19th February 2020

Why I spoiled my ballot

Sacha Perera explains his philosophical and political reasoning for spoiling his ballot in the most recent general election.
Why I spoiled my ballot
ThatGamingSheep @ Wikimedia commons

It’s no exaggeration to say that the most recent general election was the most significant vote which our generation has been eligible for. The hard-fought battle for Brexit was decided here. The ominous cries of Greta reverberated around the peripheries of a divisive debate, characterised by questions of sovereignty and the preservation of our prized institutions.

In light of this, I understand why, when I have told people that I decided to abstain from voting, I received puzzled and sometimes critical responses. Most argue I neglected the privilege of my democratic right to participate and failed to contribute to the society which I’m part of. Instead they say I should’ve voted tactically, primarily due to my consequentialist preferences.

But I could not bring myself to do so. I believe we should vote on principle and not according to the option that is reasoned to offer the best possible outcome. I understand the temptation, especially as our electoral system incentivises this type of decision making. However, this consequentialist approach is dangerous and risks undermining the very values our democracy is founded on.

I felt that by voting I would be endorsing an electoral and, more broadly, a political system that is detrimental to the pluralism necessary for democracy; simultaneously supporting a party whose principled aims do not align with my own.

Corbyn represented a break from the increasingly similar and centrist attitudes of both Labour and the Conservatives, but his socialist ideal was one that was too divisive; alienating, even victimising, many individuals. The Conservatives’ failure to treat the Climate Crisis, among other issues, with the urgency and respect it deserves was the principle deterrent to my endorsement of Boris. I was close to voting for the Green Party, as their primary focus is a concern which I believe we have a duty to raise and voice – there is no better place than in an election to do this. However, their pact with the Liberal Democrats, who pledged to revoke Article 50 without a second referendum, undermining the democratic voice of the nation, is an act that made me deeply uneasy.

Regrettably, I was left with no choice but to act in the way I did. Unlike many, however, I don’t think that it was a meaningless decision. By spoiling my ballot, I have upheld the principles and values which democracy relies and is founded upon. I have fulfilled my democratic duty to vote on principle and what I think is best for the country. And finally I have voiced my disenchantment with the current state of our political system and its representatives.

I may yet be proved wrong and come to realise that my views are in fact incoherent. But what I hope is that this article might produce a response; one that asks me to reflect and question my understanding. But until then I maintain I acted in the only way I could and should have.

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