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ELECTIONS

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VOTER EDUCATION

articles from 2001

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Letters to the Editor in response to PDU's letter of 28 July 2001 (see above)


No votes for compulsion

The Guardian, 30 July 2001


Few people have done even a fraction as much as Pieter-Dirk Uys to encourage citizens to use their right to vote. But he is dangerously mistaken in arguing (Letters, July 28) that it should be made compulsory. The exercise of a right is optional; otherwise it simply isn't a right. The thousands he writes of, by definition, also fought and died to give us the right not to vote if we don't want to. After all, "Think of all those people who gave their lives so that you'd be forced to vote" doesn't really work as a rallying cry, does it?

Ian Shuttleworth

London


Pieter-Dirk Uys suggests that ballot papers should carry an extra "abstention" option. In fact, in the last election we moved in the opposite direction. Hitherto, in each constituency one could see — from the difference between the sum of the votes for the candidates, and the total turnout figure — the number of "spoilt" papers.

Of course, this number was sometimes quite large, and always included active abstentions. But in this year's general election, with abstention on the rise, the rules were altered so that only a fake turnout figure was issued for each constituency, calculated retrospectively by adding up the all the candidates' votes, so pretending that all the other ballot papers which were validly issued and placed in a ballot box didn't exist.

There's an old anarchist saying: "If voting could change anything, they'd make it illegal." Perhaps that should be supplemented by: "If abstaining looks like getting popular, they'll pretend it isn't happening."

Albert Beale

London

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