When studying voter turnout it is often seen that voting is the norm. However, it would be beneficial to look at why members of the electorate vote at all. Since the 1997 general election, the turnout rate has significantly decreased from 71% to 59% in 2001 and 61% in 2005 (Mellows-Facer:2005). There are many possible explanations for this dramatic drop in the turnout rates including, the fact that many members of the electorate have lost their faith in our system of government or that more people are uneducated in the workings of the government and politics and do not understand how it benefits them.
It is argued that it is a waste of time to vote as after the election the government is no longer accountable to the electorate until the next election. Rousseau stated that only during the election could England refer to itself as free (Rousseau:1762). Once a party has a parliamentary majority they are able to pass any legislation they wish and the electorate and other parties can be seen to be powerless to stop them. Thus, some members of the electorate do not see the point in voting as their vote will not make much, if any difference on future legislation. Whilst this is true to some degree it is still possible for the public to prevent or at least delay legislation becoming law. This can be done through the use of pressure groups or calls for a referendum on the subject. In the 1990's there were mass demonstrations against the poll tax which resulted in people refusing to pay it and its eventual abolishing. This is a prime example of how the electorate can still influence the government and its decisions after the general election. These members of the electorate put severe pressure on the government to change its legislation and proved that it was not popular. It can however be argued that the methods used by these campaigners were undemocratic as by failing to pay the poll tax they were breaking the law and thus holding the government to ransom.
However, in 2003 between 750,000 to 2 million took part in what was the largest demonstration the UK has ever seen to protest against the use of military force in Iraq. This mass demonstration was said by Tim Robbins to be "what democracy looks like". Despite this obvious national opposite to the war coalition forces invaded Iraq and to this day there are still troops stationed in the country. This directly supports Rousseau's theory that we are only free during the election and that we have no power until the following general election.
Many members of the electorate think that it is a waste of time to vote due to the fact that they are disillusioned with the government and politicians in general. Many people feel that politicians are dishonest with their campaigning and that they will say anything to help them get into power. The recent expenses scandal has created more scepticism about politicians real agendas. In 2009 The Daily Telegraph revealed many of the illegitimate expenses claims by various MPs. They included mortgages that did not exist and most controversially a floating duck house and the cleaning of a moat. Findings such as these infuriated voters and have caused many people to become disillusioned with MPs and lose faith in our system. The expenses scandal has reinforced the idea in many that it is a waste of time to vote as it seems that the vast majority of MPs have escaped criminal charges, with the exceptions of Elliot Morley, Jim Devine, David Chayter and Lord Hanningfield who are all facing charges under the Theft Act (Pickford:2010).
Despite the lack of criminal convictions against those MPs who seem to have committed fraud when declaring their expenses, many have been forced by their parties or otherwise, to step down at the next election. These MPs include Ben Chapman and Anthony Steen. It can therefore be argued, that if we were not informed about politics then the public...