In Part 1 of our Pre-Election guide, Neil Robertson explains why not voting is "a small protest against a big injustice".
As a voter who's long felt left behind by Labour, who's unimpressed by the wet flannel liberalism of Nick Clegg and who remains underwhelmed by parties on the electoral fringe, this election has often felt like a choice between "the lesser of who cares?".
For me, the prospect of voting this May - a task I might have once grasped with enthusiasm - seems like a tawdry chore, with each party appearing like a cheap imitation of my own values.
Still, after a good few months of dismayed dithering and yawning, I finally came to a decision about how I'm going to vote in this election:
Here's the thing: 6 years ago a British prisoner called John Hirst went to the European Court of Human Rights demanding that our government give him and his fellow inmates the right to vote. The court ruled that our blanket ban violated the Human Rights Act, and ordered the government to make the necessary changes.
Naturally, the government has deliberately dragged its feet ever since; issuing objections and obfuscations at every turn, and getting no closer to changing the law than the establishment of some weak-willed 'consulation exercises'.
This was fine for the first five years, but now the election has brought the matter into sharp relief. After ignoring repeated warnings that the General Election must not take place without the ban being lifted, in December the Council of Europe suggested that the election may breach the European convention on human rights. The council repeated that claim last week, along with the notice that, unless the law is changed, tens of thousands of prisoners would be within their rights to sue the British government.
As it stands, the coming election promises to be the first in modern history where tens of thousands of British citizens have illegaly barred from casting a ballot. Whatever crimes these men & women may have committed, however dubious their character, can we really claim to be tough on those who break the law when we are happy for the state to break its own laws in order to punish them?
For me, the answer is an unequivocal 'no'. I cannot, in good conscience, exercise my legally-guaranteed right to participate in the democratic process when tens of thousands of Britons are illegally deprived of theirs. For that reason, I will be staying at home come election day. Not out of apathy, nor out of a lack of available alternatives, but as a small protest against a big injustice.
Neil Robertson blogs at The Bleeding Heart Show.
[Tomorrow: the Pirate Party, by Aaron Murin-Heath].