General Election 2017: use your vote

Juliette Bretan 2 May 2017

The United Kingdom ranks 16th on the Democracy Index – making us a ‘full democracy’ – higher than other well-known democracies such as the United States, Spain, France, and Japan. In countries without democracy or with very limited civil liberty, groups of people pretend to vote in Western-style elections on polling days. There are civil wars currently being fought in Syria, Libya, and Somalia, in which at least one side is seeking a system of fair and open elections. In this country we have fair and open elections at least once every five years, and now we get to exercise our right to vote once again on 8 June.

I started off with all those facts to demonstrate that something we take for granted and that seems so ingrained in our society is actually something that a lot of people see as a not a right but a privilege. What we see as something that we wish we didn’t have to do they see as something they wish they had the chance to do. I think it is insulting to ever consider not voting. Regardless of how bad the choices are in this country – and the choices are pretty bad right now – you should always vote, even if it is a protest vote.

My rant is the same as it’s always been: millions of people in the past century from this country have fought and died in droves to protect your right to vote, from fascism and tyranny. The least you can do to honour that sacrifice that they made for you is take five minutes out of your day to pitch up somewhere and put a cross on a piece of paper.

I don't care if you don't know who to vote for – read a paper. I don’t care if you think it’s a waste of time – having a say in how your country is run, however small, is worth those precious seconds. I don’t care if you feel disenfranchised, despondent, or apathetic when it comes to politics – you won’t lessen any of those feelings by not voting.

At the last election just 43% of student-age eligible voters turned out at the election. I know you’ve heard the statistics before, but you wonder why most students complain that we have wall-to-wall Tory governments in this country raising tuition fees and cutting student grants. If you’re not voting, you’re not voting against anything, and the largest Conservative demographic (over 55s) is coincidentally the largest demographic for voter turnout. I think you can only legitimately complain about what the government is doing if you actively voted against it.

The next five years of government won’t just affect the outcome of the Brexit negotiations. I know the EU seems to be all anyone talks about these days, but the next government will still be pushing through legislation based on party political ideals and manifesto pledges. Just like any general election, the next government will set how much we pay in tuition fees, what money is available for students and how easy it is to get a job when we leave university. It’s important to have a say on what kind of Brexit you want by the makeup of your parliament, but it’s even more important to have a say on the policies that will directly affect your life.

The choices aren't great, one vote won't sway an election, and the first-past-the-post system might not be the most representative – but it’s the one we've got. If you don't vote you're not protesting against the system, you're excluding yourself from having any say whatsoever. 

Sources: Wikipedia and Ipsos