Comment

Spoiling your ballot paper tomorrow is better than not voting at all

Polling stations open at 7am tomorrow (PA)

We all have the right to vote in this country, once we reach a certain age, but must we vote? It is a privilege, but is it also a duty? Is there a moral obligation to vote?

In Australia, voting is compulsory. In Italy, where most people have had the social teaching of the Church drummed into them since birth, voting is regarded as a sacred duty, and turn out in elections is typically very high. Some years ago, the Italian government created chaos by reducing the number of polling stations. People had to queue for hours on end to vote, and queue they did, even if only to hand in a blank ballot paper. A lot of conscientious people make the effort of going to the polls to hand in a blank ballot or to spoil their ballot.

There is a tradition of active abstentionism in Italy, and such ballots are counted, which gives an indication of just how out of touch politicians may be with the voting public, as well as being useful in referenda (common in Italy) that depend on a certain level of participation to be binding.

Italians, and other people who live in countries where universal suffrage is relatively recent, would consider not bothering to vote as feckless and irresponsible. Moreover, some may be surprised to know that the Catechism of the Catholic Church takes the same view.

2240. Submission to authority and co-responsibility for the common good make it morally obligatory to pay taxes, to exercise the right to vote, and to defend one’s country.

The point is clear. If you really care about the welfare of your fellow citizens, then you will vote. Not to do so is to show a lack of charity towards them.

So, make sure you vote, even if it is only to hand in a blank sheet of paper, or to spoil your ballot. But you need to get down to the polling station. The fact that so many cannot be bothered to do so is a disgrace. Perhaps, as the oldest parliamentary democracy in the world, Britain is growing complacent?