A few hundred people were upset to discover they were too late to vote during the General Election yesterday
. Boo hoo.
In 2005 the turnout across the UK was 61.4%. This year it looks more like 70-75%. That's only around 15-20% higher than last time, so I'm amazed that it was such a struggle to cope with the higher turnout. Anecdotal evidence suggests that students may have been to blame (although you're not obliged to bring them with you) for turning up without their polling cards, which increased the amount of time taken to issue ballot papers.
But I feel that a lot of the blame should be placed on the public themselves. Polling booths opened at 7AM and closed at 10PM. That's 15 hours
, a pretty large window to vote. It's hard to feel entirely sympathetic for people turning up 2/3rds of the way through the event.
"But they couldn't vote during the day as they were busy working!" I can imagine people saying. Why not use a postal vote? You can do that at your leisure. If you're too slow to return your postal vote (because you're so
busy), it doesn't actually prevent you from voting normally on the day!
The TV debates between the 3 main parties concluded a week beforehand, which still gives plenty of time for the X-Factor and Big Brother generation to make a decision on an incredibly important decision that affects the next 5 years of their lives. I'm also surprised by how many people appear to have made their decision at the last moment, given that things like the manifestos have been available for weeks (and candidates have been campaigning for weeks). If you care that strongly about your vote being counted, take the day off work. The General Election (generally, pun not intended) only happens every 5 years.
Sometimes s**t happens. I hate to say it, but a few hundred votes (most likely split fairly equally) probably won't make a huge difference* to the result both locally or nationally.
Should people have been more proactive? Sure, we could have spent more of the government's money on running the general election (it's not like we have a massive deficit or f**king huge national debt) to ensure there wouldn't be a capacity issue (perhaps do it over two days, or have more polling stations open). We could also waste money on improving the road network so we never face a traffic jam or slow moving traffic at rush hour (it's pretty much the same issue - especially if you compare the train to a postal vote). We could also employ an insane number of doctors and nurses to wipe out every single waiting list in the NHS. Let's throw money and people to every existing problem and prevent any new ones from happening!
Or we accept that we do the best we can with a finite amount of money and people (the latter are only human). If people had made more of an effort to attend during working hours, perhaps this "scandal" could have been averted, but that would probably require people to volunteer and donate their time to benefit the rest of society. Isn't that what Dave Cameron wants as part of this "Big Society" he keeps talking about? Remind me again why I have trouble believing it could work?
* South Park - Douche and Turd
Mr. Mackey: M'kay, that's one more vote for Turd Sandwich.
Randy: [through clenched teeth] So who won, Mr. Mackey?
Mr. Mackey: It's pretty close, but it looks like Giant Douche is gonna win.
Cartman: Oh no! NOOO!!
Kyle: HA! You lose, fatass!
Butters: [by the doors, motions to the others to look] Uh hey, wait a minute! [the others present gather round and look out. Stan approaches the school, battered and injured, and the others stream out of the school]
Sharon: Stan, you came back. Does that mean... you learned the importance of voting?
Stan: I learned that I'd better get used to having to pick between a douche and a turd sandwich because it's usually the choice I'll have.
Randy: He's going to vote!!
Townsfolk: [murmuring amongst themselves] He's going to vote. He's going to vote. [they gather round and hoist Stan up, carrying him inside. Stan is lowered and he fills out the ballot. He holds his shoulder and thinks a moment while images of an eagle, the White House, and the US flag float in the background. He makes up his mind: he votes for Turd Sandwich. He considers his vote, then approaches the ballot box and drops his ballot in. Mr. Mackey, holding the box, spins around in his chair happily.]
Singer: Let's get out the vote! Let's make our voices heard!
We've been given the right to choose between a douche and a turd.
It's democracy in action! Put your freedom to the test.
A big fat turd or a stupid douche. Which do you like best?
Mr. Mackey: [Adding Stan's vote to the tally] Stan's vote bring the total votes for Turd Sandwich to... thirty six! And Giant Douche has... one thousand four hundred and ten. Giant Douche still wins.
Some Townsfolk: Yeah! All right!
Other Townsfolk: AWWWW!!
Stan: Dude, so my vote didn't even really matter!
Randy: Hey! That's not true, Stan.
Sharon: [genuflects behind Stan] You can't judge the merits of voting on whether or not your candidate won.
Randy: [genuflects behind Stan] Your vote still mattered.
Mr. Garrison: [rushing into the school] Hey everybody! [holds up a shredded PETA shirt. Everyone turns and looks] They just found all the PETA members murdered at their compound! [all gasp]
Mr. Mackey: What the? They're all dead? Well, that means...
Clyde: That we can go back to being the South Park Cows! [opens his jacket and shows off his Cows shirt]
All: Hooray! All right!
Randy: [to Stan] NOW your vote didn't matter.