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Value (or not) of voting





SonLight
I re-read a little bit of this old thread:

http://www.frihost.com/forums/vt-14944.html

Perhaps it's time to reconsider the issue of voting. The position of the OP is that when there is no one good to vote for, the best thing to do is not vote at all. I kind of agree with that in principle, but think we should consider some alternatives.

If we simply don't vote, if is not clear if we a. just do not care, b. prefer to change the system by other means, perhaps violently, c. just don't like either of the current candidates, d. would prefer to kick everyone out of office and "start over" in some way, or e. whatever else anyone can think of.

I noticed the fact that Australia __compels__ people to vote. I'm not sure what options they have there, presumably they could do a write-in that would somewhat express their desire to not be part of the process. In Belgium, apparently citizens are required to show up at the polls, but have the option of not voting. That is an interesting idea, because it levels the playing field (no one can say it was too hard for them to vote, because they had to expend the effort anyway). If I was subject to such a rule, I would prefer having the option of taking a ballot, filling it out in private, and entering the single vote "present" as an expression of my opinion if I did not actually want to vote. I suppose leaving the ballot entirely blank would do as well, but it wouldn't be quite as satisfying, nor as clear when the results are posted.
BigGeek
One of the biggest problems with the government in the US is that it is corrupt and that the upper 1% own the government. These people and their politicians are almost exclusively Republican and in many states the same republican politicians are re-elected repeatedly for 30 years or more. The same corrupt politicians get voted in over and over again, and they continue to suppress and stop any legislation that does not favor their wealthy backers or large corporations and some really insane goings on in terms of our food, water, highways, banks, and jobs.

As far as the President goes the scene has been the same 40 years, a Democrat gets in office and starts to reduce the annual deficit, and push for social and economic reform that helps the middle and lower classes. After 1 or 2 terms they are voted out of office and the Republicans are voted in. Once they get into office they increase the taxes on the middle and lower classes, cut the taxes for the wealthy, and then pass laws and programs that favor the wealthy and cut out social services and assistance for the working class - this increases the annual deficit and continues with the same corrput greedy system.

The majority of voters are Democrats, about 17% of the voting population is Republican. If the registered Democrats refuse to vote because they do not like the choices for President, Congress, Senate, House Reps and so on, then what happens is that we get these monsters in office that are only looking out for the upper 1% and are willing to screw over and destroy the middle class at any cost.

Refusing to vote because you do not like the choices is obviously no vote at all. AND allows the same system to repeat itself while eroding the wealth and freedom of the middle and lower classes.

By not voting what the people are saying is I do not care about the government nor the corruption, I will go ahead and let the wealthy continue to rule the country!

Even if you don't like either candidate voting for the party with the track record of assisting the middle class and the poor is a vote in the right direction! Plus you should always vote in the mid term elections and vote for representatives that have not been re elected 5 or 6 times!

VOTE, and exercise your right to have some sort of say in your government - even if you don't like the choices. Personally I am voting for Bernie Sanders! Anyone other than another greedy republican Wink
Insanity
That's an interesting question. I think people should be compelled to vote because that's how people's voices are heard. At least that way, people feel more responsible for what happens in an election. Whereas if they didn't vote, there is a lack of responsible.
truespeed
Most people don't vote because it is too much hassle, perhaps if they let everyone vote online they would get the turnout of votes they desire.
SonLight
Insanity wrote:
That's an interesting question. I think people should be compelled to vote because that's how people's voices are heard. At least that way, people feel more responsible for what happens in an election. Whereas if they didn't vote, there is a lack of responsible.

I basically agree with this, with the stipulation that there is an appropriate way to express disapproval of all the candidates. One or more ways of saying "I'm here, but I don't want to vote for any of the candidates" should be on the ballot and specifically tallied as non-approvals of whoever wins the election. Possibilities are "present", "none of the above", or "no". With the current system, the only way to express desire not to support any of the candidates is a write-in vote, the meaning of which is usually unclear.

Does anyone know of countries having an alternative way of expressing a non-vote? I think this is very important in countries which require citizens to show up at the polls. Simply choosing not to take and fill out a ballot is one way, but the intent is still not clear. It might be sufficient for those such as the Amish who do not vote as a matter of conscience, but not for those who consider themselves potential voters but don't want to support any candidate in a particular race.
SpaceInvader75
I don't vote because I'm disillusioned with my current political system. I realize this may not be considered the best option, but I'm not really sure what my other options are. I suppose I should become more politically involved in other ways. I think the Republican vs. Democrat is simply a game. Each party basically blames the other party for whatever is wrong, therefore not taking any responsibility themselves. And yes, you could say I am partially at fault for not voting.

If I had to choose, I would be a Democrat, but I am not satisfied with what the Democrats are doing either. I think voting for Democrats would be about my only option, based on the extreme right wing candidates we have so far for the Republicans. Most of them are claiming they make their decisions based on a mythology, which is a scary enough reason not to vote for them in the first place. Now, I honestly had more hope for Obama, and I think he has made some progress, but overall I don't think some of the most important concerns I've had have really been addressed. We're still sending troops over to police the middle east. The economy may be better than it was, but the income inequality is still huge. And I really don't think much has been done (by the Federal Government anyway) to fix the war on drugs.

Out of the candidates we currently have, Bernie Sanders certainly shows some potential. But he's not really a Democrat, to illustrate my point earlier. And I have a hard time believing he can actually win (although I would vote for him) and an even harder time believing he can keep his promises, probably because I don't have confidence in the system anymore.
Da Rossa
Here in Brazil, voting is mandatory, but you don't have to pick a candidate. You can apply what we call a 'null vote'. A shame, because the null vote doesn't help a citizen which is unhappy about the current political scenario. What it does is simply computing off his vote and thus the universe of valid votes gets smaller, which is good for the strongest candidate, which most of the times is not someone we like.
standready
You should vote (be that for the lesser of the evils).
Looking at BigGeek's response reminds me of my 9th grade English take on voting - "This is a democratic classroom. You vote and I decide".
deanhills
I won't be able to vote if I thought the candidate was not worthy of a vote. Like to vote for the sake of voting for me doesn't make sense and will distort the percentages as well. If people don't like any of the candidates, and are honest not to vote for them, that is also a vote. It will show in the percentage polls.

If I were a US citizen I'd have great difficulty to make an honest vote. Like it's almost a choice of two evils. I'd argue that for balance of power the Republican Party is needed to rule for at least 4-8 years as is custom. HOWEVER, I couldn't vote for Trump. I have very strong anti-Trump feelings for good reason I think - I'd hate to think that he would be in on the nuclear codes. The Democrats are good at carrying on "as usual" but we're in not so usual times needing strong leadership. The Democrats are too Vanilla and Hillary overexposed - like surely the US could have come up with better candidates to vote for? If the candidates aren't good, people need to say so by not voting for any of the two.
standready
deanhills wrote:
surely the US could have come up with better candidates to vote for?

Agree!
I think people decide not to vote at all (stay home) because of poor choices for president but there are many other offices up for election at the same time (State and local) that deserve consideration.
Marcuzzo
In belgium you have to vote, in that you are obligated by law to attend at the voting office.
You could still submit a blank or invalid vote but presence is mandatory.

It used to be a right, now it's duty! Brick wall

In the end it doesn't matter because they are all full of the same type of poo
loveandormoney
Is it good
to do it as duty?
LxGoodies
loveandormoney wrote:
Is it good
to do it as duty?

Actually.. it is. At least.. if you want to keep some form of democracy, you'll need to participate.

In my country NL voting is not mandatory, but there's plenty to choose from.. there are 15-30 political parties that could be chosen in parliament, 7-12 that actually acquire enough votes to win a seat.

I pity the Americans. It seems their democracy is completely privatized: the one with the most money wins. Politics has turned into marketing of a dubious kind.

Hard choice, between a pig and a liar..
deanhills
LxGoodies wrote:

I pity the Americans. It seems their democracy is completely privatized: the one with the most money wins. Politics has turned into marketing of a dubious kind.

Hard choice, between a pig and a liar..
Well said LxGoodies. And totally agreed. Usually guys like Trump bought a President, but this time round he wanted it for himself.
SonLight
I've been thinking about the countries that require all citizens to at least show up at the polls. I don't like making things mandatory, but it does make sense that if everyone shows up they can either make the best choice they feel they can, or send a clear message that they are "against" the process that stacked the deck with unacceptable candidates.

What if the government subsidized voting, rewarding those who did take the time to register, show up at the polls, and clearly state their position, be it for specific candidates or against all of them? Presumably only the wealthy would then not come because they didn't want to be bothered. This should leave the country with a better idea of what the vast majority of the citizens thought about the choices, and might encourage ways to ensure that better candidates were available to vote for. I would think that anyone who refused to vote as a matter of conscience should not be eligible to receive anything. It seems desirable that to receive the maximum amount you must demonstrate knowledge of the candidates and issues, but I don't have any idea how to implement that in an unbiased way.

Any ideas? I'm sure there are a lot of other details before this could lead to a healthier political climate.
deanhills
SonLight wrote:
or send a clear message that they are "against" the process that stacked the deck with unacceptable candidates.
Wouldn't abstaining from voting send a very clear message as well? Like the lower the percentage the greater the certainty that something didn't work for the voters? No vote is also a vote of a kind?
SonLight
Not showing up to vote, or even showing up and voting "abstain" without explanation, does not make it clear that the voter is offended by the poor quality of the candidate. A clear vote, selected from a menu of pre-printed choices on the ballot, could affect public opinion and the reduce the sense of the winning candidate that they have a mandate to govern. The nay-saying voters could possibly also increase the total votes required to win, leading to a runoff. I haven't thought much about that option, because I don't think it would work well in the US.

Perhaps voters could choose to vote negatively instead of positively. I don't know if totaling the candidate's "for" count less their "against" count would work effectively, but counting "against" votes would affect public opinion at least. I'm also thinking fractional votes could be divided among candidates, as long as the sum of for votes plus the sum of the against votes was less than or equal to 1.

Another option is "no", perhaps implying the standard explanation that "none of these candidates is acceptable to me". Maybe a couple of others such as "present" or "leave this office vacant" could be provided. In any case, there should be a write-in reason that explicitly says it's not a vote but an explanation of the refusal to vote.

Presumably most politically aware citizens will choose to cast normal votes for the majority of the races, but have the option to object in a very clear way to the races they are offended by.
SonLight
Not showing up to vote, or even showing up and voting "abstain" without explanation, does not make it clear that the voter is offended by the poor quality of the candidate. A clear vote, selected from a menu of pre-printed choices on the ballot, could affect public opinion and the reduce the sense of the winning candidate that they have a mandate to govern. The nay-saying voters could possibly also increase the total votes required to win, leading to a runoff. I haven't thought much about that option, because I don't think it would work well in the US.

Perhaps voters could choose to vote negatively instead of positively. I don't know if totaling the candidate's "for" count less their "against" count would work effectively, but counting "against" votes would affect public opinion at least. I'm also thinking fractional votes could be divided among candidates, as long as the sum of for votes plus the sum of the against votes was less than or equal to 1.

Another option is "no", perhaps implying the standard explanation that "none of these candidates is acceptable to me". Maybe a couple of others such as "present" or "leave this office vacant" could be provided. In any case, there should be a write-in reason that explicitly says it's not a vote but an explanation of the refusal to vote.

Presumably most politically aware citizens will choose to cast normal votes for the majority of the races, but have the option to object in a very clear way to the races they are offended by.
restonpiston
From my point of view, a clear vote is always better than an abstention, because it shows your intention to go to vote, but also your opinion about either the election system or the candidates themselves.
In Spain where in live, a clear vote counts torwards any of the parties, but an abstention counts torwards the most voted party.
There is a book which is releveant about this subject that is called "Ensayo sobre la lucidez" (Essay about lucidity?) that explores a society in which the last election ended with like an 80% of clear votes, an the actions of the politicians after that.
SonLight
@restonpiston, I agree wholeheartedly. In the US, if I don't want to vote for either of the top two choices for president, I must either leave that race blank -- essentially abstaining, but in practice indistinguishable from not showing up and turning in a ballot at all -- or vote for some other person. In rare cases there may be a third party candidate I wish could win. Usually a vote for that person has no chance of electing him, but it is effective as a NO vote for the top two plus a suggestion of what I will vote YES for.

Most of the time, the best I can do is write in some name, hoping it will be interpreted by the pollsters as effectinely a NO vote. Usually such votes are scattered over many names, even Mickey Mouse(tm) for example, and it is not clear what the intent of the vote is, so I might as well abstain. If there were a couple of pre-chosen terms with understood meanings, and they would be reported as regular votes instead of considered oddball write-ins, I would be able to leave a message at the ballet box. To me that would be much better than voting for someone I consider unacceptable, even if I knew that there was no hope an acceptable candidate would be elected.

I'm interested in the situation in Spain. Do you typically have three or more candidates in serious contention for president? Will a runoff be forced if no candidate gets enough votes? From what you said about abstaining, I presume not voting at all will make a runoff less likely, so if you don't like any of the top candidates you should submit some kind of none-of-the-above vote. Are there specific ways to vote that make a runoff more likely? a vote for "other" might dilute the top candidates' percentages without risking a vote for a possibly poor choice, if it was properly defined.
restonpiston
@SonLight
First of all, history of democracy in Spain very short. We had like 10 years of Republic in which there was real democracy, and before there was a system called "turnism" (?), in which the candidates rigged the elections so each time one of them was president. Since 1976 or 1977 we have had a democratic system again, now under a constitutional monarchy like UK
Quote:
Do you typically have three or more candidates in serious contention for president?

Talking about the present, it was unusual until this elections. We used to have a very heavy two-party system, featuring PP (right wing) and PSOE (left wing), but now two other parties have stepped in, Podemos (more to the left than PSOE) and Ciudadanos (more in the center, right-center wing) and they are in situation of status quo because any of them can earn enough votes to govern.

Quote:
Will a runoff be forced if no candidate gets enough votes?

Yes, it will, right now, because this situation of status quo we have had repeated elections twice and in december maybe we go to vote a third one. Also, in Spain there is no minimum percentage of votes to repeat elections they are always valid no matter the amount of votes.

Quote:
Are there specific ways to vote that make a runoff more likely?

From what i know, there are not, you have to vote any of the parties (in Spain we vote to parties not to candidates), vote clear, which in Spain is like a non-of-the-above, or no vote at all.
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