It’s Really Okay if You Decide Not to Vote

Why uphold an inherently oppressive system if you don’t want to?

It’s that time of year again. Whenever May gets ready to roll around, chatter turns to elections and this time it’s the local elections. Whether to vote becomes not just a curiosity, but for some, a question that gets right to the heart of our morality. If you sit this one out though then that is okay. There are many marginalised people who are just done with the way things are.

For women, the question of whether to vote feels particularly loaded. Many will point out that people died for our right to vote. But democracy is inherently about the freedom of choice, and that includes choosing not to vote. Guilting women for their own historic oppression is utterly absurd. It’s also not their fault that the entire parliamentary system sucks.

Our constituencies, our voting system, the need for deposits, the way in which each political party is structured feels as though it’s decided to shut people down rather than encourage democracy. It means that change is slow and even the proposed changes aren’t much better. The AV supporters may feel hard done by under the current system, but proportional representation is also more likely to let the far right win seats – and we’re already conservative enough as it is, thank you very much. Additionally, we don’t even get to vote when it comes to the House of Lords, but then again, that inherent anti-democratic nature is also the reason why they make bills actually make sense and they’re free of party point scoring which has meant that on numerous occasions it has been the Lords that has kept our elected representatives in check. Tinkering with the system then is only a partial solution at best and it definitely has its trade offs.

“Democracy is inherently about the freedom of choice, and that includes choosing not to vote”

There’s a huge surge of anti-Tory sentiment which is entirely understandable given the horrific impact austerity has had. Disabled people have seen their support slashed, the NHS is under greater strain than ever before and homelessness is still soaring. However, there are those hugely uncomfortable with Labour who do want the Tories out. There are some people who feel Labour are a rather weak alternative when their Green policies don’t go far enough, those who have borne the brunt of anti-Semitism, those who have been failed by their local Labour representatives, and those who are concerned Labour is a party of equality merely for white cis straight men. There are also simply those who have frankly given up with the whole system. Political depression is real. People who have struggled under austerity may see no change on the horizon and are just trying to survive. People who have lost all hope aren’t the reason the Tories keep winning power – it’s the people who keep voting Tory.

If people can’t bring themselves to vote it is because our democracy has failed them. They are not the ones failing democracy. So many people are crying out for change, and many of them might not vote. That doesn’t make them hypocrites or wrong. It means that all options, or even the entire system, has forced them out of political engagement. Put the blame where it really lies – with politicians, and stop attacking those who just don’t see a way forward right now.

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