Much has been made of the declining trend in voter turnout by Eurosceptics such as Eamonn Fitzgerald here who predicted an overall turnout figure of 32% for this election. In fact the actual figure was 43%.
Still not a lot to crow about, I hear you say, but what this table makes clear is that most of the decline from 62% in 1979 to 43% in 2009 is explained by the expansion of the EU from 9 to 27 members with most of the new members having below average turnouts. Even the 2% decline since the 2004 elections can be explained in part by the very low turnout in new member states Bulgaria and Romania.
This is very disappointing. One might have expected newer member states to be more enthusiastic about the EU and democracy, particularly as many of the newer states have recently emerged from one party Communist rule.
Amongst the oldest 9 member states, the turnout has actually gone up since 1979 in Denmark, Luxembourg, and the UK, although there have been declines in the other 6 older member states.
So what is to be done to revive enthusiasm for voting - and to generate it in those newer member states who are dragging down the average? One controversial!!! suggestion I would have is to make the number of seats allocated to a member state proportionate to its turnout. Thus Slovakia with a 20% turnout would only receive 20% of its 13 allocated seats, but Belgium with 90% turnout would receive 90% of its 22 allocated seats!
Vote or lose your seats and proportionate level of influence ion the Parliament! That would give people an incentive to go out and vote!!! It would also reduce the size of the Parliament from its current unwieldy 736 members.
Voting and not voting should have clear and measurable consequences. If you don’t care about democracy, why should it care about you?