Featured post by Maddie Wills
I have spoken to people frequently about their voting intentions in May 2023, and more often than not, the response is half-hearted or confused. People don’t know enough about political issues, or they don’t resonate with any particular party. It’s not surprising. UK politics is in disarray, and even as a politics student I struggle to find a party I think would do a good enough job. Which is why I think young people should consider spoiling their ballot in the elections rather than simply not bothering to vote.
I would always encourage people who feel unsure about voting to do some research; start with party manifestos online and try to work out what is important to you. However, if you have a good idea what political parties stand for, but still feel disillusioned and disengaged, then this article is for you.
As the political spectrum has shifted in the UK, many people feel ‘left out’ of mainstream politics, and don’t align with any large party values. However, if you don’t cast a vote, the big political parties won’t notice you. They just won’t be able to identify these disengaged people. Political leaders need to be aware that there are large groupings of people who are willing to vote, but don’t support their values, as this could result in policy changes.
If you think this is unlikely to result in success, then take the Green Party as an example. Even though the percentage of the vote that they pull is small, bigger parties have identified that people care about green issues, and changed their policy to attract these voters.
How do you spoil your ballot paper?
So, if you’re thinking ‘I don’t agree with any mainstream party policy, but I would like to show this disagreement’, this is how you can do it.
- Put a big cross across the whole ballot paper.
- Attempt to vote for more than one candidate
- Put identifying information – like your name or address on your paper (this isn’t allowed).
Be careful, if you rank candidates, or draw a symbol in only one box or near one candidate’s name, it may be counted as a vote. This happened recently when people drew penises their papers, only to find on the news that they’d accidentally voted for the Tories!
Voting turnout is falling in the UK, but there’s no way to know how many of these people who don’t turn out simply can’t be bothered, and how many do care about what happens to our country, but just don’t agree with any of the political parties. This applies especially to young people; if you’re in the 18-24 bracket, or have an older child, then this is particularly important.
Why are young people’s votes so important?
It is essential that the youth turnout increases in order to ensure that Parliament can meaningfully represent younger people; the more younger voters there are, the more politicians will pay attention to their issues. Turnout in 2019 amongst 18-24 year olds was only 47%, compared to 71% of over 65s. Unfortunately, because younger people tend not to vote, politics doesn’t cater towards their views, creating a vicious cycle where more and more young people become apathetic towards politics, and the country continues to cater mainly to older generations.
If you are a young person who wants to care about politics but doesn’t feel represented, spoil your ballot!
If you have historically been interested in politics, but don’t agree with the ideology of the parties standing in your ward, spoil your ballot!
If you stay home, you are presumed to be uninterested. If you spoil your ballot, you add to the voice of the disengaged and disillusioned, showing parties that there are people who are willing to vote, but that their campaigns have not appealed to. Spoiled ballots are counted and displayed with the final total, so your voice will be heard. And that’s how politics change for the better!