Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The voting booth is the not the key

Everywhere I turn today I see election coverage.  The resounding message is "Get out and vote!"  Of course plenty of people will happily tell you to vote for their candidate over any other and they obviously want to say "Please vote if you are voting for my guy, otherwise... die?"  The trouble with this silly rhetoric is that getting people out to vote isn't doing much for anybody.

Getting people to learn about the issues, challenge politicians, and force the powers that be to be accountable for their BS... now that is a goal worth reaching for.  Getting a bunch of people out to polling stations doesn't help anything at all unless those people use their voting power to actually get something useful done.  There is a fundamental missing of the point going on here that needs to be corrected.  We should not be desperately trying to get people to the polling stations.  We should be creating a political system where an individual vote matters and encouraging people to use that leverage as a springboard for learning and activism.

My vote in the last election here in Canada was immaterial.  Never mind that I have a vanishingly small chance to cast the deciding vote even in a close election, my riding was completely certain to go Liberal and it did.  If we had a system like proportional representation I could at least know that even in a landslide my vote helps the people I vote for to some small degree.  I could stop voting strategically to support corrupt behemoths and instead look at who I actually want calling the shots.  Maybe I would go crazy and vote Pirate, or Communist, or whatever, but at least I could tell the big parties that they actually need to convince me to vote for them and not just against their biggest competitor.

You want people to vote?  The best way is to make their voting be important and convince them to become invested in the process.  The actual getting to the voting booth will take care of itself.


  1. I agree heartily with your support for proportional representation.

    Encouraging people to vote is, I think, a wonderful thing, although I agree that the fervour with which we advocate it should be also applied to all those other forms of improving democracy.

    Although you are not really pooh-poohing voting, I think that the tone of this post could easily give that emotional impression. If your goal is to get more people on board for representative democracy I think that a different tone might win support to your side much more effectively. If your goal is catharsis however I defer to your personal judgement. This has been a LONG US election cycle after all.

  2. Here is the thing: Getting a voter who doesn't know the issues and who isn't leveraging their vote for positive change to the polls isn't bad. It also isn't good. It isn't hurting anyone for random.mcgee to vote but we shouldn't be too self congratulatory that he did either. Getting people to invest in politics and vote accordingly is a real, worthy goal.