>Should there be any control over voting?

>This leads on from the earlier debate ‘To Vote or Not to Vote”.

Immigrants have to take a ‘citizen’s test’ in order to be able to vote. Yet natives do not. Is this just or a good idea? Should all people have to take citizen’s tests when they turn 16/18 (depending on where you think the voting age should be)?

Another idea would be to give people more information, or perhaps even force people to take quizzes like that displayed here: http://www.thebigqs.co.uk/Manifestos.html (see the link under ‘confused?’ on the right side of the screen).

So some control, no control, complete control; what do you think?

8 comments

  • >It goes against every political and moral fibre in my body, but while I wouldn't make voting compulsory I do actually think that the kind of activity Vote For Policies produces should be made readily available and that voters should be strongly encouraged (if not made) to have a go.I don't think your first proposal is fair because there is little, if any, correlation between age and political knowledge and awareness (witness the old people on the BBC the other day vowing to vote Conservative because they had got it into their head that the party would stop overseas aid, which says rather a lot about the kind of people they are but also, more importantly, their utter ignorance about what the party actually stands for).The fact is, whether is be the old folk in the coffee shop or another young girl at working at Drayton Manor who had to ask if Labour were 'the ones in power now' or, indeed, the respondents to a recent poll that suggested that most people think the scrapping of the NI rise is a Labour policy, there is a remarkable ignorance in this country.That in itself wouldn't be an issue, if it were not for the fact that elections can and do fundamentally change the lives of not only the individuals themselves but of the entire nation. Furthermore, having looked through several manifestos (Lib Dem, Labour, Conservative, Green, UKIP and Respect) the only party that makes any kind of real attempt to properly cost its taxation, spending and deficit proposals is the Lib Dems. This is staggering. Of the two major parties, we just do not know precisely how much they propose to save and spend and still less where savings are going to come from. People will be voting without knowing for certain which taxes will rise (to be fair Labour are a touch better than this than the Tories, who write about tax breaks and effective cuts without giving any concrete evidence at all about how they, let alone the deficit, is to be funded), which services will be hit and how badly, and where public sector jobs will be shed. This is so fundamental it is frightening. Maybe people don't want to hear about this kind of thing but, nonetheless, making it clear should be imperative. Now, if you take the philosophy of the Tory manifesto (which is basically Thatcherism with a smile, where 'society' takes the place of the state, rather than the individual and free enterprise) and combine that with the tax breaks and cuts, public sector pay freezes and the pledge to viciously attack the deficit it doesn't take a great intellect to understand that public sector cuts are, when they inevitably come, going to be pretty significant to say the least. Still, regardless of what one may or may not think of this, it's not made clear that this is the case and there is no indication at all (other than the ring-fencing of the NHS and the pledge to match Labour's overseas aid) which services will be hit and how hard and the effect this might have on those who rely on them. There is, in short, no transparency, no rigour, no debate, just lots of spin, lots of soundbites, lots of 'vision'; and if people are not aware of where the parties stand (as many aren't), if people do not engage with the issues before voting (as many don't) then this is all we will get. It's significant that the Lib Dems have received a roasting from all quarters in the media, who don't agree that their proposals for a 10% cut in tax evasion and avoidance is optimistic and will leave a hole of somewhere between £1-3bn in their calculations, whilst the other two major parties haven't bothered to include any such calculations at all. If people are made more aware of the issues and less saturated by the personalities then maybe they'll all have to and maybe we'll have the serious debate about taxation, about spending and about state retrenchment which, at the moment, one party seems to be engaging in on its own.

  • >"I do actually think that the kind of activity Vote For Policies produces should be made readily available and that voters should be strongly encouraged (if not made) to have a go."Funny based on the earlier debate! Though I agree with encouragement I'm going to say voters should not be forced to take part in these activities. We should also keep in mind that policies are not and should not be the sole criteria on which people vote. The electorate votes on past performance, appraisals of politicians, and expectations/hopes for each candidate/party in question as well as on policy proposals. And all this should be incorporated. Hence for that reason, and the fact that people who really don't want to take the survey won't anyway (they'll just tick random boxes) I think it should not be compulsory. But surveys such as that designed by 'Vote for Policies', along with informative summaries of who they can vote for, should be given to every voter.I agree that the citizen's test, though a good idea, is not practical (though not for your reasoning because it could be labelled a long term reform). Even if made very easy its implementation risks spreading the message of discrimination against less intelligent voters.On the rant about the current situation I largely agree (though I do have to question your comment about vision; you were joking when you said they have lots right?) It's shocking how much Labour and the Conservatives are relying on economic growth. We have no way of verifying whether these hopes (of around 3.5% growth over the next few years) are realistic. Indeed many economists say that in fact it would be more realistic to expect figures of about 2%. The Conservatives are most definitely worst at this, and they play on people's lack of knowledge by saying it's not possible to say what's going to be cut until they get into office and have access to more figures. But in reality by unequivocably cutting off the option of an NI tax increase it is extremely likely that the Conservatives plan to raise VAT.I agree with compuslory voting and PR in the first chamber (see the earlier debate: To Vote Or Not To Vote if you want to discuss that). I also agree that some groups of people (like criminals, those in mental asylums etc) should not be able to vote (though I have to say I will have sympathies for the calls for criminals being allowed to vote if the UK prison system doesn't start improving). Yet other than that I do not agree with any controls over voting. I think the main role of the state here is in providing reliable information. Luxembourg sends out bits of information on all the candidates and parties with the postal vote. Why can't other other wealthy democracies do the same?

  • >Re: the first paragraph: I know, I know! I'm a walking paradox, however, if one is going to vote one ought to be informed. I still wouldn't compel voting.Re: vision, I trust you noted the inverted commas. That said, the Conservative manifesto is a lot of things but it isn't without a sense of ideological drive and vision re: the 'big society'. Whether it is unworkable, unfair and incompatible with how humans actually are (my view) is another matter.Re: the 'rant'. It was a bit, wasn't it? Sorry :p.On the plus side, we (more or less) agree for once!

  • >'I think the main role of the state here is in providing reliable information. Luxembourg sends out bits of information on all the candidates and parties with the postal vote. Why can't other other wealthy democracies do the same'I think that sums it up. Luxembourg's a good, cheap and blindingly obvious solution that would go along way to solving this issue. Rather than compelling voters, perhaps we ought to be compelling all parties in a given constituency (on average about 5 I suppose) outline key policies that can be summarised on no more than 1 side of A5 to be distributed to all constituents in a council-funded leaflet. Labour got about 20% of the way there at the back of their national manifesto.That would ease my liberal conscience, reduce the risk of computer-generated questions being skewed (a potential problem with Vote for Policies and such like), clear the smoke and mirrors of personality and probably boost turnout to boot.I'd go for that.

  • >One more: 'Hence for that reason, and the fact that people who really don't want to take the survey won't anyway (they'll just tick random boxes) I think it should not be compulsory.'Replace 'survey' with 'vote' and you have a very similar, if not exact, situation that would arise from compulsory voting. So why support one and not the other? Just out of interest.

  • >Yes I do agree that the 'big society' idea demonstrates vision. There's a lot of doubt as to whether people will actually like the idea of taking on responsibility but I think they are on to something with that. The problem is they don't look like they're going to follow through with enough reform. It is a radical idea and needs to be backed up with less 'conservative' policy (even if the modern Conservative party is not as conservative as it used to be).Regarding the rant don't be sorry! I agree with what you said. In fact I think that minus the last debate we probably agree on a lot anyway."Luxembourg's a good, cheap and blindingly obvious solution that would go along way to solving this issue." I'm glad that you agree with compulsory voting. Lol, joking. I would definitely go for the idea of summarised information being handed out. Of course the problem is (as President Bartlett pointed out in the Westwing) that governance is simply not simple enough to summarize. It does involve saying a lot that cannot be explained. But this is what a manifesto does anyway, and perhaps such summaries would give parties the opportunities to make their manifestos a bit more policy specific and in depth as people would have already had the summaries.As for the last point the difference between a survey of policy choices and a vote is in time and effort taken. It took me almost an hour to read through that survey and I already know quite a lot about politics and economics. It would seriously frustrate a lot of people who simply didn't know the subject. Yet voting involves placing an 'X' in a box. A little bit easier!

  • >Point taken on the greater simplicity (at least, on the face of it) of voting relative to the surveys like Vote for Policies, but surely if you agree that there is a need for such surveys and you'd make everyone vote surely there's an argument for making everyone take the survey? After all, it might be easier to select a party and candidate, but for it to actually mean anything (other than, of course, 'I've always voted Labour' or 'I hate the Tories and Labour are the only ones who can stop them' and so on) surely they people have to have properly studied the policies. In other words, if people don't begin to study the policies they are not, in my opinion anyway, voting properly, regardless of how much thought they think they are putting into their choice.Re: your good point above about the Conservatives/Labour banking on a 3%+ upturn and, of course, the Tory gamble on the whole nation (an actual, stated ambition) engaging in some kind of community voluntarism, the Economist has called the Conservative manifesto 'the longest betting slip in history'. I rather like that.Anyway, must go; I think there's something on the TV right about now…

  • >"surely if you agree that there is a need for such surveys and you'd make everyone vote surely there's an argument for making everyone take the survey?"Of course there's an argument for it but that doesn't mean it's the strongest one. Ultimately what I'm speculating on is the results. I agree that it would be very useful to see everyone taking such questionnaires but I'm guessing that people would be more willing to vote by ticking a box on the internet, text voting, or posting a slip than spend hours filling in questionnaires.Obviously that's your opinion on whether policy analysis is necessary for 'proper' voting. But remember there is an argument that people are more important than policies. Opinions differ of course, but are you going to force people to watch videos too? Where does it stop? What I'm saying is that you have to draw a line somewhere. I would draw that line at compulsory voting and the giving of information.As for the Prime Minister's Debate I have to start a new question. It was fantastic!

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