non-voters: part of democracy

In North America, voting is not compulsory. In a democracy, individuals can decide for themselves if they make use of their right to vote. Still, non-voters are often in the media focus. Newspapers report about the voter turnout in elections even on Election Day. Days before, you can find raising requests to go vote in social media.

Non-voters are not just in the media focus but also in the political. Parties see it as their responsibility to motivate those to vote – best-case scenario, for their party.

However, why is it so important? Certainly, non-voters are an opportunity to generate new followers but why do artists and activists belong to this group?

Non-voters: does not voting mean voting right?

For a while the phrase “who doesn’t vote, votes right” was around. This means that followers of extremist parties are loyal voters and let these parties gain more seats through a low turnout.

Yet this is only partly true. It depends on the motivation of the non-voter. As we described in a previous article in our series, three key reasons for voter apathy have been established: resignation, protest and content.

If those who do not go to vote because of content can be motivated, it could hinder and prevent extreme parties.

Moreover, those who do not vote because of resignation or protest, find new motivation in populist parties. An example is the state election in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Germany, where a certain percentage of voters moved from an established to a new extreme party.

Do non-voters threaten democracy?

However, not only the potential vote of non-voters worries many activists. A democracy lives from participation and legitimization of the people. The less people vote, the more difficult it gets to legitimize decisions.

Especially with difficult decisions, a high number of non-voters can cause an uproar. This is a signal of dissatisfaction with the system, which will not disappear easily.

It will be more difficult to talk about representation of the people if they do not vote. Besides, it can lead to more dissatisfaction and undermine the legitimization of the entire government.