Non-voters and what made them the way they are

My good friend and ex-politician Nelson McCausland,  in a recent conversation,  seemed to express the belief that  much of the non-voting section of the population can be explained by the existence of people on benefits  who don’t want their identity or whereabouts revealed. I rarely disagree  with such a gleaming intellect but in this case I feel I must, if only because I couldn’t quite make out what the hell he was talking about. The fact is, just under 65% of voters turned out last time (10% up on last year), which would leave 35% of voters under suspicion of doing tricky stuff with the benefits system. I know we’re a bad lot but that does seem excessive.

As I’ve mentioned on more than one occasion, I don’t like it when voters choose not to exercise their franchise. So I got to thinking of reasons why they might so act (or not act in this case).

  1. Non-voters derive deep pleasure from scratching their backsides, and even the half-hour that might be needed to go down and make their mark on the ballot paper is to them time wasted. Sharp-nailing across their rear-end trumps all other activities.
  2. Non-voters are in charge of an elderly relative who needs 24-hour attention. Other relatives and neighbours, when approached to fill in for a half-hour, have laughed scornfully. So the non-voting saint is, so to say, chained to the bed of their elderly ailing relative. A grim fate but one which they embrace gallantly.
  3. Every election time, just as they are about to leave the house and head down to the polling station, non-voters trip and break both legs in the hall-way.  There they lie in excruciating agony for up to ten hours, until the polling booths are closed, at which point a neighbour discovers them and ferries them to the fractures clinic.
  4. When the non-voter’s mother was expecting them, she was badly traumatised by entering a room in which the radio was playing Willie McCrea singing “In the Shelter of His Arms”. As a result, the non-voter has, since childhood, been breaking out in hives when s/he hears the word ‘Election’ and remains bedridden and hive-raddled until the votes are cast and everyone’s gone home.
  5. Non-voters are deeply cynical people who know the price of everything and the value of nothing. They think that saying “Politicians – they’re all the same – useless” shows how razor-sharp their judgement is. When someone explains that this statement makes as much sense as saying “Bus-drivers – they’re all the same – useless” or “Brain-surgeons – they’re all the same – useless”,  the non-voter rolls their eyes and goes back to watching EastEnders.

The only question remaining is, should we put such people in the stocks and hurl rotting fruit and vegetables at them every election day; or pass them over to mental health experts, to see if electroconvulsive therapy might help them see that voting is their civic duty.

16 Responses to Non-voters and what made them the way they are

  1. John Patton April 20, 2017 at 9:21 am #

    Should I visit a market and find that the goods on offer are overpriced or promise more than their, capabilities suggest, it is surely my right to depart without making a choice. It’s a democratic exercise in free will.

    • Jude Collins April 20, 2017 at 10:48 am #

      True, John, of food and such. Rather less convinced in political allotment…

  2. paddykool April 20, 2017 at 10:23 am #

    There is an argument that briefly states …”a plague on all of you” . That is , the punter might believe that politicians are all lying festering pieces of drek who would sell there granny for a sixpence and promise the earth moon and the stars before an election and immediately change their minds the following day.Stand up Theresa May …”there’ll be no election etc” or the UUP..”the DUP have sleepwalked for ten years, but this time out we’ll make a pact with the buggers anyway so that unionism can pretend it’s top -dog for another while…and that thing about Brexit…? we’ve changed our minds on that one too”…..
    There’s that and then there are the vox pop man and woman in the street who aren’t really that interested in this auld politics thing at all and aren’t too sure what it’s all about anyway …”and I’m rushing here to get home and buy the childer a pizza for their tea”….an did i tell you that the vast majority of people out there aren’t too bright at all and aren’t too sure about anything much? ….Politics?…..what’s it all about exactly?

    Yep …even if voting was compulsory, some of them wouldn’t know how to vote or who to vote for.The results might be astonishing if compulsory voting was ever introduced, come to think of it.

    • Emmet April 20, 2017 at 11:11 am #

      I think you are 100% correct. If we force ignorant people to vote they will vote for the party that gets the stamp of approval form the media. Given the bias and influence in our media that would be a disaster. If they couldn’t be bothered voting I would rather they didn’t have to to be honest. I know some ignorant people still vote but the proportion would increase if voting as compulsory.

  3. Scott Rutherford April 20, 2017 at 10:56 am #

    Common wisdom is that non voters are disgruntled and fed up with politics and don’t turn out to vote because of their displeasure with the state of affairs. I would disagree with this though and I believe that many people who are relatively happy don’t bother voting. Feeling content with ones own lot doesn’t motivate people to vote, its dissatisfaction and anger that gets the vote out as the recent assembly election showed.

    Without making voting mandatory 100% turnout is probably impossible. The Scottish independence election had a turn out of 85% and its hard to imagine a more important election. There will always that 15% (roughly) of hard core non voters that will never vote. Maybe they just dont give a hoot about politics. Maybe they are the wise ones.

    • Emmet April 20, 2017 at 11:15 am #

      If it is true and it is only that voters are disgruntled then they would be better off spoiling their vote. I don’t think this anyway, as there are enough ‘minor’ parties that they could vote for in protest.

      There is a small proportion of the dissident republican community within nationalism that won’t vote on ideological grounds, but that is probably only 5-10% (only an estimate though).

    • Jude Collins April 20, 2017 at 11:51 am #

      “Maybe they are the wise ones”. You might be right, Scott. But I think as adults in a civic society, they shouldn’t sit passive while other people make the decisions about the nature and shape of the society. It’s like the family member who just wants to sit and watch telly. Like it or lump it, we all owe something to society, just as it owes us something in return.

  4. Dominic Hendron April 20, 2017 at 10:58 am #

    I don’t understand why the state makes people do jury service but won’t make them vote.

  5. Jude Collins April 20, 2017 at 11:52 am #

    Hadn’t thought of that, Dominic – excellent point…

  6. Hoboroad April 20, 2017 at 11:54 am #

    You can get out of jury service with a good excuse. Maybe if people had to give a good reason for not voting the turnout would increase.

  7. Colmán April 20, 2017 at 12:00 pm #

    Some people don’t vote because they don’t believe that their vote will change anything. Take Greece for example – the people voted for a Socialist Government and all they got in return was austerity. There is a general feeling that someone is pulling the strings.

  8. Hoboroad April 20, 2017 at 12:14 pm #

    How about paying people to vote? A tenner for each ballot paper filled in. If you have two or three elections on one day you could be quids in.

    • Jude Collins April 20, 2017 at 12:35 pm #

      Why stop at three? Be ambitious. A tenner for each day of the year, with of course three elections per day. Nearly a living wage…

  9. michael c April 20, 2017 at 1:24 pm #

    My father told me about a local man from the protestant community who was’nt “the full shilling” and whose knowledge of politics or the electoral system would have been minimal.However during a Mid Ulster election circa 1955 ,he was coaxed by unionist party workers to the polling station to vote by a procedure for those deemed to be “illiterate”.This involved election officials “clearing the room” and then asking the voter which candidate he wanted to vote for and the official marked the ballot paper accordingly.The unionists had coached “William” repeatedly with the name of the unionist candidate before he entered the room but the personating agent for SF candidate Tom Mitchell just happened to be exiting the doorway as William entered and whispered “remember now William,its Mitchell” The door was was closed and seconds later everyone out on the corridor could hear William booming out “Mitchell” !

  10. Sherdy April 20, 2017 at 3:46 pm #

    From your no1 selection of reasons not to vote, people have a sort of Hobson’s choice:
    They can sit at home and scratch their ass, or they can go to the polling booth and vote for an ass!
    Taking the latter choice, which party will get into power?

  11. fiosrach April 20, 2017 at 4:43 pm #

    The party that pledges to scratch your ass for you and give you a grant.