The world is full of idiots, and someone needs to point it out to them or they will never know.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Informal Voting is Not the Height of Cleverness

If you do this when you vote... don't get to criticise the current government. It's that simple.

You know what I'm getting really sick of? People who do informal votes and think it's the height of cleverness. You see, the state I live in recently had an election, and it's the first election I've ever seen something like the above photo. I'm not actually friends with the person who posted this photo - one of my friends "liked" it, so it appeared in my news feed, which, to put it mildly, caused me some distress.

But let's analyse this for a moment: the person who posted this photo obviously felt that of all the candidates in his or her electorate, none of them were worth voting for, right? One would hope this person researched the policies of the Labor Party, the Liberal National Party, the Greens, One Nation and Katter's Australia Party, but I'd say this person saw the TV ads for the two major parties and decided neither of them were good enough, so he or she just decided not to vote. Genius!

Or not. In Australia, when you vote for a third party you never - EVER - "throw your vote away" (as long as you still do a formal vote). Unlike, say, the United States, in Australia elected politicians are not simply whoever has the most votes. We have a system called "Two Party Preferred", where a candidate must get a majority (i.e. more than half) of the vote to claim victory. Like this:

IRV = Instant Runoff Voting (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

(There's also a pretty good video here, if you're still not quite sure how it works)

The point I'm so laboriously trying to make here that when you vote for a third party, you're not "throwing your vote away". Of course, most of these third parties are full of lunatics, but if you honestly feel that neither major party and all of the third parties are not worthy of your vote, it still does not give you the right to waste your vote.

Why? Well, because in many countries there are people who would kill - and in some countries, people are killing - for the chance to have free, open and fair democratic elections. They would love to have the chance to choose their leaders. But who cares about those losers, right? It's their fault for being born in a third world country. You want to post a funny picture on Facebook, and you'll be damned if you're going to let guilt about the third world get in the way.

When you throw away your vote (like in the above picture), you also give up the right to criticise whichever government ends up forming office. For example, if the candidate I voted for gets in and does a shocking job, I can always say, "Well, I'm not voting for him/her again, he/she is hopeless!" The reverse is true again, if the candidate I didn't vote forgets in and does a shocking job, I can always say, "I'm glad I didn't vote for him/her! I voted for someone else - if only everyone else was as clever as me!" (this viewpoint is a great one to have, as you can act all smug and superior around your friends).

But if you don't vote for anybody? Then sorry, you had your chance to decide who was the better candidate. If you can't make a decision when it actually matters at the polling booth, you do not get to criticise whoever ends up getting elected. At all. Because, by wasting your vote, you are saying that you do not care about the government, and they can do whatever they want.

There is, of course, a third option, and that to run for office yourself. Yeah, I know it's not easy - there's registration fees, paperwork and so on - but they don't want everyone running for office, only the truly dedicated. If you honestly feel that YOU could do a better job than any the candidates, then YOU should run. If you don't want to run, then you need to choose from the people who ARE running.

It's that simple.

Now, I've heard (and seen - I've worked in a few polling booths in my time) that the system we use, democracy, is the problem, and we shouldn't support such a flawed system. "I don't want to vote when voting itself is the problem!" people cry. I don't deny that democracy has its flaws, but as Winston Churchill said, "...democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried."

Yes, it's flawed, but what better way is there? If you forbid certain people from voting, then that brings up the problem of elitism - just because you live in a certain area or have a different skin colour shouldn't preclude you from voting. I know, you're not suggesting we ban based on geography or race, but it's incredibly difficult to judge who should be allowed to vote and who shouldn't. Everyone should have any an equal say, no matter how dumb their ideas may be. Unless you're suggesting all human beings shouldn't be treated equally? The United Nations disagrees. Or maybe you're suggesting that humans should be treated equally, but that doesn't mean everyone should have their say? The United Nations still disagrees.

I also find informal votes greatly disrespectful to Australia. Voting is part of our national identity, just like freedom of speech, the right to an education, and so forth. Treating the vote as a joke is just like treating the national anthem or the flag as a joke. Australia is by no means perfect, and neither is our system of government, but it's a hell of a lot better than some places in the world.

 If you want to fire people up, start talking about the flag

I realise I've covered a lot here, but this is actually one of the few issues that will get a truly angry response from me in public. Sure, I've complained about Family Guy a lot in the past, but at least that show isn't telling people to throw away something that is a privilege, not a right, to posses (yet). So the next time you feel like being a comedian and wasting your vote, print this checklist and bring it with you to the polling booth:

© 2012 by The Free Man

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