You’re in the polling booth and you really don’t support the mouse party or the dog party. You’ve never heard of the bird party, but hell, you really don’t want the cat party to win. Who do you vote for?
Many hundreds of column inches are expended on the problem of voter turnout and voter disengagement. The two are, of course, closely linked. The less engaged the voting public feel, the less likely they are to vote.
Lots of reasons are proposed and discussed but when I’m on the campaign phones the one that comes up more than all the others combined is “I won’t bother, because you’re all the same.” This appears to make it hard for people to feel passionate about supporting a particular party.
While I think having political parties that appear driven by different management ethos rather than different political ideologies is a problem (and entirely untrue, incidentally), I also think this is a red herring. Passion in politics is alive and well, it just isn’t directed positively. It’s easy to get people to be passionate against a party. Or an individual. Watch the news, read twitter accounts: there’s a lot of “Anybody but them!” going on.
It has always been thus, with tactical voting for instance: voting for the party most likely to beat the one you dislike the most. So why not make this a real, tangible part of our system.
If you don’t feel passionately in favour of a party, but feel passionately against one, why not have a system where you can choose to cast a negative vote instead of a positive one?
You’re in the polling booth and you really don’t support the mouse party or the cat party. You’ve never heard of the bird party, but hell, you really don’t want the dog party to win. Who do you vote for?
Tactical voting has you deciding which of the mouse, cat or bird party has the best chance of beating the dogs. But why not simply vote against the dog?
It’d be illuminating. As it stands, many MPs are elected with deceptive majorities and feel this is a mandate. But often it’s just a default victory. With minus votes, a newly elected MP would have a real sense of the level of support they have in the constituency. “Hmmm, I got 17,000 in favour and 6,500 against. I still won, but look how many really didn’t want me.” Perhaps they’d work to build their positive vote, perhaps they’d work to win over all the negative votes.
Some candidates would poll a negative figure. That’s a very quick and simple way to see who should lose their deposit. More people didn’t want you than did. Bye-Bye deposit.
But it might also, ironically, focus people’s minds on what they do want, and on who is really the bad guy on the ballot paper. Do you really hate the Labour or Conservative candidate more than the BNP candidate? Really? Do you really want to vote for the Liberal Democrat more than you want to stop the EDL option? Really?
Perhaps when people say “Anybody but Them!” They’d pause for though if there was the chance that the ‘Anybody’ they end up with might be Nick Griffin! Perhaps, just perhaps, they’d start thinking about what they do want, not what their lifelong reflex says they don’t want.
Then again, perhaps not. But it’d still be great fun on election night seeing a high profile candidate’s majority wiped out by minus votes.
[Originally posted on Fifth Donkey]