Home > politics > >It doesn't matter so much who you vote for so long you vote

>It doesn't matter so much who you vote for so long you vote

>What is it about getting people to vote? It may seem reasonable to inform people about electoral process, but the intense drive to get people enrolled and to the polling booth seems at least partially misguided.

About a month ago nearly 100,000 New Zealanders under the age of 25 were not enrolled to vote in an election that happens tomorrow. And I say so what? One of the most foolish comments I hear is that taking part in elections is more important than who one votes for. This from Nigel Roberts, a political scientist no less,

Once you’ve got people to participate, they are more likely to participate the next time. The difficulty is snaring them in the first place.

There are so many things wrong with this concept it is difficult to know where to start.

Governing a country is no minor issue. If you are clueless as to the issues why do you have an opinion? And if you don’t even really have an opinion, why cast a vote based on a trivial issue? Governments make decisions that significantly affect people for good and bad. Ruling people is a serious issue. You need to consider how policy will affect you and other people both in the short and long term. If you don’t know as much as you think you need to, don’t vote. The article gives several reasons why people don’t vote but these are good reasons not to.

  • Most [young people] do not care, do not know enough about the process or just cannot be bothered.
  • An Electoral Commission study of young Kiwis last year found two general reactions to elections among all who were interviewed – “I’m in the dark” and “It’s not on my wavelength”.
  • Most said voting meant nothing to them, and some had a “fearful” relationship with politics.
  • Parties know that securing a first-time voter can result in a vote for life. Voting is habit-forming, and voting for the same party election after election is the norm rather than the exception.

If you don’t care, are ignorant, it means nothing to you, or you are going to get into a habit rather than basing your decision on a valid reason, then I don’t think you should vote, and encouraging other people to vote with this state of mind is plain wrong.

Some reasons given are understandable, but should not be a reason to avoid voting; they should be addressed.

  • Though they wanted to take part, they were overwhelmed by the decision-making process and intimidated by polling booths.
  • Most simply did not think their vote would make any difference, and many were disillusioned by politicians, distrusted those in power, did not believe the Government cared about them…
  • The least motivated almost held the entire system in disdain.

Voting shouldn’t be made unpleasant for peripheral reasons like intimidation or inadequate access for the disabled. And it is understandable why many hold some politicians and the governmental system in low regard. Many in power are untrustworthy. These things are worth interacting with people about. Choosing not to vote because you object to all options, or even the concept of democracy is also a reasonable option.

Thinking your vote won’t count is an understandable logical error.

2 other sentences are worth commenting on.

The challenge is to convince those people that voting is not only a right, but a responsibility.

It is a right in a democracy, though not an inalienable right. And it is your responsibility to vote well, not just vote. If you can’t vote well one could argue it your responsibility to not vote.

I am not certain about these plans though.

And when the new school curriculum takes hold next year, New Zealand politics will be taught more frequently.

Firstly, politics is an important though peripheral subject. Literacy and numeracy remain primary, and I would rate logic as more foundational than politics. What is potentially concerning however is related to the current public schooling system having a socialist flavour. Attending a class in “politics” could very easily become indoctrination in socialist policy rather than teaching of political philosophy.

While some youth can make intelligent political decisions, I am not certain if this is the case for the majority. And there remains much immaturity and selfish motication. I mentioned above that one needs to consider how policy will affect you and other people both in the short and long term. Considering others and understanding the long term issues probably increases with age. The statistical nature of democracy means you need to consider how a demographic thinks and acts, irrespective of particular individuals in that demographic. Because of this my current thinking is that voting should be restricted by age to those older than 25, and preferably 30. This also applies to being a candidate for office.

Categories: politics
  1. 2008 November 7 at 16:47

    “Thinking your vote won’t count is an understandable logical error.”
    Can you expand on this?

  2. 2008 November 8 at 07:20

    Can you expand on this?
    What is true of an object is not necessarily true of its components (and vice versa). Thus a rope may be strong but that does not necessarily mean the cotton strands that it is made of are also strong.
    Further, it may be true that the removal of any one component may not alter the object to any noticeable degree. A hand removed of any single cell (skin, blood, nerve, bone, etc.) will still function with no discernible difference.
    Thus it is unlikely (though possible) that any one vote will change the course of an election. Hence my comment:
    The statistical nature of democracy means you need to consider how a demographic thinks and acts, irrespective of particular individuals in that demographic.
    However, it is false to assume that the components are dispensable. Remove every cell and there is no hand. Remove every strand and there is no rope.
    So one can say both that a single vote will not alter the result and that every vote is of some importance. True, your vote won’t be like a casting vote (but then why should it), but it will count as much as every other vote, no more, no less (pretty much).
    The added effect in voting is that as little as a few votes (or even one) still count toward the result, whereas a hand ceases long before all the cells are removed. Not voting increases the effect of the other votes. The rope analogy may be better, as all the components are the same and they have a predominantly additive effect.

  3. 2008 November 9 at 04:42

    There is also a compelling case for restricting voting to people who hold a passing knowledge about the basics. (I am tempted to say, restricting to people who don’t understand basic political ideas, e.g. the pro’s and cons of minimum wage laws, but that would be most of the country)
    It horrifies me that people vote for change for change’s sake – I’m bored with this PM, time for a new one, or because someone is black, or because they are a woman, or because their tie was red or their jacket was blue.
    Then there are the grown adults who do not understand MMP – now I understand people finding things like the St Lague formula used to work out what to do with any changes the special votes bring but getting confused as to the basics of how the electorate and party votes work is ridiculous – my 7 and 8 year olds can explain it to you but I still heard adults calling into talkback surprised that they had two votes and asking if they were allowed to for two parties if they didn’t like any of their local candidates.
    Why are such people allowed to vote?
    I better stop before I sound like I am advocating against democracy.

  4. 2008 November 9 at 06:36

    Then there are the grown adults who do not understand MMP
    I took the MMP quiz. 9/9 :)
    I better stop before I sound like I am advocating against democracy.
    There are good arguments against democracy.

  5. 2008 November 9 at 08:22

    I would not support restricting voting and candidacy to 25 or 30. If you are good enough you are old enough. In a way it is self selecting due to the sheer difficulty of getting a campaign together, raising funds, getting volunteers, learning the ropes etc… for someone to do that at 18 or 22, they would have to be exceptional or somebody’s pony. The easiest win would probably be in a safe seat of the party you are standing for, but then there is fierce competition from within the party to win the candidacy so again, if you’re good enough…!
    As George Bernard Shaw said – youth is wasted on the young and although you may feel that way about young uniformed voters voting it is all part of the demographic. We would be foolish to think that all older people are clued up when they vote and arguably many vote what they have voted in the past because of the past, not because of the future. In that sense they may have a handicap because they have less future than the young.
    The real deal democracy is not whether you vote, but how you interact with government in the intervening time between elections, that is where many are disengaged and disinclined.

  6. 2008 November 10 at 16:16

    bethyada, I think what you are saying is that each vote counts insofar as it correlates with or counteracts other votes–kind of like vector analysis.
    Unfortunately, this analogy trivializes the psychology of voting. Most people in a viable democracy who do vote feel that voting is one of the most important actions in their lives; some actually feel that it is the only significant thing they have ever done.

  7. 2008 November 11 at 06:54

    Dave, I meant my defence to counter those who say their vote doesn’t matter, not to suggest it is the greatest action in the life of those who think it does matter. I expanded my quote: “Thinking your vote doesn’t count…”

  8. 2008 November 12 at 17:24

    I didn’t mean to misrepresent your implications, only to point out that there is a vast discrepancy between the actual (or, shall we say, determinative) significance of voting and its psychological significance.
    Given the difference in orders of magnitude, I would say that the cynicism of the nonvoter is justified. It is a commentary on the deceptive quality of modern politics, rather than an objective quantitative analysis.

  9. 2008 November 13 at 09:20

    only to point out that there is a vast discrepancy between the actual (or, shall we say, determinative) significance of voting and its psychological significance.
    Likely
    Given the difference in orders of magnitude, I would say that the cynicism of the nonvoter is justified. It is a commentary on the deceptive quality of modern politics, rather than an objective quantitative analysis.
    Quite possibly. Disillusionment with the process causes many to withdraw from voting. And there is good reason to be disillusioned with many politicians and the political process. Like I say, there are reasons people don’t vote and many of them are good reasons not to. I just think the logic of a vote not counting is a flawed reason, though apparently some economists disagree with me. (I haven’t watched this video, my sound isn’t currently working.)

  10. 2008 November 13 at 18:32

    The video correctly leaves the impression that most people don’t vote because of the impact of their individual choice, but rather because it makes them feel better.
    The ending is quite nice, because Tullock makes clear that he would vote if his choice were statistically significant. This leads to a little existential paradox, which shows how silly Kantian ethics is.

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