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To wonder if there is a point at which election results become illegitimate if the turnout is too low?

(13 Posts)
Jinsei Fri 16-Nov-12 19:39:51

Only 16% of the electorate voted in my area in the police commissioner elections. I'm not surprised, I nearly didn't bother myself. I don't want elected police commissioners in any case.

But is the result even valid when the turnout was so low? In some places, I gather it's below 10%. And one polling station had no voters at all. So I find myself wondering if there is a point at which we would say, actually, this result is illegitimate. And if so, how low would it have to go?

I am not saying that 16% is too low to be legitimate, though I do think it's questionable. But what if it's less than 10%? Or 5%? How about 1%? Or is the turnout just irrelevant because the only views that matter are the ones of those who bother to use their vote?

redexpat Fri 16-Nov-12 19:45:26

Good question. It's not a particularly strong mandate for the winner is it?

sleepyhead Fri 16-Nov-12 19:46:38

No, I don't think so.

As long as the election is conducted in such a way as to make sure that everyone has a reasonable opportunity to vote (sufficient polling stations, long opening hours etc, postal votes), then those that don't vote are just exercising their democratic right to opt out.

Not voting is basically saying that you don't want to be part of the decision (for whatever reason) and those that do can choose for you.

sleepyhead Fri 16-Nov-12 19:48:31

I think the voting re: police commissioners is the public saying that they think it's a daft idea, won't make any difference and they don't see the point in taking part.

However, that wasn't the question they were being asked via the ballot, so it'll go ahead none the less.

lurkedtoolong Fri 16-Nov-12 19:48:42

Legally there's absolutely no low point for legitimacy. Sleepyhead is bang on.

Jinsei Fri 16-Nov-12 19:49:40

Certainly not a strong mandate, no.

MrsHoarder Fri 16-Nov-12 19:50:41

According to politicians when they don't like the outcome of union balls its about 20% grin

MrsHoarder Fri 16-Nov-12 19:51:42

Union ballot blush

Jinsei Fri 16-Nov-12 20:01:21

I realise there's no legal low point. But I'm interested in what people would actually think if the turnout fell so low in a general election. Hypothetical question, of course.

grin @ mrshoarder

IvanaHumpalotCountDracula Fri 16-Nov-12 20:43:25

I didn't vote (or DH) because NO wasn't on the ballot. I don't want to vote for something I don't want. Or for people I know nothing about or who are affiliated to a political party. The police (or those representing them) should be apolitical.

There should be a minimum percentage of votes in order to validate. But then I also believe in compulsory voting - as long as there's a blank box to tick if you don't want to vote.

OpheliaPayneAgain Fri 16-Nov-12 20:49:10

You have the right to vote, or the right to apathy.

That does not disolve the rights of those who bothered to have an opinion, cast a vote, or get their arse out of bed.

But it is your right to be not bothered or not form an opinion.

sleepyhead Fri 16-Nov-12 20:50:04

But it wasn't a referendum about police commissioners. The government decided that you'd get them and that wasn't up for debate.

Which is the problem with ballots of course. You can only vote for what's on the paper. I think some US states have a "none of the above" option to get round this.

ConferencePear Fri 16-Nov-12 20:56:29

OpheliaPayneAgain. I had an opinion so, as you put it it, I got my arse out of bed and voted for Darth Veda, or in other words deliberately spoiled my paper.
Definitely not apathetic, just cross at the enormous waste of money when the country is broke.

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