UK voters prevented from casting a ballot; wouldn’t have happened if they had compulsory voting

Following on from our discussion of some of the undemocratic flaws in the British electoral system, comes evidence of an even more fundamental problem: optional voting means that in the elections that matter, where participation is higher than authorities guess, many people are prevented from voting at all.

There were angry scenes around the country tonight after hundreds of voters were unable to vote when polling stations closed at 10pm despite queueing for hours, casting a shadow over the results of the election.

We’ve seen similar appalling scenes in recent American elections, too.

If they had compulsory voting, then not only would parties not “win” elections with the support of a small fraction of the country, but electoral commissions would be able to allocate resources appropriately so that every single person gets the opportunity to vote. And if it is possible to have optional voting without disenfranchising people who want to exercise this most basic civil right, then why can’t the UK and USA manage it?

Turning people away from polling stations is about as critical a failure for a democracy as you can get.

UPDATE (8/5): Looks like neither the Tories nor Labour are actually going to commit to specific electoral reform – Cameron’s running around claiming that “I want to make a big, open and comprehensive offer to the Liberal Democrats” – which, in politics, means that he’s making a paltry, closed and pitiful offer to them in the hope that it’s slightly less bad than what they’ll get from Labour. He suggests some kind of “process” to “investigate” the issue – ie, further delay and non-reform.

Clegg should make his demands plain and simple (full PR, preference voting) and put the challenge out there to both old parties, so that if talks fail voters know precisely who to blame.

10 responses to “UK voters prevented from casting a ballot; wouldn’t have happened if they had compulsory voting

  1. Voting on a weekday must be a bit of a problem too. Always thought the UK was the home of democracy (at least in the modern era).

  2. confessions

    Yep, compulsory voting has many benefits. This is just another.

  3. Voting on a weekday must be a bit of a problem too. Always thought the UK was the home of democracy (at least in the modern era).]

    House of Lords… Queen… IMO The US and AU are far more democratic, they have a proper, elected upper house.

    Compulsory Voting, whilst it may assist democracy it isn’t democratic, what about a person’s democratic right to be apathetic and not vote?

  4. Easy – cast an informal vote.

    Most people don’t vote out of laziness, though, rather than out of a genuine inability to specify a candidate that they dislike less than the other ones.

  5. confessions

    I tell you what though, this result represents a failure for David Cameron and the Tories. After 13 years of Labour, going for it’s 4th term (which a Labour govt has never done), and after a recession, the Conservatives should be romping it in. The other loser in this is poor old Rupe. 😀

  6. We don’t really have compulsory; we have compulsory attendance at a polling booth.

    I am a believer in compulsory otherwise the squeakiest wheel gets the most votes. And I can’t see how the poor, and/or uneducated, and/or etc people don’t come out the losers in a non-compulsory system.

  7. PS I seem to have trouble typing ‘voting’ in the above comment! 🙂

  8. Indeed – its pretty devastating that in one of the most “developed” countries in the world there can be such a failure to provide people with their basic democratic rights.

    Voting on Thursdays is apparently a tradition in the UK – a stupid one.

  9. You can’t blame voluntary voting for the problems in the UK. They have had voluntary voting for hundreds of years, and had much higher turnout in the 1970s elections without any of these problems.

    The issue is neoliberalism. An agenda where you cut costs back to the bare minimum encourages local councils running elections to only employ as many polling workers as they believe will be necessary and only print as many ballots as necessary, cutting down on contingencies. If only 50% of eligible voters cast a vote then budgetting for an 80% turnout wastes a lot of money.

    It’s the same reason why these problems have become so bad in the US recently (coupled with all of the corruption and dodginess inherent in US election administration).

  10. yeh compulsory voting might clear up whether kang or kodo has won

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