On Monday (didn’t they know it was a bank holiday?), the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) put out a press release about a forthcoming report of theirs which will recommend that voting should be compulsory for first-timers:
Voting should be compulsory for your first election, according to a new report to be published by the think tank IPPR next month.
Under IPPR’s plan, young voters would be required to go to the polling station to vote and would face a small fine if they didn’t. But IPPR also proposes that they would be given a ‘none of the above’ option, so they would not be forced to vote for a party.
They argue that this is necessary because only a minority of 18-24 year-olds bother to vote in elections these days.
Whilst I would certainly be delighted to see a ‘NOTA’ option of my ballot slip* (assuming that the IPPR isn’t suggesting that this option is only restricted to the first-timers) I’m afraid that I cannot get behind the idea of fining people should they not act as their elders and betters would like.
Wether they like it or not, abstention from the voting process is still a vote – albeit one that can be interpreted in a number of ways from ‘being happy with status quo’ through to ‘what’s the point?’
The task for our politicians is to make themselves worth voting for, not for them to force us into the voting booth under threat of violence.
NB: I have always voted, in General Elections anyway. My first was in 1997 as a young and fairly innocent 18 year-old and it went to the Conservative candidate. These days, assuming I don’t spoil my paper, it goes to anyone but a candidate from the Big 3. Living in a Conservative safe seat, such as I do, my vote is pretty much meaningless.
** Possible extensions include rerunning elections where the ‘winner’ fails to gain 50% of the votes cast (looking at the numbers from the 2010 General Election that would have meant reruns in two-thirds – 433 – of the constituencies) or, to make life even harder, where the ‘winner’ doesn’t get 50% of the registered electorate (in 2010 this mark was not reached in single constituency).