Folks who know me know I don’t vote. Many roll their eyes at this decision. Others awkwardly skirt around it preferring to avoid asking why I don’t vote (I don’t usually go into why unless prompted). And most people just assume I do vote.
Why? Well, I’m going to take the easy route and borrow on something on this subject that resonated with me. It’s over at Strike the Root and written by Carl Watner (and was pointed out to me by Patri Friedman) and starts with a quote from Henry David Thoreau, followed by Watner’s main four points on why he chooses not to vote:
How does it become a man to behave toward this American government to-day? I answer that he cannot without disgrace be associated with it . . . . What I have to do is to see, at any rate, that I do not lend myself to the wrong which I condemn.
— On The Duty of Civil Disobedience (1849), Henry David Thoreau
[Watner on non-voting]
• Truth does not depend upon a majority vote. Two plus two equals four regardless of how many people vote that it equals five.
• Individuals have rights which do not depend on the outcome of elections. Majorities of voters cannot vote away the rights of a single individual or groups of individuals.
• Voting is implicitly a coercive act because it lends support to a compulsory government.
• Voting reinforces the legitimacy of the state because the participation of the voters makes it appear that they approve of their government.
While these thoughts all hit on key points to narrate why I don’t vote, I’ll add one more: I don’t vote because I want to stand apart from the circus of the American political scene today. I don’t want to be engaged in the tribalism of choosing sides, shouting down caricatures of others, and generally dehumanizing views other than our own. I don’t want any part of it.
And you’re right: This hard-nosed stance of mine puts me in some kind of elitist position … one I don’t care for, either.
Not voting is pretty uncomfortable. There was a moment when my three year old daughter was being taught in daycare about the importance of voting. She admonished me for not voting. She’s much older now but the admonishment stands. I told her I don’t vote because I don’t like controlling the lives of other people. I asked her if she liked being told what to do … we didn’t really get into it as you’d guess.
The time is coming to revisit this question. It comes around every few years. It’ll be time to revisit Watner’s list.
If this is the kind of topic you care about, I’m open to re-opening it with you.
Last updated 2020.