Nov 01 2010

Just Don’t Do It

I’m going to say something that’s considered unpatriotic and heretical these days, so brace yourself:

I don’t care if you vote.

There are a lot of annoying things about election season, but the one that sets my teeth on edge the most is when someone says, “Get out there and vote. I don’t care who you vote for, but get out there and be part of the blah blah democratic process blah blah blah…”

See, maybe I’m weird, but when I vote for people, it’s because I want them to win. I might turn out to be wrong, of course; but at the time I mark that box, I think the candidates I’m choosing are better than their opponents. It would make no sense for me to go around trying to get random people to vote, since that would only dilute my own vote. Ideally, everyone else would forget to vote, and all my choices would win. But failing that, the fewer voters there are, the better the chance my vote will actually decide something.

Of course, if I know someone’s going to vote like me, then it makes sense to encourage him to vote. That’s why groups like MoveOn.org and MTV’s Rock the Vote concentrate their efforts on college campuses. They don’t push certain parties or candidates officially, but they know college students skew strongly Democrat, so the more students they can get to the polls, the more it’ll help their favored candidates. That’s why you won’t see them working at country clubs or gun shows, and it makes perfect sense: ┬áthose aren’t the people they want going to the polls. ┬áSo that’s not what I’m talking about here.

But when people push for the general public to vote, that doesn’t make sense anymore. Radio DJs constantly do this: “In case you hadn’t heard, it’s election day, so be sure to get out there and vote, whether you’ve heard of the candidates before or not!” What’s the point of trying to nudge a bunch of people who aren’t really that interested into going and putting their ballots into the box next to yours?

If you’re like me, and you think the two major parties are too much alike and have generally made a hash of things, then you really shouldn’t want everyone and his dog to vote. Here’s why: less-informed people are bound to be more likely to vote on name recognition, which means they’re going to vote for the Democrat or the Republican. That’s why political signs exist, after all: a yard sign that says “Bill Brady for Governor” tells you absolutely nothing about the candidate, but they hope after you see a few thousand of them you’ll have his name stuck in your head. Since third parties need to get a certain percentage of the vote to get matching election funds the next time around, more casual votes for the main two parties just makes it harder for third parties to get over that hump.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those people who thinks you should have to pass a test on the Constitution before you get a ballot, or that only political junkies should vote. If you want to vote for John Spring because you like his hair, or against another guy because he cut ahead of you in traffic one time, by all means do so. But at least have some reason for voting. Don’t go vote just because the radio says you should. It’s not a duty, and you’re not a bad American if you don’t vote. If you’re not particularly interested or don’t see much difference between the candidates, then stay home.

I promise I’ll pick the best candidates for you.

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