Why You Should Vote In The General Election

Rachel Holdsworth
By Rachel Holdsworth Last edited 39 months ago
Why You Should Vote In The General Election

Election day is 7 May — polls open at 7am and close at 10pm. But about a third of people registered to vote won't bother. We think this is stupid, so we've put together a few reasons why you should, with a little help from Jay Foreman's Politics Unboringed videos (for no reason other than that they're fantastic).

It's the 21st century

Before 1918, men over 21 needed to meet some kind of property qualification to vote (either ownership or by paying a rent set high enough that 40% of men still didn't qualify before 1918). The famous enfranchisement of women was still restricted to those over 30, owning property, a graduate voting in their university constituency and/or be married to the 'right sort' of chap. Women had to wait until 1928 to get full equal voting rights as men. And the right to vote at 18 wasn't brought in until 1969.

We tend to take our relatively recently won rights for granted — in 2010, 35% of those registered to vote could not be arsed. The posh have been trying to keep the rest of us away from the ballot box for centuries. Don't give them the satisfaction.

You'll be ignored otherwise

You probably feel that politicians ignore you. You're probably right. But here's the thing — if you don't vote, and your peers and everyone else in your age group/situation don't vote, politicians really won't give the tiniest fig. Why would they? You're not a threat to their job.

Around 63% of private renters are registered to vote compared to 93% of homeowners. No wonder politicians are more bothered about protecting the house prices bubble than sorting out dodgy landlords, high rents and bad conditions. If you're not registered it's too late; but if you are, make sure you hit a polling station. We're not suggesting you'll all vote the same way, but the very fact you're turning up to collect your ballot paper should put the wind up some of our more complacent parliamentarians.

Same goes for BAME voters: 18% of BAME citizens weren't registered to vote in 2010, compared to 7% of whites. If you're registered, turn out — just look at this list of marginal constituencies (PDF) where the BAME population is larger than the incumbent MP's majority. Again, we don't think you'll all vote the same way. But you really should be giving the candidates something to think about.

Your vote will be counted as part of the national share

We all know we're heading for a hung parliament. In this situation, the share of the vote that each party gets could be important in conferring legitimacy when it comes to forming a government. Your vote might not make much difference locally, but it could make a difference on the national stage.

You can help candidates keep their deposits

Do you like a candidate from a smaller party, or an independent? Now, they don't stand a chance of being elected, because First Past The Post is a stupid system that doesn't really work any more. However, you might be able to help your chosen candidate keep their deposit. That's £500 each candidate has to stump up to be allowed to stand, which they'll get back if they get 5% of the vote. £500 might not seem much, but to run a candidate in each constituency in London costs £36,500. If you like a party's ideals, you probably think that money could be better spent on campaigns. Try and help them save it.

Read more of Londonist's election coverage.

Last Updated 06 May 2015