Here is the world’s shortest hot-take on yesterday’s big news: democracy is more than voting.

Shocked/amazed kid

Mind = blown

So, yes, as you may have noticed, the US midterms happened. They’re all over everyone’s news today (and maybe some of us stayed up long past midnight watching the various livestreams and reading /r/politics). There is no denying that they are a Big Deal, wherever you live in the world. But let’s not make the mistake of thinking that they – or any electoral ballot – are the whole deal. There’s more to democracy than voting in elections.

Most of democracy, by miles, happens in those long, grey, business-as-usual stretches between elections. In the ‘boring’, everyday, not-even-anyone-using-a-swingometer-or-walking-between-3D-CGI-heat-maps work of governing.

The selection of representatives may have been settled but there are still tons of decisions to make, which means there’s still tons of democracy to do. It’s ‘just’ the crucial, ongoing democratic responsibility of involving citizens in the choices that affect them: the renovation of parks and the placement of bus stops; the particulars of environmental policies and the priorities for local healthcare; the logistics of bins.

For example, right now:

Transport plans

Local authorities across London, UK, are consulting on their Local Implementation Plans (LIPs), asking residents how they want to see transport work in their area.

Maternity services

The Australian Government Department of Health are developing a national strategic approach to maternity services. They want to hear from stakeholders about whether the draft approach has adequately incorporated all the aspects that are important to them.

Police priorities

The Police Service of Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Policing Board are making strategic decisions about the structure and delivery of local policing. They’re using a priority simulator to hear about what matters most to the community and to help shape the future of policing accordingly.

Justice reforms

The New Zealand Ministry of Justice are looking at family justice system reforms. They want feedback from people affected by changes made to the system, to better understand what is working well and what is not.


They might not all get front-page press coverage but these examples – a tiny handful from among many – are massively significant decisions which need public involvement, too, and which are just as much a part of a functioning democracy as any election.

Voting is a massive deal and we’re following it as closely and nerdily as anyone – but let’s keep fighting for deliberation and participation and connection between government and citizens in the decisions that don’t use a ballot box, too.