<i>IoS</i> 'One of the Above' campaign letters special

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The Independent Online

Voting is indeed "one of the most precious freedoms we can have", but the low turnouts in recent elections have shown just how few people in this country appreciate it. Low participation diminishes our democracy, and it would be a devastating blow if the expenses scandal and general political disillusionment were to deter even more people from taking part.

You are therefore right to urge your readers to exercise their "responsibility" to vote. But political parties must also make more effort to engage with citizens, by providing clear and accessible information on what they stand for. They could start by reaching out to the half million people with learning disabilities in England who are eligible to vote but do not, either because they find politics complex and alienating, or there is a lack of easy-to-read information on democracy and voting.

In January, United Response launched our own campaign, Every Vote Counts ( www.everyvotecounts.org.uk), which urged all parties to make political information, such as websites and leaflets, more accessible before the general election. Less jargon, simpler language, larger text and better use of visual aids would not only help people with learning disabilities to understand politics better, but also people with low literacy and visual impairments. Politicians simply can't afford to ignore any potential voters in 2010.

Su Sayer OBE

Chief Executive, United Response

London SW15

One of the problems of this country is that there is more general emphasis on royal tradition than on the celebration of how our democratic values were achieved. Thus we now believe that our values were "given" to us, rather than hard fought for.

The Independent on Sunday could list 10 democratic measures we need to fight for to enhance our democracy. An improvement from the past 500 years, shall we say.

Pablo Behrens

via email

The British first-past-the-post voting system for parliamentary elections, which tends to return one party with a working majority on a minority of votes cast, while denying small groupings representation, is an affront to democracy and a fraud on the electorate. Right-minded people, who would eschew duplicity in any other aspect of their lives, should not participate in a procedure that is so blatantly dishonest and should withhold their votes until it is changed. Principled abstention is not apathy.

Mike Timms

Iver, Buckinghamshire

Of course, every voice counts, and getting on to the electoral register is vital. But, and it is a big but, in Leicester East, where I live, the "incumbent", Keith Vaz, has such a huge majority that it makes any votes generated by your campaign almost useless. I want him replaced, but what on earth can I do?

John Burrows

Leicester

I have been thinking of writing "none of the above" on my voting paper this time. So I had to read about your One of the Above campaign carefully. My problem is that voting for the party I would really like to vote for would be a wasted vote. It is too small. Alternatively, I could vote tactically in order to vote out a leading party that I definitely would not want. So what am I to do?

I am a pensioner and I have voted all my life. Not once have I been represented in Parliament. But there is a way out. Critically, we need a proportional voting system. Representative democracy is not democracy unless it has proportionality. The answer then is to vote only for those parties that promise electoral reform. Of course, there are other aspects to democratic reform, but a proportional voting system will give us the right numbers of MPs to reflect our views, and this is the first essential step.

Dr Tim Williamson

Bath

It is not apathy that keeps me from voting. It is not that I do not care about the country. It is the knowledge that changing a policy, a party or prime minister is ineffectual. It is the knowledge that the current party-political structure, kept afloat by voters, is what needs to go.

Piers Colby

Norwich

I feel very strongly that, after all the struggles people had to get universal suffrage, it is one's duty to vote, and in that respect I applaud your campaign. However, I think more people might be persuaded to vote if your campaign also pressed for "None of the Above" to be added to the voting paper. In that way people could fulfil their duty to vote, but also express a widely held frustration that very few existing politicians are worth voting for.

Jenny Norman

via email

It is not only our democratic right, it is also our democratic duty to vote; so I support your One of the Above campaign. Judging by their conversations and criticisms of "what is wrong with the country", I do not believe that the majority of people (including the young) are not interested in politics. They feel disengaged from the present party-political system – and the petty point-scoring.

We need politicians with policies – and the integrity to pursue them, regardless of pressure from party whips. We do not want TV "celebrities" who curry popularity running our country.

Malcolm Morrison

Swindon, Wiltshire

The IoS's One of the Above campaign has two aims: to persuade as many people as possible to register to vote, and to encourage all voters to exercise their franchise on 6 May. But, as our readers suggest, the current first-past-the-post system has its flaws, and our focus will turn to electoral reform in coming weeks

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