Many people are disillusioned with government. They don’t think they have any power to create change.
Low voter turnout is the result. Why vote if it doesn’t make a difference?
I believe that we need to increase citizen engagement to see a higher voter turnout. Engaged citizens are invested in making their community better and care enough to vote for the politicians that share their vision.
While they may not always get their way, engaged citizens should feel heard. They may have ideas that can make an idea better or have legitimate concerns that if addressed avoid foreseeable problems. Chances are that not all these ideas or concerns can be accommodated. Doing so may not be possible with people or stakeholders having different perspectives but the process should be open to considering them. And if something can’t be done, getting a response is better than being ignored.
We elect politicians because they are expected to be better informed on issues than the average citizen. They have better access to information and have committed to spending more time considering the information. We expect them to be forward thinking and make the best decisions that consider the big picture including what is best for the future. Staff are similarly expected to contribute their expertise including a long range vision and sense of how the pieces of government work (or should work) together.
So I’m not coming out in support of making decisions by referendum or based upon real or perceived public opinion. Nor do I expect politicians or civil servants to always make decisions responding to a public outcry.
Yet the roles and responsibilities of politicians and staff should not leave people feeling ignored.
People become disillusioned when they don’t see their vote as making a difference. People become disillusioned if they are consulted but don’t feel heard. People become disillusioned if they perceive the process as silencing their voices.
So if we want people to vote, we need to be nurturing engaged citizens between elections.