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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (but it will be texted)

A spectre is haunting Europe. The spectre of text voting.

Watching the final show of The X Factor last Saturday night, a thought struck me. This show, like so many other (vastly inferior) reality programmes, galvinised the public into voting in huge numbers. Almost 11 million people voted on Saturday evening in the space of 2 hours, almost 6 million of those votes going to the eventual winner Shayne Ward.

What I'm wondering is this: did Tony Blair even get that many direct votes in the last general election? Isn't it frightening to think that the Prime Minister - who runs the country and makes monumental (and catastrophically incorrect) decisions on war and peace - might not have even secured the same amount of votes as a 21 year old singer on a TV show?

Imagine if people in this country were able to vote in the next general election by text or email? This country, like many democracies wordwide, is badly, badly in need of a democratic revolution. Ireland has been dominated by the one political party in a manner that would make the Soviet satellite states of the old Eastern Bloc envious.

Now I know that people multiple-vote in reality shows and so the voting figures are probably wildly inflated, and although this is an option that Sinn Fein might like, structures could be put in place to ensure the integrity and fairness of the system. PIN numbers could be issued to make sure that the 'one person, one vote' pillar is not compromised. Polling cards have to be issued anyway, so it wouldn't be a huge bureaucratic nightmare.

Can you imagine what a shake up it would be to our shoddy, jaded, complacent democracy if people actually voted in huge numbers? It could end in disaster; the entire state structures might stay the same or it could change the political and social landscape forever.

Of course, our ruling politicians would never go for it. The mere thought of empowering voters like that would make them shudder and thank the Lord above that they have so successfully breeded and perpetuated such astonishing levels of cynicism and apathy in the electorate. Can you imagine Blandie Ahern signing off on such an innovation? Imagine if he did though. Just think of how it would shake things up so radically.

We need something to change, something to inspire people, some way to get people to engage in the democratic process. Because if we don't figure out those things soon, the future for Irish politics and society looks very bleak, very boring and very depressing.


Genzer said...

great idea - of course it is possible if the will is there.

Could we hook up our mobile phones to those e-voting machines or something............come on we have to find something to do with them!

Lisa said...

I totally agree... Texting is now an integral part of everyday life for most people. Introduce text voting and we may even have some form of an impartially elected government!

Seán Kenny said...

I actually don't think people should be allowed to vote via text message. I think people should have to make an effort to go to a polling station to vote; it's a privilege most of the world's population don't enjoy.

I'd also have concerns about how the votes are counted; where's the paper trail?

I'd have doubts about whether the number of people voting would significantly increase if they could text. It'd be easy for me to vote on the X factor but I'm not interested , so I wouldn't. Ditto for those who are not interested in politics. Not voting is (sometimes) a political statement too.

By the way, don't ever get me started on electronic voting; you'd lose the will to live.

(Jesus, that was long and rather serious...feel free to dispute anything I've said)