Recently former UUP member and current political commentator Alex Kane advocated the position that by not voting he is sending a message to the parties that currently ask for his vote at the ballot box. I am not begrudging his right to not vote or even to spoil hos vote however by not voting he isn’t sending a message.
Over the last number of weeks whilst out canvassing I have encountered an increasing number of people that have told me that they stand by what Alliance stands for and that they would vote for me or one of the other progressive parties however they are choosing not to vote at all. As a candidate for a relatively influential yet still comparatively small liberal party such as Alliance it is disheartening to hear so many people that identify with liberal and progressive politics choosing to stay at home on polling day. Never mind the fact that currently middle of the road parties such as Alliance, NI21 and the Green Party already have a small pool of voters from which to ask for a mandate, parties on the more divisive fringes such as the DUP and Sinn Fein have no problem in securing a mandate and dominating the political arena in both local and Assembly elections.
The reality is that these parties are more than happy for voter turnout to continue to fall as it ensures that they are free from battling off more progressive voices on the day of the count. Not voting does not send a message to anyone, it ensures that the free space that is left is filled by the same voices that insist on holding us back. The British Government’s indifference to Northern Ireland’s political situation has been well documented and no amount of spoiled votes or non voters is going to change that. There will be no massive wake up call if more than 50% of the electorate choose not to vote in the local and European elections this May, there will be no radical shake up of our institutions if people decide not to vote. The only way change can happen is when people like you and me step forward and insist that it does by using your voice and your vote when the time comes.
If you want things to change then vote to change things; if you want the status quo to remain the same and progressive influence in our legislature to shrink to a point where DUP and Sinn Fein inaction and electioneering is no longer scrutinized and challenged then by all means stay at home and lose your vote.
We get the politicians we deserve by not voting for those that represent your views. If you don’t think the current raft of parties represent you then stand for election. This is not the time to squander opportunities to change things for the better; those who insist on standing still and manufacturing tribal arguments to ensure that their core vote is unwavering in its paranoid loyalty will do nothing to bring about that change or to move us forward.
If you haven’t registered to vote then by all means please do so before May 6th and get out there and vote. If you want to vote for your local Alliance candidate then you are voting for something new, something fresh and something better.
Your vote does count so use it.