Election Week Holiday Carnival

The premise is that voting should take place on a bank holiday, coming at the end of several days in which the country does little beyond discuss the election. Everyone should, by statute, be given paid annual leave on the day of the vote, not only to vote, but to participate in widely held activities relating to, and held in the build-up to, the election. These events should start days, or even a full week, in advance of the vote itself. These activities should be held in public places, and everyone should be encouraged to take the entire week off work.

The economic costs of taking this time off work to be subsidised by the public purse where necessary. Save for essential and emergency services, the country to shut down for several days in the run up to the vote. Certain key geographical areas, including urban centres such as Trafalgar Square, Downing Street, and the roads surrounding Hyde Park, to be closed to traffic and taken over by pedestrian citizens (apologies for non-London examples – suggestions welcome!). These spaces to be dedicated to hustings, leafleting, debate, and the creation of a carnival atmosphere surrounding the proceedings.

It might be thought that the economic cost of shutting down the country is too great a price to pay. But this is to misunderstand the cost benefit analysis. The informed and deliberative consent of the electorate is essential for Government to function. A few days of reduced profits is a price well worth paying. Moreover, the process will help to make the voting process more open to minorities and working class people, many of whom find it difficult and personally burdensome to engage in the process of voting.

The privacy of the act of voting itself, and the polling stations within which it takes place, to remain insulated from the election carnival taking place outside.

 

The central idea animating this suggestion is that voting should not be a chore. It should not be difficult to fit the act of voting into a busy work schedule. This proposal aims to create a socio-political culture, reinforced by legislation, according to which citizens dedicate serious time to the process of electing a new Government. Voting should be a positive, fulfilling experience that brings us closer to one another and draws us into a political process that belongs to us. The Scottish referendum was an example of this: everyone could be heard talking about the issue on street corners, in pubs, classrooms. The Scottish public reclaimed ownership of the content and manner of their political-electoral process. It was a sign of what politics could be. Simple, easily realisable amendments like this will help to bring about that culture.

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