Tomorrow—apart from Donegal Islanders who will vote today—voters will go to the polls to pick their favourites in the local and European elections. Much has happened since the last European election in 2009; bank bailouts, fiscal austerity, cutbacks, closures, tax increases, finance scandals, services slashed and a steady rise in emigration levels. In between, there has been the dreaded budget day each year, a lot of mixed messages, and morale at an all time low.
I didn’t go to the door this year—I’m precious about family time—but I will go to the polls tomorrow despite apathy whispering in my ear. It’s the principle of the thing that is egging me on. Remembering those who died, to win the right to vote, stirs in me some sense of duty. Furthermore, there are millions of people in other countries that don’t have a vote.
But my experience of voting has always been a bit like attending an identity parade to pick out the ‘candidates’ that could do the least damage. Granted, most of my votes were cast at the other side of the border during the troubled times I grew up in but for completely different reasons I feel I am back at that identity parade, disillusioned, participating in a system that I have little faith in.
Still, in my humble opinion going to the polls is better than doing nothing because doing nothing will never change anything. Though choices are limited, options do prevail behind those three sided cubicles in the polling station.
So what are they? Well, you can either vote for the person you want to vote for, not the party or vote for the party closest to your beliefs. Or vote tactically to keep whoever you don’t want in out. By voting Independent/Others you are sending out the message to potential candidates that your vote is there to be won. Or you can doodle ‘smiley’ faces all over the ballot sheet and spoil your vote?
Regarding the doodling business, I propose a ‘None of the above’ option on the next set of ballot papers so that people can cast a legitimate protest vote. Anyway, that’s three options
that I believe are the better options than sitting at home and not exercising your right to vote. It’s a matter of principle.
So tomorrow, behind that wooden box in the polling station I shall stand with a face resembling Munch’s infamous painting, The Scream, and with pencil in hand try to make a stab at creating the future. It has crossed my mind, however, that the candidates, like the other figures in that painting, seem quite composed on their posters and leaflets as though they are blissfully unaware that they are seeking to be elected to a system that has a track record of being inherently corrupt and does not represent the best interests of the people as a whole.
It is easy to understand why some folk don’t see the point of voting but like I say, it’s a matter of principle and the only shot we have to change it. Had our ancient financial institutions not been so quick to abandon their traditions and principles we wouldn’t be in this mess. Had the government not foisted the losses of the Irish banks on the Irish people perhaps our faith may not have wilted and died. Let’s hope whoever gets into power has scruples and sticks to principles that serve the whole country.