In Levelwood, ten people vote in by-election; 105 don’t bother. Well, it was raining…

There are 115 registered voters in Levelwood, but only ten of them made it to the polling station on by-election day. There were grumbles about the weather.

Democracy had been rained off.

At the end of what must have been one of the world’s shortest-ever election counts, presenter Tony Leo told radio listeners on St Helena: “For those of you who were eligible to vote and didn’t, shame on you.”

The turnout in the October 2012 by-election was 19.37%. Across the East ward, only 185 people voted to choose a new legislative councillor in place of Tara Thomas, out of an electorate of 955.

As Mike Olsson observed in the on-air discussion that followed the count in the Castle, only about half the people entitled to vote were even on the electoral register.

So the true scale of voter apathy was twice as bad as it appeared.

Christine Scipio-O’Dean was a convincing winner, but her tally of 101 votes represented just over 10 per cent of the total that could have been cast on the day

And by Mike Olsson’s reckoning, she was voted in by only about five per cent of the potential electorate – that’s one person in 20.

He said: “You can start doubting the democracy.

“Democracy is not 100% credible because of the low turn-out.

“It is dropping election by election. Karl Marx would have said something like alienation: people don’t identify themselves with what’s going on in society.

“There is definitely a big rift between the people and the corridors of power. I don’t think anybody can disagree with that.”

Vince Thompson, taking part in the radio discussion, said: “When you think of the full page inserts that have been put into the papers in the week’s preceeding this by-election, telling people how to vote, where to vote, answering every imaginable question, there can’t be anyone who doesn’t know there’s a by-election.

“There’s something seriously wrong: a big disconnect between government affairs and the private person in the street.

“My view is that until we find out what that is, why should we expect the percentage turn-out to increase?”

SEE ALSO:
Christine wins by-election on a 19% turn-out
Democracy campaign

Keywords: Freedom of information

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