posted on June 01, 2007 03:00
This blog entry starts out with a flimsy but deceptive rock music angle to lure a reader in. This is a trick. Because - before you know it - it descends full-on into all sorts of political stuff.
Whether the widely derided Rock the Vote initiative had any impact in terms of getting greater numbers of younger voters to vote is something we will probably never know. I for one have my doubts that they did succeed on this front. But in an earlier posting on Rock The Vote I lamented how the initiative did not have any chance (or apparent willingness) to address what are two other key barriers to getting a greater proportion of 18-30 year olds voting, namely:
- Not being registered to vote (or being registered to do so in another part of the country from where you live / work / study),
- The (since time-eternal) imposition of the party in power of a week day election.
Now it's not very rawk'n'roll but indulge me a bit here as, below, I delve into the latter of these two points.
The deal is that Ireland is completely out of step with the vast majority of other European countries in terms of when elections are held. Our elections (and referenda for that matter) have always been held on week days, putting a downward pressure on the level of turn out. But take a tour of continental Europe and you'll fine the vast majority of other countries hold their elections on a weekend: France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Portugal, Finland, Romania, Iceland – I could go on - all hold their elections on a weekend. That the turnout in these countries - young voters included - is higher than a weekday Irish election (or referendum) will come as no surprise (sure 84% of the entire French electorate, in between reading entries on Aidan's French Letter blog, turned out not once but TWICE to vote in each of the two rounds of their recent Presidential elections, and both rounds were - bien sûr - held on a Sunday).
I think that even if Rock The Vote were carried out properly (which as a minimum that would mean not launching at the last minute nor having an inane dependency on pointless YouTube clips) is not on its own going to cut the mustard. So what to do? Let me stick my idealistic but naïve political neck out here and say that the only way to be sure it is going to happen is (sharp intake of breath) to get it engraved into the law of the land. Maybe it's piece of legislation that is required, or maybe an amendment to the Constitution – I sure haven't a clue. Either way it ain’t going to happen overnight, if at all. But if there is to be any chance some new stuff must happen. And start to happen now.
Key to it must be to building up some sort of momentum and visibility for weekend voting and why it's a good thing (greater participation in the democratic process, greater mandate for elected politicians, more yuff votes being cast meaning greater interest from politicians on youth issues, bring us in line with our sophisticated continental cousins, etc, etc). If all this becomes more visible, more prominent in our (cough, splutter) national conversations, you never know, the occasional elected politician (or upstart seeking to steal the seat of a sitting
chancer politician) might take a bit of notice. They might see it as a potential vote winner, or an issue to embrace in order to differentiate themselves from other vote chasers they're up against. Or so goes the thinking. In fact imagine this was done years ago, we this week could have had FF, as they shadow-box their way towards piecing together a coalition, sitting down with an independent TD who says FF could count on him or her on the condition that they legislate for weekend elections.
Talk etc is fine, but might there be an opportunity in the coming month or two to actually do something? Here's my thinking. Some of the biggest universities in the country (the NUI colleges & TCD, stuffed with plenty of Irish yuff last time I checked) actually have their own political voices in the Oireachtas. Between them NUI & TCD elect 6 senators to the (60 seat) Irish Senate and voting to fill these 6 seats for the next sitting of the Oireachtas closes on July 24th (graduates of these universities each have a postal vote). Now I am fully aware that the Irish Senate does not strut about the place with the same legislative power as the Dail, but – hey – it could be a start.
As a TCD graduate I have a vote (and in the last weeks candidates’ publicity materials have already started to choke up my letter box) so I'm going to give something a whirl. I’ve decided my vote for this year's TCD Senate election will be determined on the basis of who (if any!) among the candidates is committed to supporting legislation for weekend elections and will progress 'the cause' if elected to the Senate. They may be powerless to do anything of real impact - I honestly don’t know - but I am going to drop an email to each candidate, asking for their position on 'the cause' and see how each responds.
I do note though that 2 of the 3 sitting TCD Senators (David Norris and Shane Ross) manage to land generous and regular lumps of coverage for themselves in various Irish meedja outlets, nice potential platforms they could leverage to raise awareness of 'the cause' – if they so desired... Anyway watch this space for any update on what I hear back from the candidates.
Any graduates of NUI out there think this is worth pursuing? If so maybe drop a line to the Senate candidates on your ballot paper and ask them where they stand on this question (your letter box should by now be getting clogged with their propoganda)? Or - more likely - you'd prefer to ask them if they would introduce legislation to ban writers of music blogs from spouting on about politics...
Anyway, there does end the political stuff. Back to some rock and roll, courtesy of Aidan's aforementioned French Letter blog.More ...