Why don’t people vote?


When commenting on the election results, I noted the low turnout of around 36%, the lowest since during World War II ,and said that I was curious as to the reasons why. It turns out that the Pew research organization has conducted a post-election survey to gauge the opinions of people on a range of issues concerning the election and one was the reasons they gave for not voting.

Among those who were registered to vote but chose not to, two-thirds (67%) gave reasons related to lack of time: 35% had work or school conflicts and 34% were too busy, ill, out of town or simply forgot. Two-in-ten (20%) registered non-voters say they either didn’t like the candidate choices or issues on the ballot, didn’t care about this election or didn’t have any or enough information to vote. And 10% of non-voters reported having a technical reason for not voting, either having missed the registration deadline, recently moving, or not have transportation to the polls.

While somewhat enlightening, unfortunately they did not ask what I hoped for, which was whether they would have made an effort to overcome these obstacles to voting if they cared enough about the candidate and issues. My hunch is that if people were really keen to vote, many would have found ways to overcome the time-related or technical reasons.

Comments

  1. Holms says

    Just a baffling situation to this Australian. Voting is mandatory for one thing, although there is nothing stopping a person from voting improperly and thus having their vote thrown away. Hell, if you object to the candidates or whatever, you can still demonstrate your apathy by voting improperly and thus having your vote disqualified for counting; you can even draw dicks on the ballot paper if you want. The only mandatory thing is turning up and entering something, though I think the rationale for this is that since every one has to turn up anyway, hopefully they’ll also put some thought into the vote. Voting is done on a single day, usually a Saturday, but there is also nothing stopping people people picking up the form and mailing it in ahead of time. Voting fraud has never been an issue, with no need to present ID at the polling station.

    America, catch up.

  2. moarscienceplz says

    The most annoying reason I have ever heard for not voting was given by a former boss who said that since it was extremely unlikely that his single vote could decide an election, it wasn’t worth the bother. What an egotist. He had a draft number for the Vietnam War so it would have been fun to be a fly on the wall of his draft board as he tried to explain to them that a single soldier would be extremely unlikely to change the outcome of the war, so he was going to sit this one out. 😉

    I’d say the most common response I’ve heard is that the person didn’t feel qualified to make the choice. Unfortunately, this is a self-reinforcing idea: You aren’t qualified, so you won’t vote. You aren’t voting, so why bother to learn about the candidates and issues. You learned nothing about the candidates and issues, so you aren’t qualified to vote. Lather, rinse, repeat.

  3. dean says

    I had to vote early since I work some distance from my polling place. I was surprised by how busy the polling site was: I was there roughly 45 minutes after it opened and my number was over 100 which, for my region, is high. The workers said it had been quite busy and people were at the door at opening time.

    I spoke with people the next day – the early morning rush had dropped to a trickle by 9:30 am: overall turnout was low here too, with no real explanation for the rocket start.

  4. Glenn says

    I refuse to vote, even strategically, for people I find disgusting.

    I vote for referendums and leave the vast majority of candidates for other people to choose. The vast majority of candidates are the ones who make a mess of everything serving their own selfish gain while writing laws to keep public spirited candidates off the ballot.

    No party member should ever have any say in what hurdles a candidate from any other party must overcome to get on the ballot. Eliminate this corrupt self-dealing. I think the electorate itself should select ballot admission qualifications by referendum.

    Of course, if the people are as corrupt as the parties are in their choices, I still won’t vote.

  5. says

    it would have been fun to be a fly on the wall of his draft board as he tried to explain to them that a single soldier would be extremely unlikely to change the outcome of the war, so he was going to sit this one out

    A simple majority election, or a representative system like the US’ electoral college — is an indicator of a dysfunctional or fake democracy (“managed democracy”) If you think about it, ‘gridlock’ is the correct state of affairs to achieve if no candidate’s platform is attractive enough to gain more than a simple majority of votes. After all, what does it say if no candidate is able to get a 2/3 majority: it says that the nation is divided and all the candidates are pretty much equally unexciting. And what does it say when an electorate chooses to do something eat pizza or masturbate instead of voting: it says that the nation is unexcited about all the candidates. If someone actually believes in democracy, they need to recognize that a great big “MEH” is a significant electoral return. It says that the people have looked at the candidates and actually don’t give a shit about them. Don’t complain about voter apathy, political shitheads: look to yourselves and ask rather why you are so unexciting, or why we know you’re such lying fuckwads, or that we realize you aren’t living in the real world, and that none of us would cross the street to piss on you if you were on fire – let alone vote for you.

  6. Randy Lee says

    The question should be ….. Why do People Vote? Hardly ever do u meet anyone that insanely believes that one human has the right to initiate agression against another human. Yet those who vote do so in the hope that their Chosen One will make policy to control or regulate others which inevitably requires the initiation of aggression in order to effect such policy. The collection of taxes for some purpose designated either noble or necessary is a perfect example of aggression by certain individuals against others who would never pay such a tax if the threat of some form of aggression did not exist. None of these voting individuals would make the insane claim that they possessed the right and authority to tax another person. If they possessed such a right, and if such a right actually existed, such an individual could go door to door collecting. No sane person would ever attempt such, yet they ask others to do their dirty collection work in their stead, and somehow believe these people represent them. But because they possess no right or authority to delegate to such a representative, then such a representative is merely a usurper and without legitimate authority, except in a make-believe political paradigm.
    Now atheists are quick to reject make-believe deities but equally quick to accept make-believe political pseudo-authorities whose so called authority cannot be logically sustained and these same atheists will justify their obeisance to this pseudo authority while at the same time ridiculing those who irrationally believe in the authority of some make-believe deity. Much like the pot calling the kettle black. Atheists do in fact serve a make-believe authority; most however never even consider this irrationality.
    Once it is admitted that no individual actually possesses the right or authority to aggress against another the phenomonem of the state and the practice of voting for persons to agress against others via public policy is easily seen as unjustifiable and quite immoral..

    So the queston should be Why do People Vote?

  7. Ed says

    Randy Lee–

    Complex systems of political and economic power exist and always will, unless maybe everyone was a subsistence farmer, nomadic herder or hunter/gatherer. This is simply a fact of nature given the type of animal we are. Voting and political activism are attempts to get one’s values and interests taken more seriously–to be represented in other words.

    Since you have to pay taxes, wouldn’t you rather increase the chances they’re spent on something you actually want? If you want to pay fewer taxes, isn’t it good that you can tell the government that by voting for a party that advocates this agenda?

    Not voting doesn’t stop authority from existing, it just ensures that your interests and the interests of those you care about lose a source of support. If hardly anyone voted, whoever showed up would elect the next government even if it was just a few thousand out of millions.

    If imperfect attempts at democracy were replaced with something else, we’d go from having little influence to having no influence. At best, it would be like living in one of the more tolerant Emirates or Sultanates and hoping for the best.

    The better goal would be to make the electoral system more proportionately representative instead of wishing for some impossible apolitical state of affairs.

  8. lpetrich says

    So why not proportional representation? Why act as if it is unthinkable?
    .
    I’ve compared the Economist magazine’s Democracy Index to what kinds of lower-house elections and government systems most nations have, and the results are most interesting. The top scorers mostly have proportional representation and they mostly have Westminster parliamentary systems with a ceremonial monarch or president. The highest users of First Past The Post and single-member districts are Canada, the UK, and the US, and even those are behind some of the others. The US is also one of the highest-scoring strong-president countries, alongside Uruguay, South Korea, and Costa Rica.

  9. Randy Lee says

    Ed writes, “Complex systems of political and economic power exist and always will, …” Are you a seer into the future? The same was likely said about outright slavery which has since evolved into more sophisticated forms. Human consciousness continues to evolve and escape the dogmas of the dark ages, and if we judge by the historical evidence of that evolution such complex systems will utimately vanish in the face of a new consciousness..
    Ed continues, “This is simply a fact of nature given the type of animal we are. Voting and political activism are attempts to get one’s values and interests taken more seriously–to be represented in other words. ” Are you predatory by nature, Ed? If not, then why would you want representatives to engage in predation in your behalf? Now should you admit, that you are one of the few predatory individuals among the remainder of we good civilized folk, then would you please explain to us from whence you recieved just authorization to either personally predate against others or to have your representatives engage in predation in your behalf? If you are unable to logically explain or reveal any source for such ‘just authorization’, then why do you claim that any ‘Authority’ of that sort actually exists?

    Ed writes, ” Since you have to pay taxes, wouldn’t you rather increase the chances they’re spent on something you actually want?” Only if I was a predator.
    Ed writes, “If you want to pay fewer taxes, isn’t it good that you can tell the government that by voting for a party that advocates this agenda?” Which party is that? Why should I want to beg like a slave to any party?

    Ed writes, “Not voting doesn’t stop authority from existing, ……”. How does voting create authority to engage in predation upon those who do not validate the system by voting and agreeing to the implicit predation of the victors? True ‘Authority’ only exists where there is real and valid authorization. I can not authorize you to steal in my behalf for instance, because I do not enjoy the right of authority to steal and therefore cannot delegate the same to you.

    Ed continues, “….it just ensures that your interests and the interests of those you care about lose a source of support.” If ones interests or the interests of those they care about require predation in order to obtain a source of support for said interests, are such predatory acts (voting for instance) thereby rendered justifiable because they serve those private interests? .

    Ed writes, “If imperfect attempts at democracy were replaced with something else, we’d go from having little influence to having no influence.”. Surely you aren’tt suggesting that voting and democratic rule are the only means of influencing others to do what is right, are you? Why don’t we adults stop being hypocrits and just do what we teach our children to do? We teach our children it is never morally right to initiate agression against another child in order to obtain what they want, and yet many parents do just that in order to get some desired result from their children, while all the time teaching our children that its ok if the government initiates aggression in order to fullfill the myriad of political interests you referred to earlier. What a bunch hypocrits we have become!

    I really don’t think most people, including you Ed, want to organize society by means of predation, but until we take a closer look at what we have, we will likely attempt to justify our present state of affairs and the existence of the state itself. I did for many years, during which time I was a constitutional minarchist.

  10. khms says

    #10 Randy Lee:

    Ed writes, “Complex systems of political and economic power exist and always will, …” Are you a seer into the future?

    He doesn’t need to be. Unless we somehow manage to get a radically lower population density – a factor of 10,000 less or more – and give up any attempts at higher technology (and that’s certainly not a world I want to live in), we’ll keep having to live in large societies. Large societies necessarily involve complex systems of politics and economical power. Not necessarily the same ones we have today, but they have to be complex because they have to solve complex problems.

    So the question is, not if we want to have such systems, but which kind of such systems we want to have. And it seems to me that democracy (with minority protection, as current versions usually have) is the best variant we have managed to invent so far. What’s your proposed alternative?

    (And given that in every large society in the history of mankind, there were people with conflicts of interests, there cannot be a solution in which nobody has to give in in some points. Again, the only choice we have is who, and in which points, and how to determine that.)

  11. Randy Lee says

    khms writes, “So the question is, not if we want to have such systems, but which kind of such systems we want to have. And it seems to me that democracy (with minority protection, as current versions usually have) is the best variant we have managed to invent so far. What’s your proposed alternative?”
    Sad to think that humankind has only been able to invent political models, aka states, which are predatory in their fundamental nature. relying upon predatory measures for the maintenance of their very existence. What is even sadder is the various justifications coming from the mouths of loyal statists for such predation. Such statists always demand proposed alternatives before admitting the morally bankrupt nature of the predatory state they serve. It was the same when abolitionists decried the existence of slavery. Voices could be heard, “But who will pick the cotton?”. Little could such men of short insight see that entrepeneurs would develop mechanical means of harvesting the cotton. Why do statists demand futuristic proposals, without which they revert to a clutching acceptance of their morally bankrupt statist system, even fearfully refusing to speak against its inherent immorality? And even when some possible proposal of a non-predatory system is offered there are always other objections as to other details that they in their short-sightedness can not imagine.

    khms writes “(And given that in every large society in the history of mankind, there were people with conflicts of interests, there cannot be a solution in which nobody has to give in in some points. Again, the only choice we have is who, and in which points, and how to determine that.)”
    Who will give in when conflicts of interest arise? and how do we make such determinations? One principle is enough to guide our determination. The principle of non-aggression against another human. But we can’t teach our children this wonderful principle and do otherwise and expect them not to discern the hypocrisy of our actions. They will follow our actions every time, generation after generation. Watch
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NwztaQgv3-Y
    Then decide if you want to continue being a predator. If not, there are ample resources available for those who are serious about discovering alternatives and putting them into practice. I will not spell all those alternatives out here and neither should anyone expect such, though if u are serious I will point u in the direstion of good resources. . Serious questioners who see the immoral contradiction of their position will seek solutions for themselves. I am not here to spoonfeed, only to point out the immorality of the phenomenom we know as the state.

  12. Holms says

    And as long as you decline to vote, you decline the only option you have to effect a change. Because it is the only option; at least, the only option with any realistic chance of succeeding.

  13. Randy Lee says

    Holms, I realize how tempting it is to believe that voting will effect a change. Yet the history of voting has proven otherwise. Those who claim to represent us act in manners beyond any representative capacity we could have ever delegated. Over and over again they act in the interest of their monetary contributors while usurping non-existent authority. Occasionally they legitimately act in the peoples behalf and this seems to satisfy most people that the system is working in spite of a few flaws. But the system/the state is inherently immoral, and its survival is completely dependent upon the continued predation and aggression that is the foundation of every state, no matter what type. Surely a civilized people could and would realize this. Do you suppose we are not yet civilized enough to reach this logical conclusion? I am sure that there are many sociopaths that believe that predation is the only means to organization. But I trust that you are not one of them.
    In actuality the only realistic option having any chance of success is that peopple stop hallucinating authority where there is no valid authorization for such. Only then can society be organized in accordance with principles of peace. It is impossible to have peace, or to operate in accordance with principles of peace, while at the same time organizing society in accordance with principles of aggression.

    Do u have any logical argument why this is not so? Or do u believe that the organization of society requires predatiion by one group upon another in accordance with the law of necessity, which states, “Necessity knows no law.”.?

  14. Holms says

    Say rather, your conclusion is flawed, as it relies on ignoring the many examples of changed outcomes in terms of national / state policy that have hinged upon an election.

  15. Randy Lee says

    Holms responds, “Say rather, your conclusion is flawed, as it relies on ignoring the many examples of changed outcomes in terms of national / state policy that have hinged upon an election.”
    So tell me how many examples of changed outcomes that favor the interests of some party or group contradicts my conclusion that the very existence of the state and all its voting apparatus is maintained through the process of predation via taxation/theft upon all those who disagree with the outcome of a particular election? Obamacare is a perfect example of the rights of one group being trampled by the desires of another.

  16. Randy Lee says

    Holms writes, “Just a baffling situation to this Australian. Voting is mandatory for one thing, although there is nothing stopping a person from voting improperly ………… Voting fraud has never been an issue, with no need to present ID at the polling station. America, catch up.”
    This is so sad that millions of Aussies have accepted the arbtirary and mandatory command, called law, to vote. Where are those who are willing to notoriously thumb their noses to such a law and point out the fact that they have no responsibility to validate a political system to which they disagree? Do they not understand the fundamental premise that political freedom includes the right to make political choices, including the choice not to participate in the present political voting paradigm?
    Holms it is sad that you would admonish Americans to “catch up”, as if we are behind in our understanding of political freedom. Any people, any nation, that suffers mandatory voting laws is the one that needs to “catch up” by casting off those chains.
    And you state that “voting fraud has never been an issue”. It became an issue when the mandatory law to vote was passed. You were defrauded of your liberty and political freedom at that moment.
    But good statists desire to create the appearance that those in power are there according to the will of the people. How else will they sell you the rest of the chit they market?

  17. Holms says

    #16
    It doesn’t, but then, the point was not about whether voting systems are predatory or not. The point was that voting remains the only method of causing change, as I said.

    As for Obamacare being an example of ‘the rights of one group being trampled by the desires of another’, I fail to see how that characterisation is anything but ridiculous hyperbole. Millions of Americans would have been left with health care, leaving them vulnerable to the combination of illness and poverty; the provision of this comes with no infringement on the rights of other people in the slightest, unless you mean that people should have complete control over where their taxes go. Which is ridiculous.

    #17
    You assume we dislike having a mandatory vote. But also, you are ignoring the fact that people can ‘thumb their noses’ to the voting system by writing anything they like on the ballot; including, as I already said, dicks.

    And yes, you guys are wayyyyy behind most other democracies.

  18. Randy Lee says

    #16
    Holms writes, “It doesn’t, but then, the point was not about whether voting systems are predatory or not. The point was that voting remains the only method of causing change, as I said.” And as I said above in number 14, “In actuality the only realistic option having any chance of success [for bringing about real change] is that peopple stop hallucinating authority where there is no valid authorization for such. Only then can society be organized in accordance with principles of peace. It is impossible to have peace, or to operate in accordance with principles of peace, while at the same time organizing society in accordance with principles of aggression. And by the way, I want to thank u for agreeing with “my conclusion that the very existence of the state and all its voting apparatus is maintained through the process of predation via taxation/theft upon all those who disagree with the outcome of a particular election”. You are one step closer to becoming a crusader for the truth, although u still have a ways to go..

    Holms writes, ” As for Obamacare being an example of ‘the rights of one group being trampled by the desires of another’, I fail to see how that characterisation is anything but ridiculous hyperbole. Millions of Americans would have been left with health care, leaving them vulnerable to the combination of illness and poverty; the provision of this comes with no infringement on the rights of other people in the slightest, unless you mean that people should have complete control over where their taxes go. Which is ridiculous.” If I am sick, no one is obligated to care for me, and neither am I obligated to care for others unless I voluntarily choose to do so. Taxes are just one part of the equation that reveals the infringement of the rights of those who do not want to participate in this socialist practice. Forcing socialist programs on Americans denies them their right to make the political choice of whether they want to be a socialist or not. And finally the cost of this program will ultimately be born by the expansion of the money supply which will render even more worthless the currency we are forced to accept in the marketplace. One would imagine that maintaining the purchasing power of a currency would be at the top of a government’s priorities, in light of the fact that a nations currency is the essential engine of its economic life.

    #17
    Holms writes, “You assume we dislike having a mandatory vote. But also, you are ignoring the fact that people can ‘thumb their noses’ to the voting system by writing anything they like on the ballot; including, as I already said, dicks.” Quite to the contrary, I assume that Aussies like being controlled by their merely agreeing to show up to vote or in the alternative turn in a ballot. The fact that some may enter an improper ballot and void the same fails to take into consideration the fact that their life was enslaved to the very process causing them to lose a good amount of their time.

    Holms concludes, “And yes, you guys are wayyyyy behind most other democracies.” If u read the founding documents of this country u will discover that we were not founded as a democracy, although many statists would love to convince people that we are.

  19. Holms says

    And as I said above in number 14, “In actuality the only realistic option having any chance of success [for bringing about real change] is that peopple stop hallucinating authority where there is no valid authorization for such. …

    And since that is a pipe dream – seriously, there is no rational basis to believe this will never happen – it remains that voting is the only reliable method for change, incremental though it may be.

    And by the way, I want to thank u for agreeing with “my conclusion that the very existence of the state and all its voting apparatus is maintained through the process of predation via taxation/theft upon all those who disagree with the outcome of a particular election”.

    But I never agreed with that, I merely said that the point I was making was not dependant on, nor contradicted by, your ‘voting apparatus is theft’ idea.

    If I am sick, no one is obligated to care for me, and neither am I obligated to care for others unless I voluntarily choose to do so. Taxes are just one part of the equation that reveals the infringement of the rights of those who do not want to participate in this socialist practice. Forcing socialist programs on Americans denies them their right to make the political choice of whether they want to be a socialist or not. And finally the cost of this program will ultimately be born by the expansion of the money supply which will render even more worthless the currency we are forced to accept in the marketplace. One would imagine that maintaining the purchasing power of a currency would be at the top of a government’s priorities, in light of the fact that a nations currency is the essential engine of its economic life.

    Ah, so you’re a Randian. That’s a shame.

    You, as an individual, are not obliged to care for another sick or injured person unless you are in a position of responsibility for that person. Parents have a duty of care for their kids, medical staff voluntarily undertake a duty of care for people in their ward / theatre / etc., operators of heavy machinery (including motorists) have a duty of care for those about them due to the potential danger of said machinery… there are many instances where you are quite wrong to varying degrees at the individual level. Hell, even if you are not in such a position involving a specific responsibility over others, you still have a general responsibility to avoid endangerment of others through your personal behavior.

    As for forcing Obamacare on people, you are just being stupid. You argue that governmental change comes at the expense of the desires of those that didn’t want that change, then without a trace of irony, argue that obamacare should not have happened so as to suit your whim, forgetting that such would come at the expense of others; specifically, the poor who could not previously afford health care. When it comes to such a conflict, I am afraid that it is only right and proper that your desire to throw poor people under the bus should lose, not only because of the basic repugnance of such desires, but also because that would amount to a breach of the trust undertaken at the national or state level.

    As for the expense of american health care, it should be noted that multiple other nations have managed to arrive at a health care system that manages to provide a higher standard of care for about half the price per person. They achieve this efficiency by having national government health care, as opposed to private for-profit health care.

  20. alkaloid says

    @Holms, #20

    “And since that is a pipe dream – seriously, there is no rational basis to believe this will never happen – it remains that voting is the only reliable method for change, incremental though it may be.”

    I don’t agree with the standard libertarian dogma that’s being stated here but not by you, but this seems patently untrue in the United States as well. Contrary to what a lot of sneering moralists will say, as Americans we don’t get the government we deserve; we get the government that right-wingers regardless of party affiliation think that we deserve (which enriches them/preserves their privileges). If voting had much of any correspondence to either any direct outcome or changing such outcomes then this would be a very different country.

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