The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) indicated that 7.4 million people registered to vote in the 2014 Tripartite Elections. However, 5.2 million voters voted, representing a 70.7 percent turnout. This suggests that 30 percent of the eligible voters neglected to vote.
Voter apathy has become a common occurrence during elections in Malawi. But why should you abandon all your equally important tasks to cast your vote on May 21? Will your vote really count? In this article, I attempt to give you the most compelling reasons why your vote is so important.
People provide various excuses to support their decision not to vote. Common excuses include that their vote could not possibly make a difference and that politicians are liars. However, all these excuses cannot make a difference in an election but one vote definitely will.
Unfortunately, some people have resigned to the notion that their vote cannot make a difference in an election. This is wrong because every vote counts and an election can be decided by a single vote and history can be changed because a person got or lost that one vote. History is replete with so many examples. In 1960, Richard Nixon would have become President of the United States instead of John F. Kennedy if one senator had voted differently. This example thwarts the lame excuse that one vote cannot decide an election.
Your vote also counts because the margin of victory counts in on election. Even if you vote in an area where a certain candidate you dislike is largely predicted to win, you should still vote because you can make a dent in their margin of victory. This limits how much of a “mandate or legitimacy” they can claim once in office. The result is that they can be encouraged to promote more moderate policies so as not to jeopardise their re-election. Conversely, even if you know your preferred candidate will win, adding to their margin of victory can help them advance their agenda in office because they can point to their unquestioned margin of victory.
Your vote counts because it provides an opportunity for your voice to be heard. The Constitution was founded on the principles of democratic participation that guarantee the rights of all citizens to have a role in shaping government affairs. The whole purpose of democracy is for every person to have a say in what goes on, and when one vote is not cast, it means their voice is not being heard. And when not everyone is being heard, the stakes for democracy are compromised. This, therefore, means that voting is a demonstration of your civic duty. Responsible citizens provide their input into how government is run by voting. Your vote is your voice and an easy way to have a direct impact on government affairs. In democracy, the ability to choose elected leaders is highly valued, and every citizen is duty-bound to participate in elections.
And again, neglecting to vote in an election takes away your right to complain. The argument behind this reasoning is that by withholding your vote, you are failing to contribute to a high-quality candidate winning the election and, therefore, are culpable for the mistakes of whoever wins.
Voting demonstrates your attempt to get the political outcome you desire. Citizens may take their right to vote for granted but neglecting to vote in an election is an indirect way of giving up your voice. Elections are decided by the people who go out and vote. The consequence of not voting is that someone else will make a decision for you. The power to choose leaders of your choice rests in your vote. Finally, your vote is also important because it has potential to prevent a minority from dictating the policies on the majority. If most voters neglect to participate in election, chances are high that they will be led by a leader who received minority votes. The leader might promote policies that favour the minority population. Let us all registered voters go and vote come May 21.