Extra Comment: Does voting matter?

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TO vote or not to vote — that is the question.

As candidates for the upcoming council elections flood our letterboxes with leaflets and promises, it can be tempting to switch off and wait for it all to blow over.

It’s a tactic evidently employed by many people, as the average turnout for the 2007 Scottish council elections was 53.8 per cent — and that was an improvement on the election before.

A quick glance over the southside statistics shows further apathy, as areas like Langside and Newlands dipped below the average at the last council vote, barely scraping in half of the electorate.

So should you vote, or is political indifference a cultural norm these days?

It’s possible to answer yes to both: who hasn’t, at some time or other, wondered if it really matters who is holding the council reigns?

One New York Times article suggests that voting is an act of self-interest — not in the sense that voters have their say, but that they’re seen to be good citizens and relatively intelligent by turning up at a polling booth.

The same article likens voting to playing the lottery: it’s a gamble on your time that may never pay off, as the likelihood of one vote affecting the entire election is highly unlikely.

At this point, let me make a confession. I have very little interest in politics, per se. As an Extra reporter, it’s my job to know who’s who in the local authority, and what they’re doing (or not, as the case may be).

An interest in news means I have a knowledge of the big moves made by both councils, and like many of you reading now, I tend to form opinions according to how those moves affect myself and those around me.

But beyond a self-interest about when and how my bins are being collected and who has a say on issues in my city, I remain uninspired by the question of which individual councillor rules my community roost.

Still, I can assure you that, come election day I’ll be at the polling station – even if I have to trek through the snow (and if May is anything like April, it wouldn’t come as a shock).

I stick to the old adage that if I don’t vote, I don’t have the right to complain — and trust me, I’ve been known to complain.

I believe that if you’re interested in what’s going on around you, then electing the best person you can for the task at hand is worth that five minute detour to the polling station.

There is, of course, a tendency among non-voters to say that they know nothing about politics, and therefore shouldn’t be voting on issues they don’t understand.

To this, I say that a council election might not involve huge ideological debates: but who is picking up your rubbish, who decides on the exams your child sits and who will listen when you have a issue to raise, are pretty important questions.

Apathy may be the norm in modern day elections, but I’m afraid I don’t care — I’m sticking my ballot paper in the box come May regardless.