Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The right to vote

There are some people who say that voting is an exercise in futility, that all politicians are corrupt and on the payroll of special interest groups. I am not one of the jaded. I believe in the right to vote, and I have been exercising that right since my first election in 1988.

It has always surprised that, for a country that proudly claims to be the biggest democracy, voter turnout in the US tends to be on the low side. This year may be completely different, and I am very interested to see how many people get out to vote. Now, if only we could get rid of the outmoded electoral college idea...


  1. My choice not to vote is because I don't believe the leader of a country should be selected based on a popularity contest. Our leader should be based on merit and ability. Both Hitler and Bush are poster children for why the general populous should not choose the leader.

    There are other arguments that have to do with futility, like the Constitution actually stating that the real vote is in the electoral vote and that the states can determine how the popular vote relates to the electoral vote. And the practice of winner-take-all which marginalizes votes if you believe in popular votes.

    My fundamental reason for not voting and never voting is that with our current system, it matters very little in the long run. The leader of our country is subject to his/her time. The leader is a reflection of the people. So when we condemn or praise our leader, it is really a condemnation or praise of the people in the country.

    Voting has very little real power. There is some significance to it, but it is NOT an individual's voice as it is often popular to say. The only voice a person has is that person's voice. The power to speak is much more politically powerful.

    Votes have never had any effect on the course of the world. All the power lies in how each individual lives his/her life. A country is merely a sum of our lives. For many years, George W. Bush represented that sum. That doesn't say much for us.

    We will get record numbers of voters that turn up to vote. Then they will go home and return to live as usual for two to four more years.

  2. I was waiting for your comment, Greg. I respect your position. I do not agree with it, though. Letting your voice be heard and voting need not be mutually exclusive.

    The right to vote is the right to have a choice. Your choice is not to vote. Mine is to vote. There are many things that need to be corrected in this system of ours, but I do believe in the power of the vote. Like it or not, in this country leaders get picked by votes, and when the apathetic do not vote, they are leaving the choice in other people's hands.

    Politicians may reflect their historical time in a way, but the way you say this sounds almost like fate. Back when Dubya was first elected, and even in the aftermath of 911, we were not a single unfied block of people in harmony with his policies. If more people who disliked Dubya had voted, perhaps we would have had a different outcome.

    Also, leaders who do not depend on votes to reach and stay in power can very easily forget to uphold basic civil liberties and indulge in rampant censorship and political persecution.

  3. Greg, I'm not sure I understand your position. Are you advocating that no one vote because it's a meaningless exercise? How is a democracy to operate like that? How would a president or head of state be identified? I believe that if we are to enjoy the privilege of living in the US, then it is our responsibility to vote in the person we believe will best uphold the principles this country is based on. With all due respect, I cannot for my life understand those who choose to not vote. It's your right as a citizen of a free country, but I don't get it. If you don't think voting has had any effect on the course of the world, just stop and think how things might be different for us today if someone else had been at the helm on 9/11. If someone else might have been keeping an eye on Wall Street and the financial system. I wish you'd go vote!

  4. I voted during early voting, and I do believe it's something everyone who can vote should do because a system where everyone is allowed to have their say doesn't work if many choose to keep quiet. I do not advocate the idea some do that would make voting mandatory, though. I think people who do speak up have something more intelligent to say when they speak up voluntarily. If someone wants to send the message that they do care enough to vote, but refuse to be forced to choose among the current options, I encourage them to submit a blank ballot. Not submitting a ballot at all doesn't send a specific message. It could mean you just don't care, or that you lost track of time and didn't realize it was election day. A blank ballot is more likely to be read as, "I care enough to vote, but not for any of these people."

    I agree that government representatives should not be chosen based on popularity, but I do not necessarily believe they should be chosen by what they can do. The truth is, America is not a democracy... it is a representative republic. Our government representatives have spent years ignoring that and making all kinds of decisions it is not their job to make. Their job is to represent what their constituents want, whether or not it's what they want, and whether or not it's really what is best for us. That's why it's called "government for the people by the people", not "government for the people by people who know what's best for you."

    I do agree that the electoral college has some serious issues, but I would not want to see it changed unless a truly better plan was put in place. As it is, doing away with the electoral college and simply going by the popular vote would likely result in candidates ignoring lower population areas. If you can win the vote in the really high population states, why bother with some of the much smaller states?

    I still believe that a lot of what is wrong with America could be fixed by more people voting and then staying involved... making sure their representatives hear from them at times other than when they cast their vote. And by more people learning how the system was really set up to put power in the hands of the people, not so that the people choose who to give power over their lives to every few years. Reading "The Federalist Papers" helps with understanding that, since the Founding Fathers spend a lot of time explaining in those essays why they wrote things the way they did in our Constitutions, and in many cases, why they left something out of it completely.

  5. Thank you for your comment, Kelly. I agree we should all be more involved, not just in the voting booth, but once they are elected.

    ... a system where everyone is allowed to have their say doesn't work if many choose to keep quiet.


    I still have misgivings about the electoral college, because I think it allows for entire states to be ignored as politicians campaign for the swing states. Also, the possibility that someone could win the popular vote and lose the election doesn't sit well with me.

  6. Ingrid and RD, like many of my arguments, I often include things that seem contrary. I completely agree with Ingrid as far as voting is a right as not voting is also a right. And despite my personal objection to voting, unlike Ingrid, I think I would mostly agree with the system in place.

    I don't think public office should be reduced to a popularity contest as a popular vote does. So I see merit in the electoral system. And I see merit in allowing a popular vote so people feel involved. My comments about voting change depending on my perspective, and there are a lot of perspectives to look at it from.

    Words like fate and chance and randomness are all generalized words that represent something we can't quite figure out. Everything can potentially be predicted, yes, but this is not fate, this is dropping a ball and having a pretty good idea that it will go down instead of up. What keeps us from making reliable predictions is that life is extremely complicated and has more variables than even the most advanced computers can handle, let alone a single person.

    So my theory is that certain social forces choose the leader of our country long before Election Day (or even for local elections). By the time elections roll around, voters have been manipulated by these same social forces and vote accordingly. That is why we occasionally get bad choices like Hitler and Dubyah. And this is why I would argue that the one change that we do need is that basic qualifications, like experience and education, for any office should be added as a requirement.

    It's funny that we have requirements for doctors and teachers and lawyers and other important positions in society. Yet for arguably the most important position all you have to do is breathe, be old enough, and be born somewhere in the U.S. How odd is that? Have one person's life in your hands, and you need an M.D. Yet have an entire nation of lives in your hands, and you don't even need a G.E.D.

    I support voting as a pacification method for the masses. But when asked what I really think about it, because I'm not running for any office, I'll be honest and say what it is. If you really believe in someone, the most effective thing you can do is give them money. So giving money to a candidate will help that candidate get office, but voting, no, not so much.

    The odd thing here though is that "saying" that you are voting for a particular candidate DOES effect whether they get into office because this adds to their social force which generally translates to money. Whether that person actually gets around to voting or not, or even votes for the other guy/gal, really doesn't matter.

    I can get into more details of my argument but I'll probably save that for my blog.

  7. I certainly VOTED.

    And I have never been more proud to know that I cast MY VOTE in such a historical event.