Voting

Please Don't Vote

The biggest fans of "democracy" treat this orgy of vacuous lever pulling as if it were sacred or patriotic. It's neither.

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Most Americans don't really care about contemporary political issues or the rudimentary workings of their government. But they sure do love voting. And the biggest fans of "democracy" treat this orgy of vacuous lever pulling as if it were sacred or patriotic. It is neither. In 2013, President Barack Obama, who's often argued that voting should be easier, issued a decidedly undemocratic executive order to create a commission that was tasked with investigating how to expand participation.

The report, for example, suggests that no one in the country should have to wait longer than 30 minutes to cast a ballot—or, in other words, voting should entail 15 minutes less exertion than ordering Chinese takeout. Nowhere within the recommendations—or elsewhere, for that matter—do we ever ponder whether voters have a civic responsibility to know who the vice president is before getting an "I voted" sticker.

A recent Pew Research Center survey found that little more than a third of American adults can name the three branches of government, and 35 percent can't name a single one. Only 38 percent of Americans could correctly identify which party controls the House or the Senate, and more than 40 percent "didn't even feel qualified to guess at the leadership of each house of Congress." There are dozens—hundreds—of surveys over the years that confirm the fact that the majority of Americans care more about anything than they do about foreign policy. And though there's no shame in being turned off by the cavity of Washington, there might be something shameful about nullifying the vote of a citizen who took the time to figure out the difference between Medicare and Medicaid.

Accountability is a downer. Making things "easy" is empowering. Last week in Colorado, scores of negligent teachers and their pliable students took to the streets to protest the implementation of a curriculum that goes heavy on teaching the responsibilities of citizenship rather than romanticizing the state. (The curriculum, it should be mentioned, was implemented using the democratic process that unions claim to hold in such high esteem.)

Is it any wonder that so many young people have ridiculously outsize expectations about what government can or should be doing? Is it any wonder that so many people can be so easily manipulated with emotional appeals—and the kind of "bed-wetting" and scaremongering we hear every day? "Hence the concentration of power and the subjection of individuals will increase among democratic nations," said Alexis de Tocqueville, "not only in the same proportion as their equality, but in the same proportion as their ignorance." Sounds about right.

Unlike others, I'm not worried about widespread fraud—though it certainly happens on occasion. I'm worried about too many uninformed and unmotivated people registering to vote. We should demand some effort. And despite perceptions, I'm not alone in these thoughts. According to the latest poll on the topic, Rasmussen found that only 17 percent of likely voters believe it's too hard to vote in the United States, whereas 27 percent think it's too easy—and 50 percent feel the level of difficulty is just right.

In Ohio, for example, a person can vote four weeks before the election. And if you forget to register, feel free to do it on the day of the election. As if that weren't enough to degrade the sanctity of the democratic process, this week the Supreme Court had to stop the state from offering an extra week, which would have allowed people to both register to vote and vote. The Supreme Court also eliminated voting on the Sunday before Election Day. This will make it more difficult for churches to organize their flocks to vote in lock step. We should be discouraging this sort of communal voting as much as we should be discouraging paper ballots, which not only are haphazardly mailed out but create a situation that leaves millions susceptible to manipulation by friends and family members. Ideally, an American should stand in a long line before being sequestered to ponder long and hard the gravity of the mistake they're about to make.

Now, it's likely that this poll has to do with partisanship, fear of fraud, or race. In addition to the recent decision in Ohio, the process of tightening voting procedures is underway in other states, including North Carolina, Texas, and Arkansas. Some argue that these laws undermine the participation of African-Americans. Considering our ugly history on this matter, accusations such as this should not be taken lightly. And as Americans, we must do our best to make voting equally onerous for all races and creeds.

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  1. I actually don’t know who my representative is. Or care. It’s kind of like Blade, when he was asked if he knew who the president was: “An asshole.”

    1. I checked the ballot in my district for the upcoming election. The only contested race is for governor. The rest are all uncontested democrats. Not gonna bother showing up this year.

  2. The more people know about the kinds of people who run for office, the more difficult it is to bring themselves to vote for any of them.

    1. My mother is very concerned that I do not vote. “Don’t you want to exercise your right?” Yeah, but I want to vote for someone that I actually support. Show me someone worth voting for and I’ll go vote for them. It won’t mean much, but I’ll still do it. There never is.

      1. In which you sacrifice your opportunity to cancel out a vote for the candidate who least represents your interests and beliefs. It’s highly unlikely that all politicians are all equally bad in all the same ways.

        That’s what we’ve been doing this whole time, you know. Voting for the best among alternatives.

        1. In which you sacrifice your opportunity to cancel out a vote for the candidate who least represents your interests and beliefs.

          Choosing the lesser of two evils still condones evil.

          1. This is a democratic social activity. Your sense of self-worth is not relevant to this.

            There is an argument to be made for abstaining from voting in protest in places where elections aren’t legitimate. When they are legitimate, you’re only ever going to get the better among alternative flawed human beings.

            1. you’re only ever going to get the better among alternative flawed human beings

              Which would not be a problem if they were not trying to control my life and/or steal from me at every opportunity. Both of those are illegitimate and antithetical to human freedom.

              1. So why not sit back and let it happen then gripe about it on the Internet?

                There’s going to be one candidate who is slightly or significantly better on the issue of controlling your life and stealing your money. Not voting is to vote for the other guy.

            2. Your devotion to the religion of democracy is sad.

              1. What’s the alternative you propose?

                1. Blank ballots. Completely blank ballots and the voter has to fill in the candidates he wishes to vote for. Spelling is important.

                  That should keep the low-info “free shit” voters from ruining this country any more than it already is.

                  1. I love this. My biggest fear would be a president Kardashian from shear name recognition. But removing party affiliation would be a great first step.

            3. Are you saying that politicians and other Government Servants are “flawed human beings”? … I am SHOCKED! SHOCKED, I say, Sir!!! Oh ye of little faith!

        2. The ballot in my district will be pretty much all uncontested Democrats. And in the issues i think really matter, both parties are the same.

          1. Not exactly the same. If there is even a sliver of a difference, then you should be motivated to vote. And you’re voting for candidates, so their specific differences are what matter. So vote for the Democrat you like better, if necessary.

            1. Not all shit tastes equally bad.-tony

              1. Some people pay $75 a pound for cat shit coffee, some shit will cure your IBS and some shit will kill you. So yeah, despite the source, not all shit is equally bad.

            2. uncontested

              And why vote if there’s only a sliver of difference when the general direction of the government is the same even when there seems to be huge differences?

              1. There are major differences between where the two parties want to take government. They hardly agree on anything, actually.

                1. There are major differences between where the two parties want to take government.

                  Citation needed.

                2. On all the issues that matter, they agree.

                  1. Sorry, that’s a little too easy. Progressives in both parties need to be kept down. They are just a more modern for, of Marxist and more proof that Joe !cCarthy was on the right track before he let Roy Chon drag him into a pissong match with the Secretary of the Army.

                    Now we need a thousand McCarthys out there destroying progressives in every walk of life. Allowing them to flourish has brought us Obama, Reid, Pelisi, and the rest of their ilk.

                    For those of you that disagree, you will never recover your freedo,s while progressives exist in any large numbers.

        3. Damn, I hate having to agree with you Ton, but you are right on.

  3. I’d support some hurdles, like that board with the different shapes cut out and you have to put the correct block through each hole. Maybe a few actual hurdles. And finally, put a door on the booth that you have to pull open, but with a sign that says push.

  4. If you are going to make it harder to vote, also make all legislation and regulations expire on a sliding based on the margin by which it passed.

    All existing legislation given 10 more years until automatic repeal. Any legislation that was installed as a “temporary measure” is immediately repealed.

    Initiatives on which the public has a direct vote:
    Majority? 2 years
    Two-thirds Majority? 5 years
    Three-fourths Majority or more? 10 years

    Majority of present representatives? Until the end of the next term of that body.
    Two-thirds majority of eligible representatives or more? Two terms.

    (Bureaucratic regulations have a lifespan equivalent to the margin which the last political appointment to their administration passed by.)

    Really good laws should last a long time and have broad support. Crappy narrowly-won laws should wither immediately.

    1. Really good laws should last a long time and have broad support.

      That’s called ‘common law’ and we don’t need a legislature for that.

      1. Seconded. Also, I just want some goddamned term limits for all elected offices. We call ourselves a country “of, by, and for the people”, but “the people” must only limited to incumbents. High turnover would ensure more participation.

        1. What do you think would happen if a congressman’s term was up and noone ran for his position?

          1. This may be too much information, but the thought of this^ happening on a large scale gave me an erection.

  5. Some argue that these laws undermine the participation of African-Americans. Considering our ugly history on this matter, accusations such as this should not be taken lightly. And as Americans, we must do our best to make voting equally onerous for all races and creeds.

    There is no reason to even entertain the notion that producing an ID to vote is too onerous for African-Americans. It’s insulting to them, for one thing. And if any individual doesn’t have the wherewithal to register for a free or virtually free state ID, how the hell did they manage to register to vote? Do we really want such incapable people making political decisions for everyone else?

    It’s not a matter of race, anyone who can’t be bothered to identify themselves at the poll shouldn’t be bothered to vote on issues of my life, liberty and property.

    1. There are fucking studies on this. They trump your folksy common sense.

      And everyone has a right to vote, no matter how stupid or incapable, because they are affected by the government they live under. That’s all. Intelligence tests were tried. Nobody here seems to have gotten the memo that this argument originates in fucking southern apartheid.

      1. All FS was saying is that you should have to demonstrate who you are, that you are voting in the right (your home) locality and you only vote once. This ensures “one man, one vote” in it’s truest form.

        1. You validate your right to vote when you register. Then it’s a matter of showing up at the right place, where they have your name on a list. No conversation about voter ID laws should lack an acknowledgment that they are blatantly partisan attempts to suppress turnout and absolutely nothing else.

          1. they have your name on a list

            Where anyone can claim to be you because you have no corresponding identification. In VA, they just sent out a card with basic info, like your name that you would show when you voted if you had no other ID. This inconvenienced no one and was a decent thing to spend tax dollars on, for once.

            1. Well it is throwing tax money after a problem that doesn’t exist, but if you want to waste tax dollars on providing free IDs to everyone eligible to vote (and I mean everyone), then knock yourself out.

              1. waste tax dollars

                Laminated pieces of paper the size of a business card that allow people to identify themselves when participating in your beloved ‘democracy’ is hardly a waste of tax dollars.

                1. Tony is very concerned about unnecessary bureaucracy.

              2. States already provide ID cards for a nominal fee via MVAs/DMVs. To apply for any kind of public assistance and to receive the proceeds you have to provide proof of identity. Funny how that’s only racist when a Republican suggests it…

          2. Yes, you verify your right to vote when you register. Then it’s a matter of showing up demonstrating you’re the person who has that right. Just like you verify your right to a driver’s license when you go to the DMV, but you have to have that license on you in order to drive around.

            You libs are always up for telling us that with rights come responsibilities, we have to fulfill our obligations to society, etc. Well, if that’s the case, if you want to participate, at a fucking minimum, if you want to have a say about anything, then it’s your responsibility to get off your ass and get a free ID.

            1. I would be OK with instituting the unnecessary bureaucratic step of voter ID provided that it is free and extremely easy to obtain an ID. No libertarian should be for unnecessary bureaucracy.

              1. So you do aprove of voter id laws.

              2. ” should be for unnecessary bureaucracy.”

                Not only bureaucracy. This is the only issue where I’ve seen a healthy sized slice of libertarian opinion argue for more laws, more regulations, and more bureaucracy. All to solve some will o the wisp problem.

                1. Not only bureaucracy. This is the only issue where I’ve seen a healthy sized slice of libertarian opinion argue for more laws, more regulations, and more bureaucracy. All to solve some will o the wisp problem.

                  That cuts both ways, especially for the “everything important must be regulated crowd.” Somehow, whether or not voters are who, in fact, they say they are is right up there with abortion, and nothing else, apparently, as sacred rights.

      2. Voting is not a right, it’s a privilege. It’s never going to be a “right” no matter how many times it’s falsely claimed to be one.

        That said, I agree voting is not something that should be restricted based on intelligence. Maybe restricted based on how much government assistance you receive (because almost nobody will say “no” to, “do you want more free shit paid for by someone else”), but even that makes me uncomfortable.

        But “voter suppression” is a nonsense issue. Blacks are not children. If they want to vote, they’re plenty capable of getting I.D., just as capable as any other group of people. You need I.D. to do plenty of everyday things in America. There is absolutely no legitimate argument for NOT doing what we can to prevent voting fraud.

        1. How the fuck is voting not a right, either by plain definition or according to the constitution?

          Okay, everyone gets government assistance. The whole point of (good) government is to spend money to help you. You may not be receiving a welfare check but you’re benefiting in other ways.

          And since the makeup of the welfare state is perhaps the most important political debate in this country, it is absurd to suggest that anyone should be restricted based on the outcome of that debate. You’re saying nothing more than “only people who agree with me should vote.” You do see that, right?

          There is absolutely no legitimate argument for NOT doing what we can to prevent voting fraud.

          Sure there is, since in-person voter fraud isn’t a real thing, and certainly not serious enough to restrict the franchise to a much greater number of people than those who commit in-person voter fraud.

          1. Hey Tony, I suppose, since bearing arms is also a right, that you neither support showing an ID or a background check in order to buy firearms, right?

            1. The correct analogy would be an ID required for every time you exercise that right, and I would be against the constant IDing of gun owners.

              1. How much do you have to pay to vote?
                Do you need a background check? A medical records check? Do you need to take a day long class on democracy? and how much does it cost?
                Do they fingerprint you?

          2. You don’t see the conflict of interest in being able to vote for some personal benefit paid for by someone else?

            1. Oh my god! Everyone is voting out of self-interest, or at least perceived self-interest. It should not be surprising that the poor tend to vote for a bigger safety net than the rich. Just because you don’t like having a safety net that doesn’t mean people who disagree with you shouldn’t be allowed to vote! Goddamn psychopaths, all of you.

              1. It should not be surprising that the poor tend to vote for a bigger safety net than the rich.

                Yep. With someone else’s money in mind. Funny how that works. Class envy is as old as time itself, and it solves nothing. You use the term “safety net” to refer to a set of programs designed to keep people poor. I don’t think you mean “safety” when you’re really referring to “oppressive”.

              2. No

                This is a major liberal and progressive canard I see all the time and it’s the idea that people do or would do if they are informed – vote their self-interest

                Rubbish

                Many will vote their principles not their self interest especially when the two are complete opposites as they sometimes are

                I would never vote for a smoking ban in anyplace apart from public buildings like libraries courthouses etc.

                If I voted my self-interest of course I would since I absolutely cannot stand cigarette smoke

                Besides the way it bothers my throat and my eyes, I have to change my clothes as soon as I can if they get too saturated. If I’m wearing a nice suit as soon as I get a chance I have to take all that stuff off and put it in the queue for the dry cleaners and on an different suit

                So it’s not only inconvenient and damaging to my well-being but it costs me money

                But I would never vote for a smoking ban in private establishments unless they are places of public accommodation because I believe that it’s an unjust extension of government power and Unjustly takes people’s rights away

                I am not alone and I’m sure there’s plenty of principled people here who would vote the principles above their interests as well on any number of issues

                It says a lot about the basic lack of principles in many liberals and progressives that they don’t even get this concept

                1. Well I’m not poor and my principles compel me to support a safety net that I would have to pay more into than I get out of. So you’re right.

                  1. Then feel free to use as much of your money as you want to support it. Quit using men with guns who threaten death or being locked in a box to force me to support it.

                    Fucking slaver

                2. It was amusing that this completely confused Frank Rich in “What’s the Matter With Kansas”…he PROVED (to his own satisfaction) Kansans sometimes voted against the pure dictates of their own economic self-interest and somehow he could not warp his mind around it.

                  Not sure if he was being dismissive of the possibility of such non-Ivy-Leaguers having principles, or that, as a Democrat, he could not conceive anyone would fail to maximize their take from the government teat.

                  I mean, plays hell with the narrative and you know how Progs are with the narratives they use instead of “observation of reality”.

      3. Tony, stop. You oppose voter ID because you only succeed when voter fraud succeeds. And you know it. With out voter fraud, there is no Sen. Al Franken, or any other bullshit result from a close election.

      4. Even stupid people can be right once in awhile.

      5. Tony:

        And everyone has a right to vote, no matter how stupid or incapable, because they are affected by the government they live under. That’s all.

        No, Tony. You forget that some people have the right, and some don’t, and that’s because the government says they do. And the government defines what that vote actually counts for, if anything.

        Or, as you’re proposed before, do you think the Jews in the Holocaust had a right to vote?

    2. “It’s not a matter of race, anyone who can’t be bothered to identify themselves at the poll shouldn’t be bothered to vote on issues of my life, liberty and property.”

      Are you saying that voters who can be bothered to identify themselves should be bothered to vote on issues of your life, liberty and even your property, even if they’re black? Courageous.

  6. Every year in Illinois,the prominent gun owner groups host a lobby day in Springfield.

    Last time I went I volunteered to sit at a table to help people find who their State Rep and Senators.

    Its shocking how many of those people who are supposedly politically active don’t know who the heck represents them in Springfield, and/or don’t know the difference between a US Rep/Senator and their state level counterparts.

    Fortunately for these people, it doesn’t matter who they vote for anyways if Firearms are their #1 issue. Geography, not party dictates whether or not your State critter supports or opposes armed citizens.

  7. “this week the Supreme Court had to stop the state [Ohio] from offering an extra week [to vote]”

    No, IIRC it was a lower federal court which granted the extra week, and the Supreme Court overruled the lower courts and allowed Ohio to enforce its (more restrictive) laws.

  8. This might be the first unequivocally-libertarian post in Reason’s history.

    1. There is a print magazine, you know.

  9. I live in CA, I’d like to just ban all voting. In fact, given what they vote in here, the constitution already does ban it.

    1. No reason to ban something that’s already pointless.

      Seriously unless there are fewer than 1000 votes total, your one vote is meaningless. I vote anyway but it’s more kabuki than believing I’m exercising some actual control over events.

  10. This may be the most appalling and fatuous reason article I’ve ever read. (No no–you should be proud, as that is a monumental accomplishment.)

    Are you playing the part of the libertarian who puts principle so far ahead of consequences that the latter are irrelevant? Or are you playing the part of the libertarian who wants to see Republicans get elected and so advocates poll tests to achieve that end? Either way, fuck you and your faux-cynical tantrum-throwing horseshit. What is your alternative to the democracy you treat with such sarcastic disdain? Anyone want to answer that one, finally?

    Especially in the ludicrously patchwork and often deliberately difficult voting system in the US, the mere act of voting is sufficient evidence of interest in the political process and, if nothing else, the positions of the opposing candidate. Do you suppose all those ignorant Americans are showing up and pulling random levers? Or are you just pissed off that some of them consciously choose to pull the lever you don’t like?

    Check the turnout rate in this country. Betcha a significant portion of the majority who don’t vote is those uninformed rubes who don’t know the vice president. You get your poll test. It has one question: “Are you engaged enough to show up to vote?”

    There is no libertarian argument for using government power to make voting more difficult than it has to be. So score a point for my second guess in paragraph 2.

    1. “are you playing the part of the libertarian who wants to see Republicans get elected and so advocates poll tests to achieve that end?”

      Are you implying that Republicans are much better informed than Democrats? Is that why such a policy would be so detrimental to Democrats?

      “ludicrously patchwork and often deliberately difficult voting system in the US.”

      What alternate universe do you live on? You get off work, you go to the nearest school and you cast your vote. Pretty simple.

      1. Are you implying that Republicans are much better informed than Democrats? Is that why such a policy would be so detrimental to Democrats?

        No, I’m stating that these laws are deliberately aimed at restricting the ability to vote by people for whom it is most cumbersome to acquire IDs. Like poor people, who Republicans don’t like voting because they vote for Democrats. I consider anyone voting for Republicans by definition less informed about the world.

        It’s fairly easy to vote, at least where I live. For some reason in swing states these interminable lines and hanging chad shenanigans tend to crop up. And why do we vote on Tuesdays and not the weekends? Our relatively difficult voting system is a major reason for our low turnout.

        1. I know it was cumbersome as hell flying to Florida with phony IDs to vote 20 times against that fuck Gore.

        2. you weren’t talking about IDs. You were talking about poll tests. The test would likely be used to restrict whoever the opposition party to the party in power is. Much like how the IRS was used to stifle opposition to democrats in the 2012 election.

          1. Very much not like that thing that isn’t real, actually.

            1. You still labor under the mistaken notion that the IRS has not been used as a political tool by the party in power? It’s happened before, with Republicans (which you seem to heartily agree actually occurred) but when your “team” does it… it’s all a plot to discredit the saintly Democrats?

              You can’t be that obtuse.

              1. There are real problems in this world, you know.

              2. Certainly he can. He frequently is. I’m pretty sure it’s a put on, because if he was really that stupid he would forget how to breathe.

            2. You’re such a Marxist tool. It’s disgusting you pretend to have principles or values. No progressive does. Like a psupycopath, they are just things you fake, and use to get your way. Which is all that matters to your treasonous ilk.

              The world will be the better for your absence.

              1. ‘Psycopath’. Dammit.

    2. ludicrously patchwork

      “Divided Sovereignty”. What is it?

      1. A concept that causes more problems than it solves.

        1. Only in the eyes of someone who wants a total and totally centralized state.

          1. Or someone who lives in a state that restricts my rights far more than the federal government does.

            1. Your fault for living in such a progressive state.

    3. “Are you playing the part of the libertarian who puts principle so far ahead of consequences that the latter are irrelevant? ”

      Are very familiar with the concept of “principles”??

  11. Simplest non-discrimatory solution: No party labels on the ballot. Just names, and a number to disambiguate if necessary.

    You want to vote for team X? Better fucking memorize who their candidates are.

    1. But if they did that, how would Democrats know who to vote for?

      1. Right because only Democrats vote party line?

        Lol

  12. I would take a slightly different approach. I believe in the Mencken definition of Democracy; that the common man knows what he wants and deserves to get it good and hard. So, if you have an opinion, no matter how ill informed, please do vote. Hopefully the consequences of having voted for a winner here and there will teach you to be better informed?..

  13. Very bad idea. Down the ballot, there are many elections where freedom fighters can be put in to office but can lose by a handful of votes.

    1. Down the Ballot?

      Duuuuuuuuude!

      WA State Governor election 2004. I remember it well

      Over 2,700,000 votes

      Gregoire won (‘allegedly’. 🙂 ) by less than 150 votes.

      About .05%

      1. That was a travesty. She really got out the incarcerated felon and pet cemetery vote out on that one.

  14. People don’t realize that you can walk into the booth not vote for anybody or anything and still be counted as a voter.

  15. Nonsense. Americans have very low turnout rates. People already know that their vote does not really count and just get on with their lives on election days.

  16. Pam Mazanec Colorado Board of Education,

    As an example, I note our slavery history. Yes, we practiced slavery. But we also ended it voluntarily, at great sacrifice, while the practice continues in many countries still today! Shouldn’t our students be provided that viewpoint?

    Opposing this is “negilgent”? Really?

  17. Some votes matter, some don’t. Go to the ones that do matter.

    And if you don’t like the choices, consider running yourself. Running for office is also a necessary part of democracy.

  18. Was it not the case that in those places that passed voter id laws that turnout increased?

  19. The goal is to convince the other side to not vote.

  20. I will say this about voting by mail. As an informed voter its nice to be able to sit with your ballot and look everything up on the internet and see what each person is actually for and the real pros and cons of each ballot initiative. Standing int he ballot box looking at a judicial race (nonpartisan in our state) and having to pick one was kind of ridiculous.

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