India has an electorate of 863 million people. That's larger than the United States and everyone in the European Union combined. It's also Indian law that a polling station must be within one mile of every voter on election day.
This, as I'm sure you can imagine, is no easy feat. India is more than a country - it's a sub-continent. It is the largest democracy on the planet. Its 2014 election was the largest democratic exercise in history involving over 900,000 polling stations, 1.4 million electronic voting machines, and 11 million security and police officers.
Helicopters deliver polling officials to the snowy, northern regions of India. Boats traffic polling machines to the coastal communities of Bengal. In Rajasthan, officials arrive by camel, two or three days ahead of schedule. Five election officials and two police officers set up a polling station for a single man living deep in the wilderness. His name is Guru Bharatdas Darshandas and he looks after a temple in the Gir forest in the western state of Gujarat. In India, every vote matters.
Unlike the United Kingdom, India doesn't offer proxy or postal voting to average citizens. For the vast and overwhelming majority of Indians, each vote must be delivered by each individual voter, in person and on election day. Despite these hurdles, turnout for the last three elections has sat at around 60%.
60% is not too dissimilar to our turnout, which is embarrassing, considering 60% of our electorate is 30.8 million people, and 60% of India's electorate is 517 million.
So, why am I telling you this? 21% of voters didn’t vote in the 2015 UK general election because they didn’t have time to get to the polling station. Sorry, but that's a fucking terrible excuse. You don't have to emerge from a forest or ride a camel or get in a boat to vote. You do have the time. You can get to a polling station.
You just don't want to, or you feel like you don't know enough.
Here are some tools to get informed.
- VoteForPolicies is a questionnaire you can fill out which will help advise you on what party you best align with.
- ISideWith does the same thing.
- Who Should You Vote For also does the same thing.
Take the test on different websites a few times so you're sure of your result.
You might have heard talk of 'tactical voting' this election.
- Here's a blog post on why I think you should not vote tactically.
- Here's one website that will help you cast a tactical ballot by telling you the nearest opposing candidate
- And here's another, backed by Gina Miller.
Be aware that these websites are usually built by people who support either Labour or the Liberal Democrats and therefore are unlikely to be partisan sources, especially if you want to vote Tory. But don't vote Tory.
Finally, if you're brave enough, here are the party manifestos you should check out: