British Democracy Goes To Work

courtesy of UK Political Info

As I settle into my new neighborhood here in north London, I’m eagerly awaiting my postal ballot for the all-important Brexit referendum. This is only my second opportunity to exercise my right to vote here as a dual US/British citizen, so I’m relishing the moment.

But it doesn’t arrive. Probably my fault for moving home just when the deadline for re-registering expires. But it’s also likely that the ballot is stuck in the Royal Mail, where the service hasn’t been quite up to snuff since they privatized it two years ago.

So last night, June 22 at 11: 23 pm to be precise, I e-mail my local voter registry to ask what to do. Of course, at that hour all I could hope to get was an automated response, which is just what I got: “closed until 7 am.”

Again, my bad.

But then, early this morning — election day — before I even turn on my cell phone, I receive not one, but three personally written responses advising me of my voting options. Two of the messages arrive before it is even 7 am.

Big Day for Britain

This is an historic decision day for the UK, and people here and in Europe are holding their breath. All of them will have to live with the economic and political consequences of whatever a simple majority decides.

Brexit supporters claim, among many other absurdities, that this vote is about “democracy” and taking back their country from the immigrants and those faceless Eurocrats in Brussels. But all the evidence I’ve seen, including today’s local voting episode, tells me that democracy in Britain is working just fine within the EU.

Voter turnout in the UK is consistently healthy, running at an average of 76% over the past nine elections, versus 54% in the US. It’s of course higher in other democracies, such as Denmark, where awareness of the small size of the population helps people to understand just how much their vote counts.

Turnout here has in fact been on the rise since the turn of the century, and for this vote in particular, it could bring the margin needed to secure a win for the Remain camp.

With the stakes of this vote this high, isn’t it reassuring to know that the institutions responsible for getting out the vote are functioning so well? Surely there’s something here for us all to learn about how to run a democracy. America, are you paying attention?

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