Is there any point in voting (in America) this year?

Farscry wrote:
SallyNasty wrote:
Dirt wrote:

In democratic America, the hooey swallows you.

What is funny about this - in Russian hooey means dick.

Wait, seriously? Ewww, that lends some disturbing images to my previous post. :shock:

Lol, yup.

While it's your choice to vote or not vote, here's the problem you face: so far, human beings have come up with two basic ways to govern themselves. The first way is relatively new, and involves voting to make decisions. It's a terrible method, and has many flaws, but it does have one great advantage - people don't usually get hurt and killed and the process is relatively peaceful (although the outcome often is not).

The second way is the way we've been using since before we learned how to make fire. If someone doesn't agree with you, bash them over the head with a rock until they stop moving.

I'm a Libertarian, and I'm about as far from a supporter of government as you can imagine, as well as a firm believer in the non-aggression principle. Our republic is not perfect by any means. But you need to understand that there is really no such thing as not voting. You either try to work in the relatively peaceful system we have, or you abandon that system and vote for the use of raw violence as your sole group decision making process - civil war. There are some of us (more now with the wars) who have a fundamental understanding of what that means. We DO NOT want to go there. It is human pain and human suffering on a scale that you simply cannot imagine, that has to be experienced to be fully understood.

In fact, the system is the way it is, trending towards domination and violence, precisely because otherwise decent people like you have given up, and handed the reins over to people who are attracted by domination and power. The system sucks, yes - but what, exactly, is the alternative? If you want to continue until a rebellion is required, then that's fine - but understand the choice you are making.

And we've proven that the system can improve. Our society is better today in many areas, and we're absolutely a lot better off economically than even fifty years ago. The recent trend is bad, but the battle isn't over - and even if it was, it would just start again with another government. (Is there any time in history where more than a handful of people have lived together without a form of government?)

Me, if I'm going to go down, I'm going down swinging for peaceful change. Because the alternative sucks a lot worse, and ammo is expensive these days.

I don't often agree with Aetius, but he has it exactly right. Not voting is a vote for status quo.

If everyone disenchanted with the system made a protest vote instead, then you can really cause change. With voter turnout dropping getting a few thousand people voting for a third way can really shake the system.

Note that in any country where you vote, your vote is the only direct input you have to the government. It is also one of the only thing the politicians analyze in the long run (voting patterns, that is). So if you stop voting, the politicians stop caring about your vote - because they 'can't see it'. It doesn't register.
I don't know if it exists in the US, but in Canada there is the capacity to 'refuse the ballot'. You show up to the voting station and say "I refuse the ballot". You then COUNT in the elections database, but specifically show up as not voting for anyone. Thus, you show you were willing to vote, but no one supported what you want. If enough people did that, then political analysts would begin to wonder what they could do to get the votes of all these dissatisified people. If you just don't go and vote, the government will presume you will never vote, and stop caring one way or the other.
If you simply cannot stomach voting for anyone who exists now, this option may exist until there is someone you will vote for. Anyone here know if such a thing exists in the States?

Mousetrap wrote:

I don't know if it exists in the US, but in Canada there is the capacity to 'refuse the ballot'. You show up to the voting station and say "I refuse the ballot". You then COUNT in the elections database, but specifically show up as not voting for anyone. Thus, you show you were willing to vote, but no one supported what you want. If enough people did that, then political analysts would begin to wonder what they could do to get the votes of all these dissatisified people. If you just don't go and vote, the government will presume you will never vote, and stop caring one way or the other.
If you simply cannot stomach voting for anyone who exists now, this option may exist until there is someone you will vote for. Anyone here know if such a thing exists in the States?

We don't have it, though we should. Not sure if politicians in the U.S. would like it. Can you imagine if you are second place to "I refuse..." or none of the above. Be a great conversation starter though.

Mousetrap wrote:

Anyone here know if such a thing exists in the States?

It does not at my local level, state level, or national level here North Carolina. Sounds like a pretty good idea if you don't feel there's a candidate you can support.

I really like that idea as well. Leave it to Canada to show us a common sense way of doing things that will never be implemented in the U.S.

Ballotechnic wrote:

We don't have it, though we should. Not sure if politicians in the U.S. would like it. Can you imagine if you are second place to "I refuse..." or none of the above. Be a great conversation starter though.

True, but that is kind of the point. If more folks could show they would vote, just not for what is currently offered, there would be a political point to changing what you offered. If you just don't vote, you are in essence giving the government the license to ignore you.
It's a shame there isn't such a structure in the US; although admittedly I'm not sure how many Canadians know you can do it. I only know because I do work for a University Political Science department; and picked it up from the conversations of the Faculty - it is sadly not well advertised.

Even Russia has "no vote" - it is not uncommon throughout the world.

Mousetrap wrote:

I don't know if it exists in the US, but in Canada there is the capacity to 'refuse the ballot'. You show up to the voting station and say "I refuse the ballot". You then COUNT in the elections database, but specifically show up as not voting for anyone. Thus, you show you were willing to vote, but no one supported what you want. If enough people did that, then political analysts would begin to wonder what they could do to get the votes of all these dissatisified people. If you just don't go and vote, the government will presume you will never vote, and stop caring one way or the other.

Man, if that existed, I'd make sure to vote every election, since the "all of you suck" option is often a viable one lately, and at least then my vote would actually feel like it mattered.

In Chicago they keep track of everyone who votes, and who is a registered voter. If they know you didn't vote after checking the polling data or if you aren't a registered voter, at least at the Aldermanic level they will deny you city services. So your choice to vote can definately have some practical value. I know PandaEskimo had to go register in his ward before he could be issued parking permits despite having his lease.

Hang on a second while I drag out this dead horse.

First Past the Post (a.k.a. Plurality Voting) voting systems is the problem here. Out of the last remaining OECD countries that use plurality voting (Canada, US and UK I believe) only the US seems to have no plans of changing it.

I'll keep banging this drum but the American goodjers like DSGamer should start to take an interest in the upcoming election reform in the UK for many different reasons, your reason of voter apathy is quite apt here. If successful the UK stands a reasonable chance of being ruled by coalition for the foreseeable future, which an awful lot of Britons are beginning to realise isn't the end of the world, to put it mildly. If that doesn't interest you, the contortions Labour, the Tories and certain aspects of the media are going to have to pull in order to justify voting against a clearly more democratic system is going to be entertaining.

The NY Times has a story on my local senate race this year. We've got a wealthy republican, Linda McMahon (from the wrestling outfit), promising to spend boatloads of money in the country's most expensive campaign. Every day I get a piece of mail from this woman pushing her warmed-over Reaganism and various negative attacks on her opponents, and I will be happy to vote against her this November. Even if she wins, I'm still going to be glad I voted against the Reaganists.

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2010/09/01/99992/democrats-unlikely-to-repeal-tax.html

Democrats: extending the Bush tax cuts
Me: Still not voting

DSGamer wrote:

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2010/09/01/99992/democrats-unlikely-to-repeal-tax.html

Democrats: extending the Bush tax cuts
Me: Still not voting

The article is about some Democrats doubting their allegiance, due to fear of losing support from rich campaign funders and the GOP spin that taxes will be raised for everyone. With the vast majority the Dems still have in the House this shouldn't be a problem.

The Senate is another story, of course. Which I don't understand, since this is about whether or not to extend the Bush tax cuts. If the Senate does nothing, shouldn't these expire by default?

edit: wait, I got it. The Dems want to extend the benefits for people earning up to 200k per year, they'll need a law for that of course.

You have to vote! You get those cool stickers!

STICKERS!

If that argument doesn't sway you, consider this: part of the issue in living in a country so large is that unless you choose to get involved in politics yourself, a vote is your only contribution to the discussion. You can choose not to vote and I don't think that makes you any less of a "citizen" than anyone else (I mean, you're still paying taxes and otherwise contributing to society). Maybe it would make more of an impact to contact your representatives directly on matters that are important to you than casting another faceless vote. Sure, they might not listen, but at least you get to have your say more than if you checked a box on polling day.

It'd make things a whole lot simpler if we'd just replace politicians in Congress with corporate lobbyists, that way we could just vote on the corporations we want to be more fully represented in our government.

Farscry wrote:

It'd make things a whole lot simpler if we'd just replace politicians in Congress with corporate lobbyists, that way we could just vote on the corporations we want to be more fully represented in our government.

Ouch. It might be more direct representation, though.

ClockworkHouse wrote:
Farscry wrote:

It'd make things a whole lot simpler if we'd just replace politicians in Congress with corporate lobbyists, that way we could just vote on the corporations we want to be more fully represented in our government.

Ouch. It might be more direct representation, though.

More honest too.

Just thought I would share this from Seth Godin. Interesting food for thought, although I don't think it will change any minds.

Voting, misunderstood

This year, fewer than 40% of voting age Americans will actually vote.

A serious glitch in self-marketing, I think.

If you don't vote because you're trying to teach politicians a lesson, you're tragically misguided in your strategy. The very politicians you're trying to send a message to don't want you to vote. Since 1960, voting turnouts in mid-term elections are down significantly, and there's one reason: because of TV advertising.

Political TV advertising is designed to do only one thing: suppress the turnout of the opponent's supporters. If the TV ads can turn you off enough not to vote ("they're all bums") then their strategy has succeeded.

The astonishing thing is that voters haven't figured this out. As the scumminess and nastiness of campaigning and governing has escalated and the flakiness of candidates appears to have escalated as well, we've largely abdicated the high ground and permitted selfish partisans on both sides to hijack the system.

Voting is free. It's fairly fast. It doesn't make you responsible for the outcome, but it sure has an impact on what we have to live with going forward. The only thing that would make it better is free snacks.

Even if you're disgusted, vote. Vote for your least unfavorite choice. But go vote.

MrDeVil909 wrote:

Just thought I would share this from Seth Godin. Interesting food for thought, although I don't think it will change any minds.

Even if you're disgusted, vote. Vote for your least unfavorite choice. But go vote.

I refuse to vote for what I may consider the lesser of two evils. I'll either write-in or not vote for that office.

I filled out my ballot. Voted for the couple initiatives I cared about and basically voted straight-ticket anti-establishment. In races with no competition (judges, etc.), I wrote in random people. Then I messed up my mail in ballot. I didn't bother fixing it, so in the end I didn't vote as I originally figured I wouldn't.

Mousetrap wrote:

Note that in any country where you vote, your vote is the only direct input you have to the government. It is also one of the only thing the politicians analyze in the long run (voting patterns, that is). So if you stop voting, the politicians stop caring about your vote - because they 'can't see it'. It doesn't register.

I think this attitude (not picking on you, Mousetrap) might be at the heart of the problem. Often government feels so abstract and alien from our day-to-day lives that we assume that voting is the only means of communication that an electorate has with its elected. This is not true. It's the easiest, perhaps, and the one that takes the least amount of time. But politicians will listen to their constituency if it speaks with a loud enough voice. Why else do issues that inspire passionate vocal outcry (abortion, gay marriage, that new road through the park, water table pollution) tend to dominate political discussion? Because voters talk about them, in enough numbers and with enough volume to be heard over all the other political noise.

As a citizen, it is your responsibility to continue the conversation past the voting booth. If there's an issue you're passionate about, write letters. Make calls. Attend town hall meetings. Write op/ed letters to the newspapers. Start petitions. Attend rallies. Join local action groups. More importantly, organize and encourage others to do all the above. And start with the local government and move up; local governments are what have the most influence in our day-to-day lives, anyway.

While you decide to remain silent, crazy-ass Tea Partiers are doing all of the above. They're not nearly as numerous or as well-organized as more moderate citizens like us may fear, but because they're loud, because they participate, our political machine considers them to be a force worth reckoning with.

I know it's not en vogue to say or believe this, but most politicians in this country -- especially at the local level -- are genuinely good people trying to make a difference in and for their communities. They're not perfect. None of us are. Still, at the same time, they can't hear you if you don't speak up. Politicians know you're busy. So if there's an issue about which you feel passionately enough to contact them over and over and over again (and rally others to do the same), then they do listen.

One last thing: DSG, you specifically called out your unhappiness that those in Washington haven't ended civilian wire-tapping, or closed down Guantanamo Bay. You're absolutely correct that a vote won't change that. But relentless hounding of your elected representatives -- and if enough other people to do the same -- will. Doing so takes a lot more work than, say, hounding your local city council members over a new bus terminal or something. But if enough people make their voices heard, change does happen.

KaterinLHC wrote:

DS, you specifically called out your unhappiness that those in Washington haven't ended civilian wire-tapping, or closed down Guantanamo Bay. You're absolutely correct that a vote won't change that. But relentless hounding of your elected representatives -- and if enough other people to do the same -- will.

I understand what you're saying. And I do call and mail my reps / senators regularly. I promise them they will lose my vote if they go down the path they are going. This year I made good on this promise. My next political act will be a letter to all said politicians to let them know they discouraged a 16 year participant from the process.

In the end since I'm becoming so jaded I'm starting to believe that the only we citizens can get control back is if there is more local control across the board. If all the money weren't concentrated in DC, etc. It would be much easier to directly participate in our current democracy in a meaningful way if the federal govt. did less and our local govts. did more as they're more directly accessible.

KaterinLHC wrote:
Mousetrap wrote:

Note that in any country where you vote, your vote is the only direct input you have to the government. It is also one of the only thing the politicians analyze in the long run (voting patterns, that is). So if you stop voting, the politicians stop caring about your vote - because they 'can't see it'. It doesn't register.

I think this attitude (not picking on you, Mousetrap) might be at the heart of the problem. Often government feels so abstract and alien from our day-to-day lives that we assume that voting is the only means of communication that an electorate has with its elected. This is not true. It's the easiest, perhaps, and the one that takes the least amount of time. But politicians will listen to their constituency if it speaks with a loud enough voice. Why else do issues that inspire passionate vocal outcry (abortion, gay marriage, that new road through the park, water table pollution) tend to dominate political discussion? Because voters talk about them, in enough numbers and with enough volume to be heard over all the other political noise.

As a citizen, it is your responsibility to continue the conversation past the voting booth. If there's an issue you're passionate about, write letters. Make calls. Attend town hall meetings. Write op/ed letters to the newspapers. Start petitions. Attend rallies. Join local action groups. More importantly, organize and encourage others to do all the above. And start with the local government and move up; local governments are what have the most influence in our day-to-day lives, anyway.

While you decide to remain silent, crazy-ass Tea Partiers are doing all of the above. They're not nearly as numerous or as well-organized as more moderate citizens like us may fear, but because they're loud, because they participate, our political machine considers them to be a force worth reckoning with.

I know it's not en vogue to say or believe this, but most politicians in this country -- especially at the local level -- are genuinely good people trying to make a difference in and for their communities. They're not perfect. None of us are. Still, at the same time, they can't hear you if you don't speak up. Politicians know you're busy. So if there's an issue about which you feel passionately enough to contact them over and over and over again (and rally others to do the same), then they do listen.

One last thing: DSG, you specifically called out your unhappiness that those in Washington haven't ended civilian wire-tapping, or closed down Guantanamo Bay. You're absolutely correct that a vote won't change that. But relentless hounding of your elected representatives -- and if enough other people to do the same -- will. Doing so takes a lot more work than, say, hounding your local city council members over a new bus terminal or something. But if enough people make their voices heard, change does happen.

This. One hundred times this.

If you think that your duty begins and ends at the ballot box, you clearly don't understand the heavy responsibility of citizenship. To take a semi biblical analogy, it is like reaping what you haven't sown. The reaping is certainly important, but without having sown, you don't have much choice in what you'll reap.

KaterinLHC wrote:
Mousetrap wrote:

Note that in any country where you vote, your vote is the only direct input you have to the government. It is also one of the only thing the politicians analyze in the long run (voting patterns, that is). So if you stop voting, the politicians stop caring about your vote - because they 'can't see it'. It doesn't register.

I think this attitude (not picking on you, Mousetrap) might be at the heart of the problem. Often government feels so abstract and alien from our day-to-day lives that we assume that voting is the only means of communication that an electorate has with its elected. This is not true. It's the easiest, perhaps, and the one that takes the least amount of time. But politicians will listen to their constituency if it speaks with a loud enough voice. Why else do issues that inspire passionate vocal outcry (abortion, gay marriage, that new road through the park, water table pollution) tend to dominate political discussion? Because voters talk about them, in enough numbers and with enough volume to be heard over all the other political noise.

As a citizen, it is your responsibility to continue the conversation past the voting booth. If there's an issue you're passionate about, write letters. Make calls. Attend town hall meetings. Write op/ed letters to the newspapers. Start petitions. Attend rallies. Join local action groups. More importantly, organize and encourage others to do all the above. And start with the local government and move up; local governments are what have the most influence in our day-to-day lives, anyway.

While you decide to remain silent, crazy-ass Tea Partiers are doing all of the above. They're not nearly as numerous or as well-organized as more moderate citizens like us may fear, but because they're loud, because they participate, our political machine considers them to be a force worth reckoning with.

I know it's not en vogue to say or believe this, but most politicians in this country -- especially at the local level -- are genuinely good people trying to make a difference in and for their communities. They're not perfect. None of us are. Still, at the same time, they can't hear you if you don't speak up. Politicians know you're busy. So if there's an issue about which you feel passionately enough to contact them over and over and over again (and rally others to do the same), then they do listen.

One last thing: DSG, you specifically called out your unhappiness that those in Washington haven't ended civilian wire-tapping, or closed down Guantanamo Bay. You're absolutely correct that a vote won't change that. But relentless hounding of your elected representatives -- and if enough other people to do the same -- will. Doing so takes a lot more work than, say, hounding your local city council members over a new bus terminal or something. But if enough people make their voices heard, change does happen.

You are absolutely correct; I had skipped past all this in the recognition that despite everything you tell your representative, they only pay attention because you vote. Politicians listen to what people say only as far as it affects votes. So if you go to your representative and state you have no intention of voting, they will say "have a nice day and don't let the door hit your a** on the way out". It's one LESS person they ever have to worry about; one LESS person they have to listen to. Many politicians are learning to ignore the very things you write about, because they know many of the people yelling don't vote. A very sad state of affairs. Apologies to any politicians out there that are genuinely in the business to make the world a better place.

You are absolutely correct; I had skipped past all this in the recognition that despite everything you tell your representative, they only pay attention because you vote.

Isn't that what they are *supposed* to do? That does not preclude having their own ideas and agendas, but it's my personal experience that you can contact politicians and get a hearing and even help. Being a voter does count for something, especially if you are in extremis and need that kind of help.

Farscry wrote:
Mousetrap wrote:

I don't know if it exists in the US, but in Canada there is the capacity to 'refuse the ballot'. You show up to the voting station and say "I refuse the ballot". You then COUNT in the elections database, but specifically show up as not voting for anyone. Thus, you show you were willing to vote, but no one supported what you want. If enough people did that, then political analysts would begin to wonder what they could do to get the votes of all these dissatisified people. If you just don't go and vote, the government will presume you will never vote, and stop caring one way or the other.

Man, if that existed, I'd make sure to vote every election, since the "all of you suck" option is often a viable one lately, and at least then my vote would actually feel like it mattered.

Yep, this is basically my logic. I always check the write-in option and write "none". The alternative would be not voting, but this way at least it shows up somewhere in some database that there is a crank who took the time to vote but really truly has no use for any of the people running.

I usually take the cynical mercenary path, and vote for the candidate who disgusts me least for my Representative. Unfortunately this year, the guy I usually go with has run some of the most repugnant, insulting, pandering, tea-bag-wave-riding ads I've ever seen, the guy against him is far, far, worse, and apparently the Greens couldn't front anybody, so I'm not sure what to do. It's a dilemma, but I'm voting anyway.

infinitelyloopy wrote:

Yep, this is basically my logic. I always check the write-in option and write "none". The alternative would be not voting, but this way at least it shows up somewhere in some database that there is a crank who took the time to vote but really truly has no use for any of the people running.

In North Carolina and several other states, those votes are simply discarded - there is no record kept of any write-in votes other than the write-in candidates who got the signatures they needed to be an official write-in candidate (but not on the ballot). We're actually staging a protest of that tomorrow at our local BoE.