non-voters: part of democracy

Non-voters go against our understanding of democracy. People have fought around the globe for centuries to be part of the democratic process. Even today, some are still fighting for that right. Being able to cast one’s vote in an election is important for every citizen.

The voting age in the UK General Elections is 18, with Scotland being the exception at 16. Nevertheless, many people do not exercise this right by going to the ballot box on Election Day. While not legally obliged to vote it does raise the question as to why people voluntarily abstain from doing so.

There are as many reasons for abstention as there are voters in the UK. The main ones include no interest, political resignation, and a simple lack of time. While the motives may be different, there is a visible pattern with non-voters.

The POLYAS blog series about non-voters

The blog series about non-voters is aiming to shed light on their non-voting behavior. Our various articles will explore the sociocultural background of abstention and offer options to increase voter turnout.

In the 2015 UK General Election, approximately 30.7 million valid votes were cast, resulting in a 66.2%. While still a respectable percentage, this remains low compared to other nations such as Denmark, which boasts rates as high as 80%. There is still much work to do in the UK, especially due to the low turnout in European and local elections.

Why do we even have to talk about abstention?

Admittedly, the people of the United Kingdom have the right to abstain. So why is it necessary to talk about non-voters? Why is a high turnout important when there is no minimum turnout?

Because an election is not a private issue, but one that concerns all of society:

  • a low voter turnout displays that people are not satisfied with the political system
  • a democracy cannot truly be representative if only a fraction of voters participate in elections
  • abstention of moderate voters leads to radical groups becoming more popular

Non-voters can eventually become a threat to democracy. Politicians have a duty to mobilise voters and thereby increase turnout. Ultimately, the best step to curb abstention is to discover what prompts would-be voters to abstain in the first place.