Voting trends around the world seem to indicate a decline in the voting rate of citizens. Even if one cannot generalise, EU countries appear to show a consistent decline in voting rates, especially amongst younger voters. Concurrently, rise in unemployment and the decrease in standard of living has increased the support of far right extremists.
Here, I won’t go into detail about what may be causing this disenchantment with the political system. While in Malta (where I live), voting trends remain relatively high, I expect that the next general election will show a decrease in the number of voters - probably from younger voters, I don’t expect any radical changes in local voting trends.
However, it is the very fact that people are less confident in politics to achieve social change that should be worrying politicians. For, even if the modern democratic system is far from perfect, a vote is a way that a citizen can have his/her say in the running of the country. This isn’t saying that the democratic process cannot lead to horrendous results but, at least, it should give everyone a chance to participate in the operation of the state.
The importance of participating in the electoral process cannot be emphasised enough. Especially if you consider how this democratic process has evolved from a right only available to elite men in ancient Greece and eventually extending to all citizens under the law. Thus, when I hear that someone is either going to waste his vote or not bother to vote in the first place, I realise how much we have taken the right to vote for granted as people around the world are still denied this important right and even dying for it.
For, in spite of its limitations, the democratic process may be the only chance for many to make a statement about who they wish to be governed by. The act of voting provides you with the opportunity to do something to change the things you don’t like, or else, to express your trust and confidence in the current administration. Perhaps, more importantly, it is an agreement between you and the state, and, thus, there are situations when it can be denied you. More importantly, as history reveals, the vote is not a given and the wrong` government may revoke this right. This isn’t implying that this would be fair or just but that it has happened before in other countries.
I really started appreciating my right to vote around nine years ago, when due to my vision loss, I realised that I was having problems reading the ballot paper. Back then, a magnifying lens did help me but now I don’t risk to invalidate my vote by attempting to fill in the ballot paper. Since Malta has ratified the UN Convention Rights of Disabled Persons (UNCHRPD), I hope that the state of affairs changes by the next election or, at least, the very next.
To this day, a good number of disabled people having different impairments who cannot use the conventional means of pencil and paper to vote are forced to choose voting in front of an electoral commission composed of representatives from every party contesting the given election.
I was forced to go through the electoral commission for these past elections with a certain sense of hesitation. For, even if the four or five overseeing commissioners are bound by an oath of confidentiality, they know how I voted back then.
And if the state doesn’t change the electoral process in such a way that people in my situation can really have a secret vote, then I remain unequal and my vote an open secret - if there is such a thing.
I don’t find any problems with making my position heard. I only fear those who may use it against me. I want, at the end of the day, have the same right to privacy.
For, apart from being my constitutional right as a Maltese citizen to have a secret vote, it is also forms part of my duties as a citizen.