Election turnout around Scarborough a cause for concern

During the count at the Scarborough Spa. pic Richard Ponter
During the count at the Scarborough Spa. pic Richard Ponter

Following the recent local government election and publication of the ward-by-ward results in The Scarborough News, a simple analysis of the numbers reveals a worrying set of statistics regarding the engagement, or lack of engagement, among those eligible to take part in the democratic process.

Firstly, the low turnout – 34.54%.

This cannot be attributed to the ongoing disillusionment with the Brexit negations simply because a comparison with the turnout at the last local elections, in 2015 - a year before the referendum - reveals the turnout at that time was only a few percentage points above this 2019 figure.

Simple analysis of the numbers involved – the overall figure, some 55,755 who bothered to cast a vote shows, rather worryingly, that 106,648 registered voters did not vote.

Why? Was it that disillusionment?

The oft repeated mantra, ‘it makes no difference who gets in because nothing ever changes’ surely represents a self-defeating circular argument.

This rather sad disengagement with the local democratic process seems at odds with views on the street.

Almost everyone I have spoken to holds strong views brokered across a wide range of issues – what should happen and what has happened but should not have – and this covers a wide remit affecting the areas they live in.

However, self evidently, some two thirds of voters feel voting in the local elections is a waste of time.

The rocky road leading to universal suffrage took centuries of struggle, a great deal of it, ugly to say the least.

Perhaps if those voters who did not vote had that right taken away, they might feel a little differently. This is a big ‘if.’

Perhaps a few simply would not care either way but I would hazard a guess, a substantial majority of these people would care.

That so few people found the motivation and take a little time to engage with the political process is not only sad but also a terrible indictment of an over familiarity with a democratic process denied to a substantial proportion of peoples across the world.

The 34.54% of voters who did engage this process in 2019 made a difference.

We have a hung council, and what this means is a broader range of perceived opinion covering a wider range of topics must now be subject to debate across our newly elected council. Surely, this is no bad thing.

Inclusively, and openly, just perhaps we may realise a sea change in political engagement in this wide-ranging, disparate, but, let us face it, dispirited borough.

This can only be a good thing.

Michael Knaggs

Box Hill, Scarborough