Sunday, 19 September 2010

Improving The UK Elections

This isn't so much about the voting reform referendum - I'll probably write something up on that a bit closer to the time. This is a slightly different issue that I have with pretty much all democratic voting systems in the world, and it's best expressed by a line from NOFX's The Idiots Are Taking Over:
there's no point for democracy when ignorance is celebrated
political scientists get the same one vote as some Arkansas inbred
majority rule, don't work in mental institutions
sometimes the smallest softest voice carries the grand biggest solutions
The fundamental issue I have with democracy is that (near enough) anyone can vote, regardless of their reasons for voting or whether they know the slightest fucking thing about politics and current affairs.

Firstly I'll defend what is probably a slightly controversial stance by saying that I still believe that everyone fundamentally should have the right to vote, but I think that there also should be allowances for people to lose that right if they essentially don't deserve it. And I'm not saying this from the point of view that all people whose views disagree with mine are politically ignorant. I know quite a few people who have near-opposite opinions to me on issues, but I can still reflect the fact that they follow the news and have at least done some groundwork on which to base their political opinions, and those people are fine.

No, my main issue, and what I believe is an absolutely huge problem for political systems, are people who really don't have a fucking clue about anything but still turn up, stick a cross next to a name, and have their vote counted just the same as someone who reads the news every morning, and from various sources to get a balanced opinion on things. The people who show up to vote because they think it's something they should do, rather than the people who show up to vote because they actually have someone they want to put their vote behind. The people who vote because shows like Big Brother and X Factor have gotten them into this whole voting for shit idea.

My understanding of the election system in Australia is that everyone is legally required to vote unless there's some reason why they can't, which for me is possibly the worst system ever. Sure, it'll perhaps get a few more people interested in politics, but the majority will still not give a fuck, and people voting pretty much at random utterly defeats the whole damn reason for holding a democratic ballot.

Personally I don't think high voter turn-outs are a good thing, because they almost certainly represent nothing more than a greater number of dangerous, uninformed, random votes than they do a higher interest in politics. I don't think steps should be made to make voting any easier either. You can send postal votes if you live in the middle of fucking nowhere, or you have a ballot station that you're generally given pretty good notice of the whereabouts for. If you can't fucking be bothered to go vote, then clearly you don't value your own vote that much, so really I don't see a reason why the political system should either, and especially don't see why they should take steps to make sure it still gets counted.

Now I will appreciate how filtering out people who don't know jack about politics from being able to vote in the current election is massively easier said than done, but that doesn't mean I can't talk hypothetically, or that it's impossible to accomplish.

For example, there could be a simple multiple choice test each election for eligibility to vote. The questions wouldn't have to be difficult, and it shouldn't be anything that people would feel they'd have to revise for or anything, but I would say that if people don't know that Nick Clegg is the current deputy prime minister, then they really don't deserve their say in the political forum. And really, I don't see how anyone could honestly dispute that.

You can talk in ideals, and how beautiful it is that every single citizen gets a vote, and I would say that's a load of fucking bollocks. This isn't something to be all dreamy and idealistic about. This is an election to decide who runs the country, it's something that massively shapes the future of the country and can significantly affect millions of lives. You don't put that sort of shit into the hands of country bumpkins, and people who genuinely think that reading The Sun or Hello! every week is fulfilling their social obligation to keep up with politics and current affairs.

The biggest argument against democracy is a five minute discussion with the average voter - Winston Churchill

The only real stumbling block in this idea is to keep things fair, and most importantly to make sure whatever questions are asked do not put any noticeable bias onto a specific political party. For example, asking who the likely Foreign Secretary candidate would be if the Liberal Democrats ever got into power is probably something your average reasonably-informed voter would not know unless they were a Lib Dem supporter, in which case you're loading the question. However, if they're kept pretty damn simple then it's hard to really bias it like that, because the whole point would be that anyone with a real clue about politics would easily answer them.

Obviously this would something exploitable to rig elections, but I think if a government is going to go that far to stay in power then we're a bit fucked anyway. It could be independently regulated, it could work, it could make the elections a damn sight more representative of the people who actually give a toss about politics, which really is how things should be. If you wanted to know whether the Large Hadron Collider is likely to destroy the world, you'd ask physicists who are experts in the field, not random people you find on the street (unless you work in the media, apparently), because you want to find out the real popular opinion which is most likely to be correct, not a shitload of random fucking guesses from people who don't have a bloody clue about the subject but still most likely 'reckon' something.

I feel it's also worth noting that I'm massively against public jury service for pretty much the same reason. If I ever go to court then I want people who have the ability to come to a logical conclusion based on reasonable evidence, not morons who quite possibly won't take it seriously, and who could easily be swayed by lawyers and prejudices rather than by actual factual information. If it's a complicated case, I want some people who are fucking experts on the subject to decide whether I'm guilty, not some randomly selected group of potentially very stupid people (well, unless I actually am guilty, in which case morons plx).

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