Edmund Burke is reported to have said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”, though it is in all probability a misquotation from John Stuart Mill. Nevertheless, whether it was Burke or Mill who said it the truth is that if people do nothing then evil will triumph.
Many of us are affected by three groups: 1) organisations that are governed by elected boards, 2) companies that run the businesses which provide for us every day have elected boards and 3) politicians; be they local or national; elected on a regular cycle. Yet when it comes to the time for the people to choose who will represent them increasingly we are seeing the number of people using their power to vote diminish.
Whether that is going once a year to vote at a polling station in local or national government elections or completing a ballot paper that falls through your letter box the number of people exercising their right to have a say is decreasing. At the same time we are increasingly hearing individuals and groups complaining that the people who are elected to represent them and not looking after them.
I have long believed that it is our duty as members of society to vote but I recognise that some people do not like any of the candidates on offer. However, that should not preclude you from collecting your ballot paper and writing “none of the above” on it. Whilst no one can make you vote they can and should require you to collect your ballot paper. I believe that if as a member of society you do not make the effort to collect your ballot paper then you forfeit your right to make a claim on the state, be that benefits or tax allowances. It takes on average 15 minutes to collect your ballot paper and cast your vote. Most people pass their polling station at some point during the annual Election Day.
For those who receive ballot papers through their letterbox to not mark the paper in some way is even less defensible. If an organisation or company has gone to the cost of send you your ballot paper I believe it is your duty as a member to complete that ballot paper. Even if it is with “none of the above”. The five minutes it would take to complete it and drop it in the post box the next time you went to the shops is an inconsequential moment of time in your life but can have a massive effect on your life and the lives of other.
Edmund Burke did say “All government indeed, every human benefit and enjoyment, every virtue and every prudent act is founded on compromise and barter”. How can anyone know what compromise they should be considering if people have not made their views known via the ballot box?
Going back to my original sentence “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing” by not voting the good men are doing nothing. The evil that will triumph can range from the privatisation of the NHS to the loss of local libraries or from the rise in the cost of food to the overcrowding on trains.
Jeff Parker’s 2008cartoon in Florida Today has a big sign which says “Don’t vote – don’t complain” with a clerk sitting at a registration desk below it. If you decide not to vote then you have forfeited your right to complain when those who are elected do things you do not like or worse still those who are trying to support you are unable to do so because you failed to vote.