5 reasons you should use your vote

1.) Power is never given away

 If you don't use your vote, it makes the votes of those who do more powerful. That's not to say that what's good for them isn't good for you, but it means that parties and politicians will heed their interests above yours. Take spending, for example. Pensioners have been protected during this Parliament, both in the level of their pension and perks like the winter fuel allowance, free bus passes and free TV licenses for the over 75s. Given that pensions account for about 12% of welfare spending according to the IFS, it's a significant area of government expenditure that has been exempted from reform or cuts, protected from the ravages of inflation whilst workers have suffered.

Younger people, too - who are far less likely to vote- have had a much tougher time of it over the past five years, in part because they don't use the power of the ballot box like their elders do.

That logic even applies in safe seats. When parties plan their election campaigns, they look at national social, economic and demographic information to figure out who they should target and appeal to. If a whole generation doesn't bother to vote, why spend energy on them when others are the ones who'll get you into government? Sometimes you have to look at the big picture.

2.) Rocking the Status Quo

If you don't vote, it must be because you're happy with the status quo, right? Everything is going so swimmingly in your life that you don't see the pollution, waste, injustice or plain old stupidity that goes on every day. No change is needed.

Don't get us wrong, the UK is a great place to live compared to most of the rest of the world, but we're still a long way from living in utopia.

Parties have different visions of what that utopia should look like - sometimes radically different ones. For the Green party, say, it means renewable power, open borders and less consumption. For UKIP it means taking the UK out of the EU, seriously tightening up immigration and doing away with political correctness. For the SNP, an independent Scotland.

Quite different versions of paradise.  

3.) It's your money

You might be someone who doesn't care about how much tax they pay. More likely, though, is it makes you wince to see how much gets taken out of your pay packet in income tax, NI, VAT, stamp duty, car tax, inheritance tax... The list goes on.  

That's your hard earned cash, so it's effectively your time, your life that the government takes to pay for the NHS, defence, education and all the rest of it. If they waste millions on drugs that don't work, armour that doesn't protect our soldiers and sink schools that help no one, doesn't that make you a little bit angry? Surely you care that we spend money helping other countries recover from disasters, protecting the environment or looking after the elderly? Even if you don't care about any of that stuff, we're certain that you don't like traffic jams, potholes and being able to renew your passport in a reasonable amount of time.

Declining to pay tax will get you arrested. The only way to have your say on where your money gets spent is to vote.

4.) The best things in life are free

In many ways it's the weakest argument for using your vote, but it's still an important one. Voting's free and costs you nothing other than popping into the polling station or posting your vote. It's also a way of expressing something about your identity, even if you choose to keep that secret.

An election is a social act that unites you with your community, your fellow citizens and at the ballot box, everyone is equal. The rich woman in her Porsche and the pensioner on their mobility scooter count just the same. Like it or not, the kid with the headphones and his trousers falling down has just as much say as the local GP. The only way you lose that equality is by not bothering to vote.

 What does it cost you?

5.) It depends on you

Democracy is a frail and vulnerable thing that's freakishly unusual by global standards. Compared to the legions of kings, queens and various dictatorships that have dominated governments for thousands of years, democracy is a plucky upstart. Its legitimacy depends upon people turning out to vote in significant numbers, otherwise it's doomed to decay into another form of minority rule and oppression.

People have fought and died to preserve the free and open society that we enjoy today- democracy is a critical component of human liberty. It shouldn't be taken for granted. 

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