about how pissed off they are. I even suspect you'd need to change electoral law to make it clear that a "NOTA" ballot option could not win an election - though logically you'd think that a "NOTA" "win" would lead to a re-run election. But then we could be running and re-running elections until doomsday.
Maybe Crabs is right and an official "NOTA" option would lead in time to scores of progressive (or reactionary) candidates that people will be falling over themselves to vote for. But I seriously doubt that. Crabs will doubtless say that this is because I'm a rancid old Labour Party hack, to which charge I suppose I must plead guilty, but I can't but help my skepticism.
If it helps, Crabs, I'd be open to giving it a trial. If only to find my misgivings supported by reality.
"The opportunity to serve our country. That is all we ask." John Smith, Leader of the Labour Party, 10 May 1994.