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Your vote doesn't count.

Discussion in 'Speaker's Corner' started by sedm1000, May 6, 2010.

  1. sedm1000

    Mobster

    Joined: Oct 19, 2002

    Posts: 3,244

    Not looking for a PR discussion, or to discuss incompetence or fraud by elected officials. Really just aiming for a semi-serious discussion of the likelihood of an individual's vote actually making a difference to the outcome of a constituency election.

    As far as I can see, only a fraction of recorded elections come down to a knife-edge result - say 2%. Within this 2%, the error in counting votes is >+/-1 vote. Therefore, if you, as an individual, just walk into a polling station and mark your ballot, chances are that you make no change to the final outcome.

    The only way to make your voice heard in an election campaign is to influence other people to vote the same way as you - in a close run seat - and to a number greater than the error of the vote counting method..? Is that fair?

    Anybody care to populate this discussion with further numbers or ideas?
     
  2. Dolph

    Man of Honour

    Joined: Oct 17, 2002

    Posts: 47,212

    Location: Plymouth

    It's a difficult one, a single individual's vote isn't likely to make much difference (although there have been some very tight results, in single figures), if everyone who thought 'I can't make a difference' didn't vote, it could indeed make a difference.

    My own vote is very unlikely to make a difference barring a massive swing against Labour locally, because I live in a very safe Labour seat (despite Labour's policies doing severe damage here). On the flipside, how annoyed would I be if I didn't vote and the result was close enough that it mattered...

    The problem is that there's no real obvious solution. PR doesn't fix this problem, if anything PR dilutes further the possibility of your vote making a meaningful difference to the results...
     
  3. Xordium

    Capodecina

    Joined: Apr 8, 2009

    Posts: 12,702

    I guess you can look at it that way but then look at what happened in Florida when Bush was elected - individual votes then were really making a difference. You could be in that position you never know. I would hate to think I had not voted in such a situation, through apathy or whatever, when I could have made a difference.
     
  4. craptakular

    Capodecina

    Joined: Jan 7, 2007

    Posts: 10,550

    Location: Hobart, Tasmania

    I just voted, voted for my local MP who does a good job, had to vote the same way I have previously.
     
  5. sedm1000

    Mobster

    Joined: Oct 19, 2002

    Posts: 3,244

    That's a case in point though - the error in the counting was so significant that 'individual votes' were shown to be canceled out by errors...

    Dolph - it is difficult, but perhaps the point that I am making is that the myth 'your vote counts' could more productively be replaced with 'make your voice heard, convince other people to vote with you'.

    Will people become more engaged if they see past the obvious falsehood of individual votes being important?
     
  6. Gaidin109

    Mobster

    Joined: Jul 12, 2009

    Posts: 4,878

    It makes a difference if you live in a marginal seat, it also makes a difference in a Safe Seat if the outcome is a reduced majority and so on...

    The influence your vote has may not always be apparent in the election you are voting in, but in subsequent one if you continue to vote...
     
  7. sedm1000

    Mobster

    Joined: Oct 19, 2002

    Posts: 3,244

    My point is that 'an individual vote' probably does not matter the vast majority of the time - due to errors in counting, and the small number of genuinely knife-edge results.

    Voting in groups does count - but that message is not what is conveyed. The idea that 'your vote counts' is by and large a falsehood sold to make individual citizens feel like they have a voice of their own.
     
  8. Xordium

    Capodecina

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    Posts: 12,702

    Another question may be how to actually get people to vote. Is that absent demographic all of the same mind because if they are anybody who could represent them has a significant slice of the cake.
     
    Last edited: May 6, 2010
  9. Gaidin109

    Mobster

    Joined: Jul 12, 2009

    Posts: 4,878


    I see your point, but if just one vote could make a difference in isolation then it would have to be at the expense of democratic process.

    To make your voice 'heard' is why you can become a lobbyist or a political campaigner, democratic process need the group vote to work, it doesn't neccessarily mean that an individual's vote doesn't count because it does, it counts toward the result, either way.

    The only way a vote can be said to not 'count' is if it is wilfully spoiled or not used at all.
     
  10. sedm1000

    Mobster

    Joined: Oct 19, 2002

    Posts: 3,244

    A major lesson of recent election campaigns in the US and UK has been the importance of 'grass roots' campaigning, and influencing networks of people rather than reaching individuals. Part of that message ought to be that getting ten friends to vote is more important than just bringing yourself to the polling booth...

    Would there be uproar if people realised that their individual votes did not really count - rather than absentmindedly buying in to the idea that they play an important part in the process?
     
    Last edited: May 6, 2010
  11. Gaidin109

    Mobster

    Joined: Jul 12, 2009

    Posts: 4,878

    How do you go about representing those who are for whatever reason disenfranchised, because the moment they become enfranchised you lose their reason for disinterest.
     
  12. mrthingyx

    Man of Honour

    Joined: Apr 3, 2003

    Posts: 15,203

    Location: Cambridge

    As already posted, there is no clear-cut solution to the problem.

    Ironically, the only way it does is in the way I abhor - herd mentality.
     
  13. Haiku

    Wise Guy

    Joined: Dec 8, 2007

    Posts: 1,257

    Location: Edinburgh

    Every individual vote counts but only collectively do they make much difference.

    You said you didn't want to get into voting systems, but I do think the current method leaves a lot of people feeling totally disconnected from the political process. While it's true that every voting system has its flaws, I feel the drawbacks of PR are less egregious than those of the current FPTP system.
     
  14. sedm1000

    Mobster

    Joined: Oct 19, 2002

    Posts: 3,244

    That's the point of democracy though, right?

    If the herd actively agree with each other, and are convinced by arguments from within, is that is an improvement from the more passive tribalism of the present?
     
  15. Dolph

    Man of Honour

    Joined: Oct 17, 2002

    Posts: 47,212

    Location: Plymouth

    The simple problem with democracy is that the entire structure is based on a fallacy. Popularity in no way defines the right or the best choice.

    I actually think politics could be improved through restricting constitutionally the value of opinion through the lawmaking process. It would mean less appealing to the majority and more focusing on the tasks and hand and how they can be done.
     
    Last edited: May 6, 2010
  16. Xordium

    Capodecina

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    Totally agree - Churchill's quote springs to mind here ...
     
  17. sedm1000

    Mobster

    Joined: Oct 19, 2002

    Posts: 3,244

    That's a bit unfair maybe - based on an underlying assumption that the popular decision is not necessarily the 'right' one. 'Wisdom of crowds' and all..?

    In the course of our evolution as a species, I guess that most people have picked the most popular decision, and events have evaluated those decisions. As a result, we've become fairly adept at following the right people most of the time. That's another thesis though.

    For lawmaking - I am surprised that this film http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Rise_and_Rise_of_Michael_Rimmer hasn't made a more stirring comeback. Give the people too much and then they'll be less keen on the responsibility. Make it their decision to allow a 'supreme leader' to do all the work.
     
  18. Xordium

    Capodecina

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    Posts: 12,702

    Well for a start I think it is imperative that the onus moves towards the achievable and the positive. No one likes a moaner. And that is what we have:

    Cameron "Well you can see how things have gone wrong under labour"
    Brown "We've done better than you would - you'd cut XYZ"
    Clegg *smiles at camera or voter who asked question* "Oooh they at it again"

    That's how it has gone down for the past month. The only time the ******* have actually come out and said what they believe with bit of passion and desire was during the BNP Question Time debate. Stop telling us what the other chap is not doing/can't do and tell us what you believe in - how you are going to achieve it. Give us a positive message - don't tell us who we should not vote for - tell us why we should vote for you. Then you will engage the voters.

    Another interesting thing I think is that the parties are not really representing popular opinion. When you look at the internet sites that ask people to choose on policies what seems to be occurring is that people are getting the same results in the policies but are spread in quite equal quantities for the parties. There is a large demographic that would effectively want labour for this, tory for that etc. Are the parties really representing what people want.
     
  19. FirebarUK

    Soldato

    Joined: Dec 9, 2004

    Posts: 5,544

    Location: Dorset

    G'wan plz quote it, I'm not familiar with it... ?
     
  20. Xordium

    Capodecina

    Joined: Apr 8, 2009

    Posts: 12,702

    "The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter."
    -- Winston Churchill