The Possible Political Position of Non-Voters

I’m not ashamed to admit that I am politically ignorant. I think a lot of people are. What does concern me is the well-being of our country and its people, which is largely dependent on our government and our political system.

To know that less than 60% of registered voters chose to vote in the municipal elections on Wednesday, to me, represents a problem. However, to direct blame entirely towards the non voters and label them as apathetic or even as bad citizens lacking in civic duty, is not constructive in my books.

So in the spirit of constructive debate, it would be useful to put ourselves in the shoes of the non voters, so to speak, and try to better understand their possible position. In a country where political party posters are hidden in basements, polling stations are burnt to the ground, and violence is used to deter or instill fear in voters, one might understand where the non voters are coming from.

This is not an apathetic viewpoint of “my vote won’t make a difference”, but perhaps the idea that our democracy and political system, at least a significant part of it, is corrupt, and the chances of the voting process being tampered with are so high.

So how do we move forward and address this? It is undeniable that we live in a capitalist society which arguably creates a mentality of achievement, recognition and status. Being the president of the country or ‘high up’ in politics is no doubt a powerful position that comes with a large salary, prestige and numerous benefits.

It is arguable that entering this position from a less privileged position in society can have a profound effect on ones values. Egotism and ambition in the context of political power may manifest at the cost of principle. “Power breeds corruption” so the saying goes.

So I put it to you: if the prestige and prosperity that comes with being in a position of political power were defocused, would more politicians who are genuinely interested in leading on principle, not surface? Perhaps at the loss of those who are not?

With regards to the democratic voting process; in my philosophy, where there’s a queue, there’s room for improvement. Why are we not afforded the option to vote electronically? We all have unique fingerprints and computers are far more accurate and efficient at handling numbers as opposed to people. I understand that the major issue would be that an electronic system of some kind could be subject to being rigged or hacked, but is there really much difference in risk when voting with pen and paper?

Please excuse my ignorance. I am more than willing to be educated on such matters.

Daily Maverick article: Don’t vote. It’s your right

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Galen (name), meaning: "Curious One". A lover of language, human ingenuity and the forces of the universe. Hugely drawn towards the mysterious and unknown. Regular laughter and escapism essential.

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5 Responses

  1. Galen says:

    Footnote: This article aims to address and discuss why there may be such a high level of political apathy in South Africa, and perhaps formulate suggestions as to how the political process and system in this country might be improved.

  2. Gareth says:

    I have now been able to vote 3 times (I think). The last two times I did not vote due to reasons discussed below, along with the fact that I have been out of the country studying and it has been enormously difficult to do so. The DA is the only party that has been helpful in this regard, but it is still too much of a bother. I will explain: I am in central Florida, USA. If I wanted to vote, I am required to drive 5hrs down to Miami in order to register, then when the voting day comes, I am required to fly up to Washington DC, to the SA Embassy over there, in order to cast my vote. The plane ticket alone costs around $300. So I believe that I am justified in not voting whilst here.

    Now onto the real reason why I haven’t voted. I have been (although less now) apathetic to politics in general, and would agree with previous commenter’s in this blog that I don’t necessarily agree with the entire structure of the voting/government system in the country as it stands. I also despise it when people refer to presidents as coming into power. They are coming into service, as their goal should be to serve the country as best they can. And I will dismiss anyone who refers to themselves as coming into power, out of hand. I have also had better things to do with my time (like studying) than to research the latest political parties and their values/goals/plans etc. I also believe that it is my right to not vote, and choosing to do so is just as valid as voting. I have also not seen the point of voting when the ruling party gets a 60+% majority. I do not want to simply vote for the best opposition party, because if you are going to vote, you should vote for people with whom you share the same ideals, or risk forsaking your own. Also, as in the USA, you then get to a point where there are only two major parties, although it doesn’t really matter who you vote for, since they are both sold out to the same major corporations.

    It is a tricky situation, and I am not sure that I have found the answer yet, but I am certainly becoming more aware. I think that that at least is a start, and the next time that I am able to vote I will make the effort and do my research beforehand, so that I can make a more informed decision at the very least on whether to vote, and if so, who to vote for.

    I am expecting much criticism, I am used to this. It won’t change my mind. A good, well laid out argument might just. But at the very least, these are my current beliefs, and should start a decent discussion.

    Have at it :-)

  3. Gareth says:

    I can’t offer any suggestions as to how to improve the situation right now, since I am still learning about all this. However, I do agree that electronic voting should be incorporated.

  4. Galen says:

    Thanks for your input Gareth. I think your are fully justified in not voting. And as you say, choosing not to vote (i.e. do what you like) is the whole point of democracy. I just find that pointing blame entirely to non voters, and accusing them for being the reason that the system doesn’t work, isn’t going to get us anywhere. It’s just as easy to complain than it is to blame.

    I like how you put this: “I also despise it when people refer to presidents as coming into power. They are coming into service” – so true.

  5. Galen says:

    From the Daily Maverick:

    “There would be less of an excuse for not voting if the ballot contained an explicit “none of the above” option. That could be counted and analysed as an expression of deliberate intent, in a way that non-participation or spoilt ballots cannot. Such an option is often available in countries where voting is a legal requirement, for example.”

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