10th Apr 2014: Why Don't People Vote? By Helena Catt


Come along to The Counting House at 7pm for a talk by Helena. Share a crust of bread, and discover what she knows about voting habits…


Title of talk:

Why don’t people vote?

Bullet points of what you would like to talk about:

  • Voting turnout is in decline across all western democracies.
  • Who is not voting?
  • What do we know about the reasons for this decline?
  • What can election administrators, educators and voters do to encourage greater participation in elections?

A few paragraphs on your subject:

The percentage of eligible adults who vote is in decline in the UK, and across the other developed democracies.  It is easy to explain this all as ‘apathy’ but that word covers a range of attitudes and delving deeper, the picture is more complex.
Drawing on research from a range of developed democracies, I will outline some core explanations for the decline in electoral participation. Some explanations are structural such as the voting age and the electoral system. Some explanations are rooted in individual attitudes of political efficacy.  Other explanations relate to the importance of habit and familiarity.
Once we have a greater understanding for some of the reasons why people do not vote then we can consider ways to encourage participation, or at least to lessen the obstacles.  Some actions need to be taken by those involved in elections: administrators, political parties and the media.  Other long term approaches involve teachers and community groups.  Not forgetting the actions that we all can take to encourage those around us to vote, and to establish a habit of participation.

A few paragraphs about you:

Democratic practice has been central to my work for over 30 years as an academic (Political Science, University of Auckland) and election administrator.  I ran the Election Commission in New Zealand for 5 years and since then have been working with election authorities in several countries (including Bangladesh, Nepal, South Sudan and Tonga).  One core area of work and interest during that time has been around voter turnout and what can be done to remove obstacles to participation.

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