It happens every election, and it seems shriller every time.

I speak of the exhortations we see all over the place to “vote!” I refer to the declarations of “I voted!” I note the highfalutin language about democracy and civic duty, and how if you don’t vote, you’re letting down your country, your fellow citizens, and the human race in general.

Of course, most people who do this expect you to vote in the only sensible way, i.e. for the candidates they voted for and want to win, but they don’t tell you that part. A scant few will outright say that if you’re going to vote the other way, you shouldn’t vote because you’re stupid or a racist or just wrong, but most don’t have the guts to be so overt with their beliefs.

Forget all that, and focus instead on the obligation itself. Why must I vote?

After all, my vote is almost certainly meaningless. I have a better shot at winning a PowerBall lottery than of casting a vote that decides a state- or federal-level election. Yes, in the aggregate, votes matter, and elections are indeed decided by voters. But, the same is true of lotteries – someone’s going to win. But, your chances of being that someone are essentially zero.

Forget that, as well, though, since it doesn’t really address the obligation.

Here’s what’s lost on the “vote!” exhorters: If I don’t vote in a particular election, it may be that I am a sending a couple signals to those who care to receive them. One is that none of the candidates is “good enough” to win my vote. Another is that my vote remains in play – that an adjustment of message or platform might win it next election.

Or, it may be that I believe that the outcomes of all the elections in which I could vote are already preordained, because I live in a deep-red or deep-blue district.

Or, it may be that I don’t believe I’ve studied the candidates or the issues enough to make an informed choice.

Or, it may be that I think it doesn’t matter who wins.

All of these are matters of personal belief, effort investment, and internal logic. None of these are grounds for anyone else to cast shame or scorn upon me.

I would personally urge anyone who wants to vote to cast informed votes, that is, put some thought into who and what you’re voting for, instead of simply walking into the booth and running the row under your tribe’s label, or hitting buttons at random, or whatever, but if and how you vote is up to you, and I won’t plaster “Vote!” across my social media, either out of a belief that everyone should or (as seems more likely) for virtue-signaling purposes.

Now, if someone says “Vote for X, or Vote against Y,” that’s a different matter. That’s an advocacy, not a (real or pretend) moral high ground about one’s civic duty. Want me to vote for your candidate? Make a case, I’m all ears. But, don’t simply tell me to “vote!,” even if you don’t mean to imply that I should vote the way you do.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.


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