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How to vote properly

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I’m not going to tell you how to vote. But if you do vote, and if you’re still feeling queasy or undecided, staring down the ranged barrels of a half-dozen unpleasant options, I can offer some food for thought.

Tomorrow, it’s all over; from Friday we can sink into whatever hell awaits us without being asked to engage with it any further. But there’s one last agonising ritual, played out in Facebook feeds and petty conversations across the country: people – ordinary people you thought were on your side – telling you to do your civic duty. It doesn’t matter who you vote for, they chirrup brightly, as long as you vote!

I’ve never understood it. Nobody says during a war that it doesn’t matter what side you fight for, as long as you kill someone. Voting is a boring act, another form to fill out in a world strangled by paperwork, and as everyone should realise by now, democracy doesn’t really work.

British democracy, especially, isn’t doing too well right now, but one thing we still have is the anonymous ballot. What you say and do everywhere else in the world can always be picked over and scrutinised by someone else. In our polling booths, however, it’s just you and your conscience. Everything else that’s been blabbered about for six weeks – common sense, political reality, strong and stable leadership, tactical voting – it doesn’t really matter. The only real question is this: what kind of a world do you really want to live in?

Are things fine? Is this the best we can do? Or do we need a change? Change might not be better; change could be worse than what we have now. We have an array of institutions set up to make sure that whatever democratic change we do vote for comes slowly and with huge difficulty. And like any choice, it’s a leap into the unknown. But if you’ve ever felt that things aren’t going the way they should, this is your chance to set them differently.

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