Webster’s defines Democracy as the Rule of the Majority.
In a democracy people vote, those votes are counted and the largest vote wins, unless
you are living somewhere with a system which means you live with a
permanent coalition or like the Italians change governments twice a year.
However as a democracy we have a slight problem.
In 1950 83.9% of the electorate voted. The most recent election saw 65.1% of the
electorate come out and vote.
The Conservatives won 36.1% of the votes. Labour managed 29% and the
So the Conservatives actually represent 23.5% of the total electorate. Labour
speaks for 18.8% of the total electorate and the Lib-Dems have 14.9% of the total
electorate behind them.
Which means that our current coalition government speaks for 38.4% of the total
electorate. Just above a third of the electorate.
So what happened to Democracy being the will of the majority?
If the number of people voting continues to fall we will reach the point where less
than half of the electorate are voting and a winning party with half the votes behind
them can be said to speak for only a quarter of the total electorate.
At what point do we need to pay attention to this?
Is this something that can be ignored?
I do not think so. The smaller the percentage of the electorate that votes the
higher the influence of minority groups who are able to mobilise their supporters
becomes. Also a single event prior to an election can motivate enough extra
people to vote based on that event so that it changes the results of the whole
The more people become disenchanted with politics and politicians the less they
will be motivated to vote and the less they will be represented in our government.
Constantly falling party memberships and voting figures suggest that this is not a
trend that is going to change any time soon.
A tyranny is the imposition of a minority over the majority. So when 38% of the
electorate is deciding policies and imposing its will over the other 62%% then you
have what amounts to a tyranny. It may be benign but it is still the subjugation of
How do we get people to vote?
Should it be the duty of all eligible members of the electorate to vote?
Should we force people to vote in order, should there be a penalty for not voting?
Are there ways of making voting easier?
Given today’s security situation online voting is problematic to say the least, unless
you want the NSA counting your votes for you.
But what other options can we put in place. Biometric Ids and voting booths in every
high street and shopping centre, all votes collected digitally and taken to a central
point where they can be counted by computer.
Multi day voting periods?
Vote from home. Phone in votes, vote by mobile or by text?
Rewards for those who do vote?
Sadly making any of this secure would be a nightmare.
Or do we accept that “Voters” are becoming a smaller and smaller number and simply
stop bothering with the growing number of non voters and in doing so accept that
the Democracy we live in is now no more than a Dream?