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Disenfranchised

I chased up the issue with my election card, and the news is bad. They did receive my application to be registered, but then apparently sent me a letter asking me for proof that I'd been at my current address for more than three months. Except I never got any such letter, so obviously I didn't know to send them any proof of residence...

.... so that's it. I'm not registered, and I can't vote.

To say I am fucking pissed off about this is a serious understatement. I was already feeling 95% disenfranchised over the fact that I can't even vote for the party I actually want to vote for (LibDems) in this part of the world anyway, because they, like most of the other major parties, don't actually run candidates here. But now even my chance to vote for the only remotely sensible party in Northern Ireland (Alliance) has been taken from me.

I like elections. I get excited about them. I think they're important. And I like to participate. I am the kind of person, in fact, who even votes in local elections. So I did want to vote, very badly, even if I couldn't vote the way I really wanted to.

I'm angry that the system here allows this to happen: in Oxford, all I would have needed to do is put my name on a form (a form which I kindly left lying in my flat for the new tenant when I left in September), and it would all have been automatic. I'm angry that no-one ever chased up why I hadn't responded by providing any proof of my residence after they asked me for it, which also would have happened in a similar situation in Oxford. Anyone would think the local authorities didn't want people to be able to vote here.

I'm angry because I'm only living here for a year anyway, but I'll almost certainly be living in England again from September onwards, and will thus be directly affected by the outcome of this election. It's not my fault that I have had to move to Belfast for this year.

And I'm still angry, even though it's now irrelevant, that I wouldn't have been able to help support the LibDems anyway. I don't seriously expect them to win outright, but I really want to see a three-party system, and a more effective opposition. And even if I had been properly registered here, I still couldn't have done that.

I'm also just a little angry with myself, because if I had thought to look into it, it's possible that I might have been able to remain registered in Oxford anyway, and have voted there by post or proxy. But I don't know because I assumed the obvious thing to do would be to vote where I actually lived, and I never explored the options of trying to retain a vote in a place where I didn't live any more.

So all I can do now is sit back helplessly and let everyone else decide on the country's future for me. I feel completely and utterly stripped of all social and democratic power. I'll follow the results, of course, but I won't be able to think at any point, "I helped make that happen". Which is what I really feel it's all about.

All I can say is, if you can vote, please get out there and do it on Thursday. I don't care whether you're going to vote the same way as I wanted to or not. Your very right to do so is precious. I always knew that, but I certainly see it with a new and painful clarity now.

Comments

( 23 comments — Leave a comment )
meerium
May. 4th, 2005 12:10 pm (UTC)
one of my major harrumphs is the utter pointless frustration of voting in northern ireland. it's voting for various versions of bad, and voting in people whose election means very little in terms of governance of the country. the most you can achieve is an mp who is good within the constituency, and even that you can't necessarily achieve because of the ridiculous way politics works here.

i will be voting, but i have very little patience with the whole affair - voting in northern ireland has always seemed to me to be a completely fruitless exercise, and there's absolutely no sense of making anything happen at all.

i am grateful i live in a society where i can vote, i just wish it actually achieved something meaningful.
strange_complex
May. 4th, 2005 12:14 pm (UTC)
Yep, that's pretty much how I'd come to feel about it. I mean, the thing about my registration is the real cherry on the cake. But I think I basically disenfranchised myself when I moved over here.

I just wish I'd thought to see if I could keep my vote in Oxford. I mean, I still own property there after all.
purple_peril
May. 4th, 2005 12:28 pm (UTC)
You've every right to be angry.
I'm in a state of stunned amazement because my local council *did* send my proxy postal vote application form to the right person and she *did* return it in time and she *has* voted on my behalf.
Never thought that would happen.
strange_complex
May. 4th, 2005 12:43 pm (UTC)
Well, I'm glad it's worked out for you at least! It's a bit ironic, though, that I technically still live in the UK, and yet I'd probably have had a better chance of being able to vote if I'd moved to a completely different country. :/
my_mundane_life
May. 4th, 2005 12:34 pm (UTC)
Gah, stupid Northern Ireland. I'll be voting Alliance tomorrow, as will Donna I think. Northern Ireland voting is just annoying and pointless while there's no assembly, and even if there was one the really shit parties always get to be in control anyway and we're still ruled from London anyway. I wanna vote Lib Dem too - oh well, maybe in the next election!
strange_complex
May. 4th, 2005 12:42 pm (UTC)
Given that meerium says much the same above, it makes you wonder if they've really judged the situation correctly here. I'd be fascinated to see what would happen if the major parties did run in NI.
(Deleted comment)
strange_complex
May. 4th, 2005 12:47 pm (UTC)
I am, believe me! And in such a stupid way, too - over a letter which seems to have got lost in the post.

I'm afraid I was very short with the man on the phone who explained that I wasn't registered because I'd never sent in the right documentation. He started saying that if I wanted to send it in now they could get me registered, but I snapped that it was a bit late now, given the election is tomorrow, and it was pointless anyway because I'd be moving away again in September. (I don't expect there to be any other form of election before then).

Grrr!
ex_kharin447
May. 4th, 2005 01:25 pm (UTC)
Northern Ireland paty politics is quite a bone of contention; I seem to recall hearing about someone in a trades union taking the Labour party to court after it refused to allow his membership on the grounds that it doesn't stand in Norther Ireland.
strange_complex
May. 4th, 2005 02:16 pm (UTC)
You mean you can't even be a member of the Labour party here, never mind vote for them? What an odd attitude. Maybe they are afraid of looking too much as though they are trying to push out the local political groups, and therefore the local isseus?
ex_kharin447
May. 4th, 2005 02:24 pm (UTC)
I think the official line is that Northern Ireland voters are able to vote for an affiliated party instead, the SDP. More details here.
meerium
May. 5th, 2005 09:53 am (UTC)
quick correction (because there are just too many acronyms in northern ireland!). the sdLp is the northern irish affiliated party, to the best of my knowledge - the social democratic and labour party, which was john hume's party until he stepped down. again, to the best of my knowledge, i've never seen a party with the acronym 'sdp' doing anything in the north.
ex_kharin447
May. 5th, 2005 11:52 am (UTC)
Whoops, quite correct. It was the SDLP that I was thinking of.
syrcleoftrees
May. 4th, 2005 01:53 pm (UTC)
I am here in the USA and;
As you more than likely know it does not matter how you vote,whomever is wanted in the office,will be in the office,even if it is under suspect circumstances. just beating around the bush,,HT :p
strange_complex
May. 4th, 2005 02:18 pm (UTC)
Re: I am here in the USA and;
Hello! Yes, it has looked a lot like that in the US recently. No wonder people everywhere are getting disenchanted with the process... :(
swisstone
May. 4th, 2005 02:03 pm (UTC)
I don't think I voted once throughout my three years in Belfast - I felt I had no connection to the political process there.
strange_complex
May. 4th, 2005 02:14 pm (UTC)
See, I was willing to muck in and take part (although rather grudingly, I admit). And now even that has been taken away from me. I feel unfairly put upon by Fate. *strikes tragic pose*
finthecat
May. 4th, 2005 03:40 pm (UTC)
hi hun, id let you vote as me if i could
im not fussed!
strange_complex
May. 4th, 2005 03:47 pm (UTC)
Bless! But don't worry - as I said I'm not that thrilled by any of the NI parties anyway, so I don't think I want to risk breaking the law for the sake of voting for them.
qatsi
May. 4th, 2005 05:50 pm (UTC)
Poor Penny! You have every right to be angry about that, even if you aren't enthused by the available candidates.

Ironically, not only did I fill in the Electoral Roll form last October, but in January the council wrote to me with a copy of the entry for this property, asking me to check it "in the light of a likely General Election on May 5th"!
strange_complex
May. 4th, 2005 06:18 pm (UTC)
Yes, that sounds more like the right spirit as far as a voter registration system goes.
ladyguinevere83
May. 4th, 2005 06:14 pm (UTC)
Eep! That is definitely not good! I'm not surprised you're angry!

And you're not the only one on my freind list who has been disenfranchised through no fault of their own - this does not sound promising for the election.

I agree with you completely on the three party thing.

*hugs*
strange_complex
May. 4th, 2005 06:20 pm (UTC)
And you're not the only one on my freind list who has been disenfranchised through no fault of their own

Really? As was mentioned in my previous post about this, the system in general is definitely quite shoddy. It's better in England, where the local authorities take the responsibility for making sure everyone is registered, rather than it being the voters' responsibility as here in NI. But still, I'm somehow not surprised to hear I'm not the only one. :-(
ladyguinevere83
May. 4th, 2005 09:20 pm (UTC)
Yeah, one of my CS friends had her postal vote go missing, and as she's at uni a long way from home, she can't make it back to vote. Like you she is feeling terrible about it!

If I could, I'd give you my extra vote, but unfortunately it's not really get-at-able. I still don't get why I have two votes anyway. *kicks stupid system*
( 23 comments — Leave a comment )

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