Thursday, March 11, 2010

Complain about the voting system when casting your vote

Many people qualified to vote are so royally pissed off with politicians and politics that they abstain from the polls. They do not vote.

Their slogans are
"If voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal"
"No matter who you vote for, the government always gets in"
"F*ck this for a game of soldiers, I'm off to join the anarchists"

While this is all well and good, and the attitude is totally understandable, not voting is the worst possible response to political problems, in fact it makes it worse, because MPs do not have to worry at all about the views of people who do not vote. One of the many reasons that our politicians are worthless is because of the FPTP voting system.

It is a far, far better thing to roll up at the polling booth, and cast a vote for the Green Party, because they are better than a pack of mad yaks, and because they have 100% clean record on the MP expenses scoresheet,  and because their ideology is sound, based as it is on the notion that you should not saw away at the branch that you are standing on. If there is no Green Party candidate just write "Green Party" on the voting paper, or say, "What, no Green Party?? This is no good", and tear it up.

But the point is, when collecting the ballot paper (which is numbered, by the way, so that they know which way you voted. What did you think it is, a secret ballot?) just say, clearly and firmly to the clerk

"Hey hey hey, ho ho ho,
First Past the Post has Got to Go".

If you are a bit inhibited, you can leave the "hey hey hey" bit out and just tell the clerk "First Past the Post has Got to Go".

Be polite, it's not the clerk's fault.

If preferred, you can make up your own terms of protest, but make sure that you mention that it is the voting system that you are protesting over, otherwise people might think you just have Tourette Syndrome*.

On its own, yes it is a bit minimalist, but it is a matter of Critical Mass. Polling stations are normally quiet places, so if is an FPTP protest every 5-10 minutes, it would make quite an impression.

Better still, if groups roll up chanting heyheyheyhohohoFPTPhasgottogo all the way from the pub to the polling booth, it will make a lasting impression.

All this is far more effective than simply staying away from the poll.

So there we have it. A zero-cost, entirely legal protest that if adopted by enough people will end up with the clerks having a quiet word with their employers, who will have a quiet word with Whitehall, who will quietly draw up contingency plans for a change in the electoral system, since it is the Civil Service, after all, who really matter in Government.

*I hope this does not offend anyone who is living with Tourette. I claim to be a mild case myself, so I am allowed to make the reference, I hope. And I'm a psychiatrist, so I certainly would not use it disparagingly.


Unknown said...
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Simon13 said...

What if you do have a Green Party candidate standing, but still want to make your point about FPTP. If you put your X by GP and then wrote "PR NOW!" (or "TROOPS OUT NOW!" or anything for that matter) in large letters across the top, would this spoil your ballot?

DocRichard said...

The post was removed for being spam.

Hi Simon

I like your blog piece on banks. Blog on.
the ballot rules are here.

Yes you can, so long as you don't identify yourself. Which is mad, because they can identify you anyway, for the unique number. But don't let the fact that they could give you the 3am call for voting Green put you off voting.

Best just to put the X, because forgetful peeps might write PR NOW on the paper, consider the job done and pop it in the box without putting the X opposite the Green Party.

Isaac said...

I hate FPTP as much as anyone but I feel I have to point a couple of things out as a Green Party candidate who has been to many elections counts in my time.

The number on the ballot paper isn't connected to your name so no-one knows how any indiviual votes, it is an annonymous process. the number is to ensure against someone dumping a few thousand extra photo copied ballot papers in a box here or there and cheating the system.

The clerks I'm afraid can't change the system. FPTP massively benefits the Conservative-Labour Party as it means only those two could ever get elected to government without some huge public dissatisfaction. Look at the recent election. All people really wanted was anything but the main two and they still got 90 odd percent of the seats between them.

I like to think I can usually offer solutions to problems I see before me but unfortunately we live in a political system where the powers that be love the current voting system as it keeps them safely near the top of the power tree and disuades any kind of quick change in the system.

DocRichard said...

Interesting point about the number on the paper. I will check with an electoral clerk as to whether the number identifies you. Maybe it is an urban myth.

Edward Wilson / Harold Heath said...

The paranoid disinformation that claims "they know what you're voting, because there's a number on your ballot" is, as you now admit, an urban myth, that unfortunately brings those who repeat it into disrepute.

Thanks Isaac, I wanted to take Richard up on some things here at the time, but'fraid couldn't be bothered.

The truth is, as so often, more complex. The clerk / writes down your voter number only on the counterfoil of your ballot paper, and as you say this is simply a precautionary measure against ballot rigging. The record would only ever be checked, and then only en bloc, if there were a really serious supicion of foul play. A court order would first have to be obtained. All the papers from your polling station are taken to the count for your entire constituency (in general elections) and mixed together with probably 40 or 50 thousand others, so the likelihood of your single individual ballot being pulled out and crosschecked with your individual number and then checked to discover your individual name is so vanishingly remote as to be irrelevant to any reasonable person.

As for this suggestion that you can write anything on the ballot paper, NO. Anything, but anything, other than a single X in one box counts as a spoiled ballot paper and your vote is null and void!

There are cunning statistical ways of breaking down the vote to get fairly good ideas of who voted what and who changed their vote, and these involve those sneaky nerds who loiter around outside polling stations harassing voters to give them your voter number and tell them how you are voting.

If you want to preserve a secret ballot, never ever tell these blighters anything except "get lost."