Obliged (kind of) to vote

It seems fitting that on the day when the last surviving combat veteran from World War One died, people in Britain have the opportunity to vote. The freedom that was won in that and other conflicts allows me to not vote just as gratefully but participation seems the more appropriate response, even if it requires a two-hour round trip because I didn’t get round to updating my voter registration information before moving cities.

The nature of the debate surrounding how votes are counted has been unsurprisingly uninvolving. Nick Clegg’s infamous description of the alternative vote method as “a miserable little compromise” still seems the most accurate contribution: ‘first past the post’ makes most sense when there are only two candidates with anything like popular support, and proportional representation fits the multi-party democracy that Britain increasingly has. So for me the issue is more whether to vote for some change now with the possibility of more later, or vote for no change now or later. The BBC outlines our choices here, or you can search #yes2av and #no2av on Twitter and despair.

This is my first opportunity to vote in the Scottish parliamentary elections. Scotland’s relationship to the United Kingdom remains high on the agenda and it’s slightly ironic that the voters here desire some autonomy but don’t have an appetite for full independence, a typically British compromise.

However facile this sounds, I enjoy voting regardless of the politics. Whatever the method of counting, my vote will be counted. I may have to put up with the reality that more people hold different views to me. Put those two things together and you have a democratic society. The many struggles that brought us to this state of affairs may not always have been intended to benefit the likes of me but when I step into that rickety wooden polling booth with its stub of pencil held secure by fraying string, given directions by smiling volunteers in a hall where children are taught and allowed to paint pictures, I’m privileged to be part of a great story.