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The complex question of wheather to vote.

These ideological debates about voting depend on the false conflation of all voting under the same umbrella of illegitimacy. I think an appropriate analysis of the complexities of this issue shows that there are occasions where it is right to vote and ones where it is not. This article does not consitute a full analysis, just some preliminary thoughts designed to contribute to the debate and spark consideration.
Personally, I believe in democracy, and I think that the only legitimate governmental power comes from the people.

However, I am also sympathetic to the argument that our democracy is nearly a total sham designed to maintain control.

As far as wheather or not to vote though, I think we need to think through this with a bit more of the complexity the issue deserves.

I have decided to abstain from voting in presidential elections and most congressional elections because I think the process is a sham, I don't really feel like I can support any of the available canditates, and I don't want to lend my support for these elections by taking part in them.

I think if you vote for president, even for Nader you are in effect saying 'I agree with the method of this election and I have had my legitimate say, so I am bound to accept the outcome and consent to the legitimacy of our president.'

I also think that not voting--to keep the turnout low--has the potential to actually weaken the government because it can be used to challenge the legitimacy of power.

For example, when Clinton tried to pass universal health care in the early 90's he claimed that he had the mandate of the people since he had been elected on a platform that included this issue. However, the media (or the pharmaceutical companies--you decide) jumped all over him and claimed that voter turn out was low and he was elected by a minority (becuase of Perot) and thus his mandate was weak; consequently, his healthcare plan died.

On the other hand there is the question of voting in local elections and for referendums and ammendments. On these issues I cannot come up with a legitimate reason to abstain from voting.

I recently moved to Oregon from Virginia, and I must say that most Oregonians I have met seem to take for granted the incredibly vibrant democracy that exists here.

Just look at the number of canditates from non-major parties for state office and the number of ammendments up for vote. Think also about how the ammendments can challenge the power of BushCo. to control our country (for examply look at medical marijuana or death with dignity issues that have directly challenged the ability of the federal govt. to exercise power).

I know there are problems with even these elections and that in many cases corporate money has way way too much influence over the outcome, but is that alone a good enough reason to abstain? I don't think so. How else do we challenge the power of these corporations if not by thinking for ourselves and voting agianst their interest. Otherwise I think we are just giving in.

I believe in democracy, and I believe in voting in legitimate elections (or at least ones that are not complete shams). How else do we effect change in the power structure absent of a real revolution (which is not going to be accomplished by ideologues ranting on indymedia or spray painting trashcans).

I guess ultimatly what I'm saying is that some elections do hold the possibility for real significant change and I think it is shortsited to dismiss all elections under the same ideological umbrella.
Spell check 05.Nov.2002 15:21

spell check

spell check really it helps your argument

Sure, go out and vote 05.Nov.2002 16:04


Sure, go out and vote, but be careful not to fall into the trap and think it is significant. If any person is serious about real change, then that person has to take action everyday.

voting is not then the excuse to do nothing or little the other 364 days. vote, but keep a perspective that it is only a minor act.

$00.02 05.Nov.2002 17:10


My concern about "not" voting is you remove yourself from the only system we have in place (be it good, bad and definitely not perfect.) However, by not voting AGAINST the candidates, or more so, the ballot measures that are not agreeable, you empower those very entities that you oppose.

So if you want to give Lon Mabon et al more of a chance to pass some wack ballot measures or have a better chance of getting into office then dont vote. But even though you may not have a candidate you fully support, the idea is to vote AGAINST the jerk you dont want and to vote AGAINST freaky ballot measures written by the Christian Right. Alot of people here complain about the way things are and I agree voting is only one small tool of helping change, but we need to get out in numbers and vote AGAINST the things and people we dont want in our governing bodies.

Thats my two cents.

Anarchist checks in 05.Nov.2002 18:49


Vote? Why? What makes any of these people better qualified to run my affairs better than me? What makes them better qualified to run ANYONE's affairs better than themselves? The very fact that a person would run for office reveals a vanity and arrogance higher than that of those they preside over. Why would I support them? You know, "Don't vote, it only encourages them." Belief in government is a lack of faith in yourself.