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Why Should (or Shouldn’t) We Vote?

November 3, 2010

As many of you know yesterday was election day.  So, just like many people out there, I felt the need to talk about the elections with my friends.  And, in every one of the conversations I started with the same question, “Did you vote today?”  To my surprise, every time I asked this question I was told no.  Then came the follow-up question, “Are you going to vote today?”  And again I was met with a resounding no.  Maybe I was just talking to the wrong people, but in any case all of this voter apathy got me thinking.  All this discussion on social contract theories is fine and dandy, but what happens when a social contract is accepted and yet the people simply don’t follow through?

What’s the point in deciding to be a democracy if the people don’t follow through with their civic duty?  Can it even be considered a representative government when only about half of those able to vote bother to show up to cast a ballot?  These questions I pose simply as food for thought, as I have no profound answers for you. 

Maybe what I should really think about is why so many people don’t show up to the polls.  In talking with all of my friends who don’t vote, the main reason isn’t that they don’t care about this country, but instead that they simply don’t feel informed enough to make the right decision.  Now, not being informed certainly may seem like a “don’t care” attitude, but it seems to me that there is a difference.  They aren’t voting because they don’t give a damn, they’re not voting because they’re afraid to make the wrong choice.  This is ridiculous because of course you’re going to make the wrong choice sooner or later, but thankfully there are enough people voting that the guilt doesn’t fall on you alone.  If a representative does a terrible job it isn’t the fault of one voter, but of the voters as a whole.  And even if we all screw up and pick a terrible person, we’ll get another chance the next time an election comes around.  So why not vote those times that you get the chance?

One of my friends also voiced an opinion against young people voting.  My friend said, “I don’t think young people should vote unless they are extremely involved in politics.  They don’t have the experience and wisdom that older voters do.”  This logic is faulty because how do you become an experienced and wise voter without ever voting?  And what makes an older person any more informed than those of the younger generation?

I guess since I vote and think voting is important, I can’t understand the perspective of my friends.  If you don’t vote I would really be interested to hear why.  Why not take part and make a difference?

  1. Stephanie Priel permalink
    November 3, 2010 1:18 AM

    I agree with your assertion that young people should vote, whether or not they are fully informed about each prop. However, I don’t think a main reason why people should vote should be because they are going to make a mistake sooner or later. I think we should vote because voting is a privilege that generations before us fought to achieve. Now, we should take advantage of the rights that we have. Still, I did not vote at this election. It was not because I don’t care or think I will make a mistake, but because I feel that coming from another state makes it hard. This could be a misconception that I hold but I would be interested to learn how easy, or hard, it is to register in another state for college so that I can exercise my voting rights.

    • blanchc permalink
      November 7, 2010 11:47 AM

      I wasn’t trying to say that a reason you should vote is because you will make a mistake sooner or later. What I was trying to say that fear of making a mistake isn’t a good enough reason not to vote. And you don’t have to re-register in order to vote, you can always just vote absentee in your home state.

      • dmalks permalink
        November 10, 2010 5:07 PM

        I agree that fear of making a mistake is not a good enough reason to vote. Everyone makes mistakes, and we should all vote based on the knowledge that we know about the issues at hand. It should not matter how educated someone is about the specific election, we should all vote based on the facts we do know.

  2. dbwein permalink
    November 3, 2010 11:01 AM

    When considering who to vote for on Tuesday, I came up with the same problem. I am not originally from Michigan, and although I try to stay up to date on the politics in my home state, I am not so informed on the politics of Ann Arbor or of MI as a whole. However, I am registered to vote in Michigan. This posed a problem for me – I feel it is my civic duty to vote, but how can I vote when I feel I am ill-informed. I think that with the responsibility of voting comes the responsibility of making yourself informed. So, I decided to do some research. We have so much information available to us – it is not difficult to find out some information on the candidates. I believe, as 18+ year olds, we are all old enough to vote. However, we MUST take it upon ourselves to take a little time out of our days and get a informed.

    • blanchc permalink
      November 7, 2010 11:48 AM

      I very much agree with you. Saying that you’re not informed isn’t a good enough excuse because there’s plenty of information out there that would make becoming informed easy enough.

  3. Sara Mitchell permalink
    November 3, 2010 12:44 PM

    I disagree with your logic on the fact that we will make the wrong choice sooner or later. What constitutes as the wrong choice in voting anyway? Don’t people vote for the candidates with the ideas that most reflect their own? Furthermore, in a way I do agree with the statement your friend made regarding young people not voting unless they are very into politics. When people come of age to vote, some are excited that they can finally exercise their right to vote. Other, on the other hand, are not knowledgeable enough on politics or what is going on in the political world that it would be ignorant to vote because they are uneducated about the subject. The act of voting will not make a person any wiser or more knowledgeable in politics. If a person wants to vote but doesn’t know what is going on in the election, they simply should not vote and take the time to read up on what is going on and vote next time. Voting just to vote is not right; there should always be a reason behind the vote other than just wanting to vote.

    • blanchc permalink
      November 7, 2010 11:53 AM

      You make several good points. I agree with much of what you said and give you props for pointing out the flaws in my post. I never really meant to imply that people should vote just for the sake of voting, I would much rather voters be informed. I was trying to suggest that the reasons people don’t vote aren’t good enough reasons. In my opinion, if you’re a citizen, you shouldn’t let any excuse stop you from becoming informed and voting.

  4. tungyat permalink
    November 3, 2010 4:21 PM

    As a non-US citizen, I’m unable to participate in these elections via voting. However, I’d just like to point out the opportunity that many young voters have today, to influence the political course of their country. Where I come from, we have limited political power in a system which is close to a mock or farcical democracy. Although many students have a heavy workload, I’m sure that most of you can find the time to do the research and decide for yourselves who and what ideals you want to vote for, as after all, you are living in this country, and this country’s politics will shape your life in some form or another.

  5. neilrab permalink
    November 3, 2010 8:56 PM

    I agree with your post. I, for example, didn’t vote, not because I didn’t care but because I’m not informed enough to make a decision. Also, it’s hard to vote for a candidate considering they are going to be in office for a number of year and the economical and social situation that we are in now could completely change after we graduate college. Thus, the reason that we voted for the candidate now could be the opposite of what we want in a few years.

    In the 2008 campaign, there were many surveys and questionnaires given out that determined that there needs to be an increase in voters ages 18-25, and the reason they don’t vote is because they aren’t well informed or represented in campaigns. If politicians made it one of their priorities to appeal to the younger population, I bet more of them would vote. I make sure to keep updated with the political world, but I don’t follow enough about each politicians campaign and beliefs to decide who to vote for or figure out the repercussions of electing a certain candidate.

    In Argentina, for example, anyone over 18 HAS to vote or they have to pay a fine and could face prison time. Many people can be deceived and manipulated into voting for a certain candidate. For that reason, I think it’s better that only people that are well informed should vote. Having the right to vote means you have the choice to vote or not vote as well.

  6. Katelyn Salowitz permalink
    November 4, 2010 9:08 AM

    Voting is our civic duty, but as mentioned many people do not take part in it. I considered not voting because, as the article said above, I did not feel I knew enough about the issues to cast a ballot. However, upon further thinking I decided there was nothing holding me back from getting educated about the issues. The internet and newspapers offer a wide variety of sources for a person to get information from. Of course, not all of this is accurate and it is necessary to try and weed through the junk as best as possible, but overall I think taking some time out of your day to learn to facts about the future of your town, state, or country is important. We are lucky enough to have this right, and we really need to take advantage of it. If we don’t, then we do not really have to the right to complain about issues later.

  7. Amani permalink
    November 4, 2010 5:59 PM

    I was talking to my friend the other day, and she was telling me how her friend always complains about the results of the election, but he never votes. She started explaining to him how in order to complain, you must have contributed to the election and been a part of it. In order to complain you need to vote!

    I believe the reason people don’t vote is because they think their vote won’t matter. They are just one person so by them voting there isn’t going to be any changes to the results. However, if every individual believes this then there won’t be any or effective changes to the results of the election. But, I also agree that a person shouldn’t vote unless they are well informed on whom they are voting for, you shouldn’t vote just because everyone else is doing it, you have to research and learn about each candidate and make your own decision.

    Voting is very important, because it determines how our country will be run. So if you want to see change than you should go out and vote because with each vote our country becomes that much closer to change.

  8. xiaoyzhang permalink
    November 4, 2010 9:29 PM

    The main reason I don’t vote is because I just don’t believe that 1 vote makes a huge difference. I don’t see my 1 vote having any influence on how the election will turn out. If my 1 vote turned out to make a difference in the election, then yes, I probably would have voted. But I dont think my vote would have mattered in Tuesday’s election. I’m also not a political junkie, and don’t really care about politics around us. I’ll let people who are much better informed make a decision for me about how the state of Michigan should be governed.

  9. seangordon permalink
    November 5, 2010 1:55 AM

    However, if everyone shared the mentality to not vote because their “1 vote” would not mean anything, then there would be no voters at all and thus, no possible way to have any sort of a political system.

  10. jwalsky24 permalink
    November 6, 2010 8:59 PM

    People young and old will come up with every reason for why they vote. You might vote on the issues, the party, or the hairdos of the candidates. But they often fail to realize where their vote fits into our political process. Important political decisions are made every day that will likely have an impact on your life at some point, but you have no direct say in any of it until Election Day rolls around every two years. So are you saying that you can’t get out of bed just once every 730 days, even if its raining, go to the polls, and make a conscious effort to think about the issues and decide between candidates? If everyone actually did that, we might not be complaining as much as we do about the quality of our politicians. Come on. Go vote.

    • blanchc permalink
      November 7, 2010 11:43 AM

      Thank you for this comment. This was what I was trying to convey with my original post, however, you have phrased the argument much more eloquently than I could ever manage to.

  11. jldykes permalink
    November 6, 2010 9:55 PM

    Although I am unable to vote, I still have strong views regarding voting and also agree with some of the points made it the original post. Despite this, I always feel that people can still be instrumental in every election whether or not they are eligible to vote. During the 2008 presidential election, I took it upon myself to assist others in registering to vote so that they could participate in the election. It basically involved setting up in public places and asking people walking by if they were registered voters. While I was completely surprised by the success, I was still left thinking about the countless number of people who refused to register. Of course, there was a share of young people under twenty-five, but I was completely baffled by the number of middle-aged, working class people who had never registered, and will probably continue to remain that way into the future. This experienced left me with many of the same questions posed in the original post.
    Often time, people say they do not vote because they are ill-informed. I’m not insinuating that this may not be true, but whose fault is it. When election time roles around it is the voters responsibility to become informed, usually candidates make this fairly easy though the use of T.V. ads, and mass mailing, but sometimes it takes more than this. Although leaders have many great characteristics, they don’t include psychic or mind-reader; we cannot expect them to automatically know our needs. Since we know ourselves and lives best, we also best know our needs, and the issues that affect us. Political campaigns have so many recourses to help people become informed; it’s as easy as picking up the phone or sending an e-mail.
    Too many times we hear people say “oh one vote doesn’t matter”, but this could not be furthest from the truth. Every vote does matter, and when people say and act on this statement what they are truly saying is that their voice doesn’t matter. Even if your party’s candidate doesn’t win, you can at least find joy in the fact that your voice was heard, and you stood up for something that you believed in. As time progresses it seems as though people down play the power of their vote, but you only become powerless in this world if you don’t express your voice.
    It brings great joy to see the passion of so many Americans on the 4th of July or in remembrance of 9/11, but why can’t we share this passion for our country at election time. People fail to realize that voting helps write the future of the country that they love so much. It’s pretty much a slap in face to all the people who died for voting rights, and even those who died so that there would even be an America. We can no longer take our right to vote for granted, it necessary to treasure it for the amazing opportunity it is.

    • blanchc permalink
      November 7, 2010 11:57 AM

      Well said.

  12. smcunn permalink
    November 7, 2010 10:44 PM

    What if anyone’s vote doesn’t make a difference? I think that the whole “to vote or not to vote” debacle is largely pointless, because the government is going to put who they want where they want. Sound ridiculous? Let me point out a prime example: George W. Bush. Tell me what you will about him, but I believe (sorry George) that he was not an adequate candidate for presidency. However, this isn’t the place to argue about his ability (or potential lack thereof) to govern a nation. The fact is, Al Gore won the popular vote in the election of 2000, but Bush was voted president. He was voted by the electoral college, a collection of individuals all susceptible to lobbyists and special-interest groups. Perhaps my view is extreme, but I think it’s worth considering. How much does the popular vote really affect the outcome of a close election?

    • jldykes permalink
      November 8, 2010 2:32 PM

      When we bring the Electoral College into the situation, then technically the popular vote doesn’t really matter. So despite agreeing with you, when referring back to the original blog post I see the situation differently. In general when people don’t vote, I doubt that it is in response to the process of the Electoral College, or its ineffectiveness.

  13. mquintin permalink
    November 8, 2010 11:18 AM

    To begin, I agree very much with the above statement, and that has very often been my thought process before voting. However, the reason that I did not vote in the midterms was not because of lack of information, but rather that I really had no idea who would be better for the job. The state of Michigan, or the nation for that matter, is not in the hands of any human in my opinion. It is not going to matter necessarily what these people do, because the United States is effected by the entire world at this point in time. Things are changing, they are much different than even 15 years ago. Furthermore, because I did not know who to vote for, solely because I myself could not make a decision, I did not feel it right to vote. These candidates made their best effort to inform me of their goals, and I don’t think that is right for me to cast a vote in either candidate’s favor if I am not sure. That is my problem, and I think it some what irresponsible to have either candidate effected by it.

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