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November 4, 2014

In defense of non-voters
Posted by Patrick at 10:11 AM * 202 comments

I vote in every election, even funny little off-year ones. And I’m very sympathetic to the argument that if voting didn’t matter, certain factions among the powerful wouldn’t be going to so much trouble to reduce the number of people allowed to do it.

But there’s an argument I’m not sympathetic to, and I’m seeing it everywhere I look online today. It’s the one that goes “If you don’t vote, you have no right to complain.”

It’s bullshit. Everybody has the right to complain. People who disagree with you and me about the value of voting have the right to complain. Monarchists and anarchists have the right to complain. The foolish, the feckless, and the chronically annoying have the right to complain. People who forgot about the election have the right to complain. People who were too tired to get out of the house have the right to complain.

I don’t want to get too far into the philosophical weeds of what “rights” actually are, which ones are “inherent” or “natural,” or what any of that actually means in the real world. But to put it plainly, if there are fundamental rights to justice and equity, to fair treatment, then we’re born with them. We don’t earn them by voting, or by participating in any other specific political transaction that’s evolved from the contigencies of history. To argue that “if you don’t vote, you have no right to complain” is basically to frame fundamental human rights as a grant, not an entitlement. And it’s to assert that you, O virtuous voter, have the right to revoke that grant to someone because they didn’t value voting as highly as you do.

It’s a bullying assertion of unearned moral superiority. Voting is fine. Go, vote. But stop saying that people who disagree about this should be stripped of their rights. Alternately, if you keep saying it, well, we have a pretty good idea of how much you respect the idea that fundamental rights are for everyone, not just people you happen to like and agree with.

Comments on In defense of non-voters:
#1 ::: Becca Stareyes ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2014, 10:37 AM:

My father legally couldn't even apply for citizenship for years, and didn't until post-9-11 when he was worried government facilities would crack down on non-citizen visiting scientists. And the post before this noted voter ID laws that make it hard for even citizens to vote if they can't spend the time and money to get a legal form of ID.

Also, because I've been in the middle of a move, I couldn't switch my registration to New State, and missed the absentee deadline for Old State.

#2 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2014, 10:48 AM:

Yeah, I should also have said "People who have been worn down by all the roadblocks placed in front of voting have the right to complain."

#3 ::: Theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2014, 10:53 AM:

Okay, how's this: "Your non-vote increases the value of my vote. Stay away and let me decide for you. If you think they're all the same, this will make both of us happy."

#4 ::: dotless ı ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2014, 10:55 AM:

I suppose it loses some rhetorical force to go from a universal "If you don't vote you have no right to complain" to "If you decide not to vote for a reason I don't consider sufficiently persuasive then I won't give much weight to your complaints about the actions of the politicians who get elected". Am I being overly generous when I generally read the former as the latter? (Both are problematic in their attribution of blame, but there's a difference between "These are your rights" and "Here is how this will affect our conversation".)

#5 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2014, 10:58 AM:

My head hurts. My computer's hard drive is dying! I have too much homework. I have too much regular work. My dad's losing it. The yard is full of leaves. I have to move all these damn books! There's nothing good to eat here.

#6 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2014, 11:05 AM:

I reserve the right to disapprove of people who fail to engage in their civic duties, whether its failing to clean up after their dog, continuing to water their lawn during a draught, or not voting in the midst of a political crisis.

Yes, the have the right to not engage in politics, but not all rules of a civil society require laws and police to enforce them.

Just because they, er, exercise that right to complain doesn't mean I have to take their whinging seriously or respectfully.

#7 ::: Lydy Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2014, 11:08 AM:

I really hate the whole idea that one has to earn the right to complain. Partly, I suppose, it's because I like to complain. However, complaining is often how someone explores and explicates problems. Complaining forces one to put a feeling of discomfort into concrete terms, and this is often very useful for figuring out what is causing a problem, and if there is any useful solution. Not that all complaining is constructive, I do more than my fair share of unproductive kvetching. But sometimes, it's a way of exploring a problem.

The voting/complaining thing is particularly pernicious, though. It is predicated on the assumption that civil society has no obligations to people not solidly in the mainstream. There is a weird corollary, too, where if you voted for someone who didn't win, somehow you did it wrong, and so you still don't have the right to complain or take your representative to task.

#8 ::: Lydy Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2014, 11:13 AM:

Lee, I blink in your general direction. This seems to suggest that you take the opinions of someone who unthinkingly votes based on a very narrow recommendation (straight party, what a pundit told them to do, whether or not the candidate had good hair, whathaveyou) is somehow a person whose opinion you respect more than someone who has done a lot of research, writes interestingly and persuasively about civil concerns, but who does not vote. The reason they don't vote could be that they aren't eligible, or because in their judgment it's not a meaningful act, or as a protest, or some other thing. The act of voting is not sufficient for me to respect someone's opinion. Me, I usually vote, though I'm a bit conflicted about it.

#9 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2014, 11:17 AM:

I'll have to disagree with Patrick on that one.

#10 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2014, 11:35 AM:

4
That's how I think it's understood.
Democracy shouldn't be a spectator sport.
I'm going out a bit later to vote. (And then I'm going to have to fix the mailing address on the voting stuff.)

#11 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2014, 11:37 AM:

You want to complain? Look at these shoes! I've only had them three weeks and the heels are worn right through.

#12 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2014, 11:44 AM:

Note: The Lee who posted #6 is not me.

Patrick, I agree with your point, and that is why I have not used this particular argument for a long time. (I used to, when I had a less-nuanced understanding of the topic.) I will, however, use other arguments:

- If you don't vote, you are handing over the running of the country to the people elected by those who do, without making even a token protest.

- If everybody who doesn't vote because they think "it won't make any difference" actually went out and voted, it damn sure would make a difference! And it has to start somewhere.

- If the enemies of democracy didn't think voting mattered, they wouldn't spend so much time trying to convince people not to vote, and making it harder for people to vote. (Thanks, Teresa!)

Ultimately, trying to persuade someone who seriously doesn't want to vote that their position is flawed is the real-life version of playing Wrong On The Internet; you will probably never succeed. But it doesn't leave me feeling particularly respectful of their opinions either there or in other areas, either.

#13 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2014, 11:46 AM:

Lydy #8:

THere's also corollary that if you voted for the winner, you have also forfeited your right to complain, since you got what you asked for.

Like you, I'm firmly in the everyone's got a right to complain. I think the right to complain is called, in legalese, the right to "petition the government for redress of their grievances" or something like that.

That doesn't mean it's not annoying to listen to someone complain about something they could have done something about, but didn't.

#14 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2014, 11:58 AM:

All of Lee's arguments for voting (in #12) seem fine to me. Do recall, as I said at the top of the post, I always vote.

As to the actual point of the post, I take the boring view that when people say that other people don't (or shouldn't) have the right to do something, they mean that those people don't (or shouldn't) have the right to do something. If what they actually mean is that they disapprove of those people's choices, I'm pretty sure that the English language offers fairly easy words and phrases with which to express such a view.

#15 ::: Miramon ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2014, 12:09 PM:

Completely agree with pnh's OP.

And in particular, when the candidates for a given position are all negative choices, it's sad to vote for the "lesser of two evils" out of some kind of misplaced sense of civic duty. Hmm, should I vote for the smugly corrupt incumbent, or the stupidly hateful newcomer? I guess I'll go with corrupt. No, hateful.

As has been repeatedly requested (and so far as I know universally rejected in the US) a None-Of-The-Above choice would be wonderful. I would certainly vote in every election and for every job if NOTA was an option. NOTA would make it completely clear to the eventual elected candidate how thin his or her support really is, and also clear to the parties how much people dislike their policies and platforms.

#16 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2014, 12:13 PM:

I think it's interesting that everyone seems to be assuming we're talking only about national races, or at least races where there's reasonable uncertainty in the outcome. There's frequently no point for someone to vote for, say, the state legislature, since it's so often a foregone conclusion. I'm in a very blue part of a very blue state; registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans in our district by 7 to 1. Our state senator (who I personally think is fantastic) is running unopposed. I hope that even the most ardent "if you didn't vote, you can't complain" advocates would suggest that Republicans are bound to write someone in to be permitted to complain about what's going on in the state legislature.

#17 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2014, 12:26 PM:

I have always hated the "If you don't vote, you have no right to complain" attitude. Too many elections, I've been faced with voting for the lesser of two evils; too often, I couldn't see a lesser. Since I'm fortunate enough to live in a state where undervoting (that is, leaving one race blank) does not mean that my ballot won't be counted, I can do that . . . but I hate it.

Sometimes, refusing to vote is a vote, a conscious choice. Even when it isn't, even when it involves a personal situation that isn't relevant to the election at all, that doesn't mean I don't get to complain about what the people who voted did to me and the rest of the country. In my opinion, at least.

#18 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2014, 12:26 PM:

As someone who has chosen not to naturalise in the US, I can't vote. Still, I contribute to the political system in a number of ways and I pay my taxes. I do have a right to complain.

#19 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2014, 12:32 PM:

I've been guilty of this, and will try to do better. Everyone has the right to complain.

When I first registered to vote, the Democratic machine in my college town was afraid that all these new damned 18-year-old college students were going to vote the wrong way, and the status quo politicians would lose their decades-long hold on local politics. So they challenged our registrations and made it impossible for us to vote in that election. In truth (it was a presidential election year) up to that point I suspect none of us cared particularly who was running New London, CT. After our registrations got tossed, we cared. We went door to door getting new voters registered; two of the faculty at my school ran for local office and won. The machine, by challenging our right to register and vote, eventually lost its hold. (This was decades ago--I have no idea who's in charge there these days.)

I vote because I was raised to believe that it was my responsibility, but also because someone tried to take that away from me, and because I've seen what can happen when enough people are pissed off enough to make a change happen.

#20 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2014, 12:33 PM:

Mary Frances @17, I remember a Senate race, many years ago, where we were given a choice between an incompetent fool and a competent bigot.

It was an AWFUL choice to have to make. I ended up holding my nose and voting for the bigot; my husband ended up holding his nose and voting for the fool. Neither of us knew how the other was voting until afterwards; we gave each other a wry smile and said, "well, at least we cancelled each other out..."

How I would have LOVED a "None Of The Above" choice. (Heck, wouldn't mind that for a few races on THIS ballot...)

#21 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2014, 01:03 PM:

Fragano Ledgister @18 speaks, mutatis mutandis, for me. (And like him, I shall continue to exercise the right, and on much the same basis.)

#22 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2014, 01:08 PM:

I had to wait for some copies (needed something on cardstock, had no paper stocks, went to Office Max). Got to chatting with a nun who was waiting for some oversized copies. Got to talking about voting (that is what her copies were for).

She said, "When I was working in Africa, I've seen people cry because they got the right to vote for the first time. I wish people here did not take it for granted."

I just wish voting was compulsory as it is in some other countries. Though I can see the already evil people who are screwing with voters' rights trying to make citizenship requirements to voting if that were the case.

I've only missed one election thing since I moved to Missouri, it was a small, one-issue education thing in an off month. I remembered it about five minutes too late to go to the polling place. I got gently chided by one of my poll workers the next time there was vote.

#23 ::: mjfgates ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2014, 01:09 PM:

My sympathies to anyone who lives somewhere with "hold your nose and pull the lever" politicians. We've got a couple of nervous-making races... will the anti-gun-control measure win, or the pro-gun-control measure that says exactly the opposite thing, or BOTH of them? will the traitorous scumbag get re-elected, or have enough members of his supposed party twigged to the fact that he's been caucusing and voting with the OTHER guys?... but that's better than a choice between beige and taupe.

#24 ::: John C. Bunnell ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2014, 01:10 PM:

#16: Your description of your state legislative district resonates with me; my city of legal residence is often regarded as similarly safe Democratic territory, and there's a measure on the Oregon ballot today to create a "top two" open primary system.

But the thing is, our respective voting districts are viewed that way because of a fallacy -- namely, that checking a box on one's voter registration form makes one a "member" of a political party in any legally meaningful sense.

Which is why I'd like to enact a different reform: a citizen's voter registration should not include any record of party affiliation. Nowadays, that data is used -- or rather, misused -- for only two significant purposes. Party affiliation in voter records makes the active membership of both major political parties look much larger than it actually is, and it provides the key data needed to gerrymander legislative and Congressional districts whenever those boundaries are redrawn.

Detaching party affiliation from voter registration is only a partial step towards solving today's political crises. But it strikes me as a good start towards leveling the playing field.

#25 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2014, 01:17 PM:

Normally, I vote. Since we moved, we've been unlucky to be in a newly residential area that doesn't have its own polling place yet, necessitating a surprisingly substantial trip to the polling place in the nearest continuously-residential neighborhood. That said, I've made the trek every general and most primaries. Today suddenly got tight, though, and there's an even chance I won't make the 9PM close.

That said, I'm lucky in that every candidate I'd vote for will win -- literally my only choice and effect will be which column I pull Cuomo in.

#26 ::: Laertes ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2014, 01:46 PM:

There's a certain kind of person that just really likes telling people they don't have the right to do this or that. Sentences of the form "x is a privilege, not a right," come easily to these.

Those people creep me out.

#27 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2014, 01:47 PM:

ISTM that a tremendous amount of energy goes into telling people to shut up, they have no right to complain. It seems like it's always a kind of poisonous thing to say, an attempt to rule your complaint or comment out of bounds before you even get to make it.

#28 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2014, 01:50 PM:

Miramon, #15: I direct your attention to the 1991 Louisiana governor's race, where there were bumper stickers saying, "Vote for the crook. It's important." The two candidates were Edwin Edwards, who was known to be corrupt... and David Duke, the head of the Ku Klux Klan. In effect, those stickers were saying "vote for the lesser of two evils because the other one is intolerable".

Increasingly, that's how I've been feeling about casting my vote. It's not about bad vs. good, or even about bad vs. less bad, it's about bad vs. unthinkable.

John B., #24: Hear, hear! The other reform I'd like to see is the outlawing of the "straight party ticket" button, for two reasons: (1) it makes it far too easy for assholes to be elected thru sheer laziness on the part of the voters -- that's what gave us Ted Cruz in the Senate, when even members of his own party were side-eying him during the campaign; (2) it provides an easy target for election fraud*, as in the 2008 and 2010 campaigns when there were widespread reports of machines that had been rigged to flip straight-ticket votes for Democrats to straight-ticket votes for Republicans.

* The Republicans want us to believe in "voter fraud", which is the retail version and barely existent, and with which it would be extremely difficult to affect any race larger than the mayor of a 500-person town. What we really need to be worried about is election fraud, the wholesale version. "Losing" thousands of voter-registration applications, "lost" votes that mysteriously appear when the wrong candidate is about to win a tight race, the aforementioned rigged machines, vote-counts being conducted by companies with close financial ties to one of the candidates -- those are the real problems, and none of them will ever be fixed by voter ID laws.

#29 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2014, 02:05 PM:

I agree with PNH#0, but like others I'll go with "you have a right to complain. However, you don't have a right to have me listen or care, and if you didn't vote, that will be the extent of my listening or caring."

I vote because it's important to, and because I was trained to. My mother votes because her mother couldn't - it really is that recent. I vote because I remember my grandmother, and all the suffragette's issues (which I am *not* glossing over) aside, legally it was as easy to change her voting status as a swipe of a pen; which means that legally, if the political landscape changes sufficiently, a swipe of a pen could remove her vote, or mine, or Abdul's, or Mr. Blue Cloud's. My vote lends its part to the voice that says "that's not politically acceptable yet".

Having said that, I have the opposite problem to others posting here - I live in the heart of Conservative Alberta, and the only real election is the Tory primary. My only possible alternative is a party that thinks the current Conservative Government is entirely corrupt (because they've been in power for 50 years, and rot sets in. I don't exactly disagree with them), in the pocket of the oil companies (which is only a problem because of the corruption it causes, frankly, they're also "very business friendly"), and doesn't crack down hard enough on the wrong sort (you know, those drunk Natives on handouts, the swarthy looking people who come in and take our jobs, that couple acting like it's *normal* to do that in front of our kids, ...)(*); not exactly an alternative for me. But I still vote.

I am (as are most Canadians, IIRC) allowed to refuse my ballot for a particular race (we're really old-fashioned. We get several pieces of paper, each with one race on it, and put an X in the box next to the name of the person (or rarely, persons) I choose to vote for. We're also really old-fashioned - we expect the results to be in, at least to statistically significant amounts, within an hour or two of the polls closing). It must be recorded, counted, and presented in the official results. I've used that option once, when I really truly couldn't vote for any of the candidates; either those I couldn't trust, or those I'd never heard of.

(*) Okay, so they don't believe that last set - and you can tell that, because they explicitly withdraw support for any candidate stupid enough to say any of that in front of microphones.

#30 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2014, 02:13 PM:

Ohnosecond: Yes, anybody who has significant roadblocks (or legal roadblocks) in their way, but *want to vote if they could*, are exempt from my lack of care. Doubly so if, if by something I can do, those roadblocks can be removed. Half again if it's something where I happen to agree with the legal roadblock (citizenship requirement for voting in federal (but not municipal) elections, for instance).

#31 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2014, 02:25 PM:

By all means, the right to complain doesn't stop existing because of not voting (and I have no trouble with choosing not to vote every once in a while), but if a person never ever votes (despite being eligible) and complains loudly and at length about political problems, then I'm likely to discount that person's opinion.

#32 ::: Steve with a book ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2014, 02:31 PM:

EU citizens who live within the UK but who are not British, Commonwealth or Irish citizens are unable to vote in Parliamentary elections, which I've always thought is pretty rough on them given that the whole point of freedom of movement within the EU is to give incomers pretty much the same rights and status of those who were born here, and given that Parliament can muck them around just as much as it can muck around the locals. They may be able to vote in their home countries' national elections at a distance like British citizens can but there's still a democratic deficit there. Add in all those UK residents who are from outside both {UK + Republic of Ireland} and the Commonwealth and you have millions of adults here who can't vote; almost certainly a higher proportion of disenfranchised adults than we've ever had since very-nearly-universal-adult-suffrage was introduced in 1918.

There's a huge number of safe seats in the UK where the result is such an odds-on conclusion that it scarcely feels worth turning up to vote; does the exercising of voting rights have a bigger moral weight if the elections are run on (say) STV?

#33 ::: Miramon ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2014, 02:34 PM:

Lee@28, re bad vs. unthinkable: I agree, in that sort of situation, choosing the lesser of two evils makes sense.

However, in most cases that I would prefer NOTA the choices are among ordinary villains of different stripes, the usual sort of politician. Most often none of them are unthinkable, at least not compared to their competition.

#34 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2014, 02:47 PM:

To everyone going "well if you don't vote then I don't think much of your opinions", I'll do you one better: If you aren't personally running for any political office in this round of elections, you are weak and unpatriotic and I will assume that all your opinions are bad. If you were *really* dedicated to the political process you'd be trying to get involved in it, after all. If any politician makes a decision that you don't like, it's only your fault for not personally running for their seat.

Look. In all seriousness, stop trying to shame people for not having the spoons to go vote, or for otherwise deciding that the benefit of voting isn't worth the cost. Picking your battles is a sensible thing to do.

#35 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2014, 02:49 PM:

Speaking as a non-USAn and a Canadian: given the USA's prominence in the world both economically and militarily, I think we have a right to complain if you lot south of us decide to screw up your government so badly that it does stupid things that affect the rest of the world.

#36 ::: Keith R.A. DeCandido ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2014, 04:08 PM:

People who don't vote have the right to complain. But I have the right to take their complaints less seriously for that reason. :)

---KRAD

#37 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2014, 04:24 PM:

Would those of you who are saying they'll take the opinions of non-voters seriously discount my opinions by, say, 30% because I didn't check either box for one of our three ballot questions, and skipped a few races for judge?

The ballot question is one which seems to be "good intentions, how do you plan on carrying this out?" It calls for a minimum class size for the state's public schools, with nothing about funding. The entire state legislature is already in contempt of court for not adequately funding the public school system.

I don't actually think anything would have been improved by my arbitrarily going "I like that person's name better" rather than skipping those races, and it's difficult to find useful information for judicial elections.

(I'm one of those people who generally turns out for things like off-year Democratic primaries: which means that whoever inherited my phone number in New York is probably still getting huge numbers of political robocalls. But I'm not sure that's a virtue, it's a habit I learned from my parents and grandparents.)

#38 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2014, 04:27 PM:

And a possibly-less-cynical alternative:

"If you tried to stop anyone from voting, or defend attempts to do so, you have no right to complain." I don't agree with that one either, because Patrick is correct, we don't have to earn the right to free speech. But I am tempted to say that the people who should shut up aren't the ones who didn't vote, but the people who try to prevent others from voting.

#39 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2014, 04:42 PM:

To reiterate, I'm not making an argument for not voting. I don't actually buy the idea that having to choose a "lesser of two evils" is a particularly good reason not to vote. You know something about the lesser of two evils? With the lesser of two evils, you get less evil. That seems worth pulling a lever for.

What I'm calling out is a kind of self-satisfied belief that our model of government, politics, and citizenship is so obviously the pinnacle of all human possibility that anybody who dissents from it by not playing should have their rights taken away ... or that such a person (to address some of the rephrasings offered in this thread) is so clearly wrong that we should pay N% less attention to them. I am by no means so confident that the United States of 2014 represents such a high point of civilization.

History is very complicated, and we are not its crescendo. As I remarked on Twitter earlier today, "Remember, if you don't exercise your advowson, you have no right to complain!"

#40 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2014, 04:51 PM:

Patrick, I agree with you. The right to complain about an election result can never be lost, even by those who did not vote in that election.

However -- (deep breath) -- I find myself monumentally irritated when people don't vote because they moved and forgot to register at the new address (even though the card which they can fill out to register has been sitting in the house for weeks), or can't be bothered to walk two blocks to the polling place, or don't know where their polling place is and can't be bothered to find out, or a host of other trivial reasons. My grandmother could not legally vote. My mother could, and always did. I grew up being reminded that people died for the right to vote, that voting matters, that voting is an exercise of citizenship (as is jury duty) and I believe things are still true. I spent several hours researching my ballot this year, looking up the names of judges, trying to do what I believe a good citizen does.

And nothing is making me angrier right now than hearing the reports from Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, Florida, Kansas, Wisconsin, and so on regarding laws that restrict voting, that make it harder for citizens to vote. I want plagues, I tell you, plagues!

Where's a rain of frogs when you really need one?

#41 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2014, 04:56 PM:

Okay, let's get a little more granular here.

Not voting (and still complaining) is a perfectly valid example of a right to free speech. But I don't see how that expression (for it is indeed an expression) is immune to criticism.

I know the original topic was aimed at those who say that "you have no right to complain, etc." but IMO that cliche is basically a lazy shorthand. I doubt that anyone who's said it actually wishes for an individual to be stripped of his or her rights.

#42 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2014, 05:08 PM:

I'm a third-party voter (and I promise not to instigate Libertarians-vs-Socialists arguments here :-) I believe strongly that ballot access should be as open as possible, to provide voters with actual choices between different candidates.

California recently switched to a top-two primary system - instead of separate primaries for each party (or conventions, for some small parties that don't want to do primaries), with the winners and independents getting on the general election ballot in the fall, there's a mixed open primary between all candidates from all parties, and then the top two candidates get into the general election. It's a hopeless mess for a number of reasons.

- The big parties like it because they don't have any small fry getting in their way, like Al Gore having to attract voters who would have otherwise voted for Ralph Nader, or various Libertarians taking more votes from Republicans than Democrats as is happening in a couple of elections this year.

- Small parties are almost entirely locked out of the general election; it's possible we might get a Democrat vs. a Green in a heavily Democratic district instead of two Democrats, but it's unlikely.

- Worse, under California election law, the way small parties get ballot access has mainly been getting enough votes in a statewide general election, rather than registration percentage, so most of us will lose ballot status in one or two election cycles.

- The consolation prize is that sometimes a district will have two Democrats or two Republicans, so the rest of us effectively get to vote in their primary. (There were half a dozen or so races like that this year.)

- There are lots of ways to game this system, with the big parties encouraging minor candidates from the other party to run, splitting their vote. It's much messier than even the Open Primary system that preceded it.

- Open Primaries were also a mess, but a more limited one. I think parties should pick their own candidates, and people from other parties shouldn't be able to disrupt that.

I'm in Silicon Valley, which is moderately heavily Democratic. Not all of the districts I live in had Libertarians running this year, between Congress and state assembly and senate and the statewide offices, so I also voted for some Greens and Occupiers (some were better than the Democrats, and the major parties could take care of their own.) None of them made it, and unfortunately the Republicans were able to get second place in all of them. A few nearby districts ended up Dem-vs-Dem.

#43 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2014, 05:09 PM:

Steve C @ 41... that cliche is basically a lazy shorthand. I doubt that anyone who's said it actually wishes for an individual to be stripped of his or her rights.

I don't think it's lazy, but it *is* a shorthand.

#44 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2014, 05:26 PM:

My wife voted for the first time in this election -- when she was an adult in the UK she managed to move around enough to miss the local elections, then she moved to the US. 20 some odd years later she's now a citizen and got for the first time. Many of the races were uncontested and some didn't have good choices but an issue with our local politics.

#45 ::: Brenda Kalt ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2014, 06:16 PM:

This discussion brings up a related aphorism, "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem."

#46 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2014, 06:28 PM:

I see the "don't vote/don't complain" rhetoric not as a enfranchised/disenfranchised debate but as an optimism/cynicism dialog. The Optimist believes that every vote matters (they're right) and that each individual can cast the deciding vote in a close run election (that doesn't happen very often). The Cynic believes otherwise, but refuses to engage in the harangue based dialog. It's a variation of the "don't argue with a pedant, it wastes your time and annoys the pedant."

At various times, I've been both the optimist and the cynic (not concurrently). Right now, I'm straddling that line back into voting on all things, but it's out of a desire for due diligence (Hail, ye suffragettes!) and not because I think my vote will make a difference. Both Democrats and Republicans game the election system. Ditto the media. At this point, I'm reduced to voting for whomever pisses me off the least.

I will note that telling that to an apparatchik in the 2008 election got me off the main calling list for that party.

#47 ::: Richard York ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2014, 06:57 PM:

Rant follows....

Everyone has a right to complain. Bitching is as necessary to the human condition as hemoglobin. I also have a right to criticize people who choose not to vote.

I feel especially critical about people who make the increasingly specious claim that there's no difference between the two major parties. That might have been accurate 40 or 50 years ago. But it is most definitely not true today.

Does anyone really think that the Democrats would have eviscerated the Voting Rights Act? Does anyone really think that the Democrats would have made Roe v Wade irrelevant? Do you think Al Gore, the winner of the 2000 election, would have plunged us headlong into the vicious and foolish imperial wars in the Middle East?

These days the differences between the two parties are stark. The Republicans have and will continue to destroy the gains made by the poor and people of color in the last 50 years.
And, if they'd had their way, we would be on the verge of another serious recession like our neighbors in Europe who, stupidly and completely ignoring history, forced austerity on the member nations of the EU.

Most of all, the Republicans have and will continue to pretend science is useless and reason is heresy. We are living in an age when the Republican Chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee openly states his firm belief that "god" created the world in 7 days 8,000 years ago.

Liberals and progressives who don't vote in this election are condemning those of us, who do care about the future and did vote, to a country increasingly run by a group of willfully ignorant people. So, I wish they would not complain and I remain extremely angry with their indifference.

In this case, their indifference is forcing me to live in a nation increasingly ruled by fear and ignorance

#48 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2014, 07:17 PM:

Victoria @ 46... It's a variation of the "don't argue with a pedant, it wastes your time and annoys the pedant."

So, basically, those of us who disagree with the thread's position are pedants?

#49 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2014, 07:45 PM:

I didn't vote today. I already wasn't going to vote today, mostly because of not having the spoons to go vote when I live in a city and state that are famous for always voting the same way. I felt vaguely guilty about it this morning, because Voting Is Thine Civic Duty.

But I sure feel a lot better about it now, because of all the people in this thread here trying to guilt me about it, saying I'm (paraphrased) Being Unamerican and in possession of Unworthy Opinions. Wow. Nice. If my not voting makes you angry, good! I'm now deliberately not voting as revenge for your attempts to guilt and shame me for not having spoons. If you really want people to vote more, next time try not insulting them.

#50 ::: John Hawkins ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2014, 08:15 PM:

People who hold this position (non-voters have no right to complain) make two presumptions about what you must believe in order to have this right.
1) You must accept democracy as a political ideal.
2) You must accept the current implementation of democracy.

To not accept either of these positions is to render your opinions invalid.

This is bigotry. It essentially involves holding the position that if someone does not agree with these two positions, the later of which is the result of historical accident, then their ideas are not worthy of consideration.

#51 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2014, 08:28 PM:

42
Bill, that was why I voted against the thing. (I had the joy two years ago of a runoff between two Ds for the seat that used to be Waxman's.)

#52 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2014, 08:38 PM:

If I vote twice, do I get to complain twice as much?

#53 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2014, 08:46 PM:

So, we're bigots, besides being pedants.

#54 ::: Adrian ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2014, 10:11 PM:

Lee (the one at #12) makes a really common argument for denigrating complaints from non-voters (presenting it in the abstract, not using it to attack anybody. I agree that it's common.)

- If you don't vote, you are handing over the running of the country to the people elected by those who do, without making even a token protest.

What good is that token protest? In some situations, it's pretty close to meaningless. My county usually votes in a landslide--I don't see the value in making that landslide infinitesimally larger. (Or infinitesimally smaller, once in a while.) I vote, but there are quite a few elections where I don't expect my vote to matter. This year, in MA, we had something meaningful to vote for, but that doesn't happen all the time.

If I wanted to make a token protest, and wanted that protest to be heard, I would need to take more direct action. I would be marching in the streets, singing songs and carrying signs. I'd be sending email to my congresscritters (who I consider obligated to represent me whether I vote for them or not.) I don't do that. I stayed home during Occupy. Am I still allowed to complain?

#55 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2014, 10:50 PM:

Steve C. @41:

OK, let's get granular. If I know that the reason someone didn't vote was to make a statement (rather than because they weren't allowed to, or their life went all pear-shaped too late for them to get an absentee ballot), I can criticize that statement in a number of ways. There are several that are more useful than "I don't like the way you said that, so you don't get to say anything else on the subject for the next four years."

Even if I don't want to start by asking what statement they're trying to make ("elections are a bad way to choose leaders" is a different statement than "both parties are equally corrupt" is different from "the community board has no power anyway" is different from "the machines are rigged, so my vote won't affect the reported results"), I'm unlikely to convince someone that they were wrong to not vote by telling them that I consider their opinion worthless. That's not a rebuttal, it's a refusal to discuss the question.

Alternatively, a person could start with "so many people stay home out of inertia that nobody's going to realize you're sending a message" and then go from there. Or suggest working on electoral reform. Or ask what sort of activism they think is more useful than elections.

#56 ::: HenryR ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2014, 11:49 PM:

Miramon @15
In MA (and probably most states) there is something like a NOTA choice - me! If I don't like any of the candidates, I vote for myself on the write-in line. I once got 12.5% of the vote for Democratic Ward-Heeler or some such in a very-low-turnout primary. Would have gotten 2/9 of the vote if I'd asked my wife to write me in for anything she skipped.

As for the original topic, everyone has the right to complain. I also have the right to complain when someone complains and then admits they didn't even bother to vote.

#57 ::: John Hawkins ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2014, 11:55 PM:

#53 ::: Serge Broom

If you believe that because someone does not agree with your fundamental political ideas, that they do not therefore have a right to express their opinion, then yes you are a bigot.

That is pretty close to a dictionary definition of bigotry.

#58 ::: Daniel Boone ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2014, 12:26 AM:

Brenda #45, I can never hear the "If you aren't part of the solution, you are part of the problem" aphorism without thinking of the chemists' rejoinder:

"No, if you aren't part of the solution, you must be part of the precipitate."

I do apologize; this is a reflexive association for me, just as I can't hear "That's irrelevant!" without thinking (and usually saying) "That's not irrelevant, it's a rhinoceros."

Memes are funny things; they get in your head and they latch on like lampreys.

#59 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2014, 01:17 AM:

Daniel Boone @58 -- I'd always heard it as a hippopotamus rather than a rhinoceros.

#60 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2014, 02:56 AM:

Hey, John Hawkins @57, could you cool it down a bit? While “bigot” does literally mean one who is intolerant of the opinions of others, it has in recent years acquired stronger connotations, and usually gets deployed in conversations about racism. I think the word may be a weapon you want to leave sheathed unless you’re in a much nastier fight.

Victoria @46, I honestly can’t tell whether you need to cool your rhetoric down; that first paragraph is impenetrable to me. There are at least two levels of indirection in between the actual topic under discussion and your use of “pedant”, and there’s that pronoun with an unclear antecedent starting off the final sentence, and it’s getting near 3 AM here.

Serge Broom @48 & 53, you got an argument to make, make it. Keep in mind that, if you’re holding the opinion I think you’re holding, you’re gonna be arguing for taking away people’s free-speech rights— in many cases, the free-speech rights of some of the most marginalized people in the electorate. You’re going to be arguing uphill; wear good shoes.

#61 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2014, 03:08 AM:

Do I have to remind everyone to play nice and not insult each other and stuff like that? I mean, I think we’ve mostly internalized those rules, but this is a politics thread, and we did just have an election that a lot of people are going to be depressed over, and anger is a common coping mechanism for depression, so maybe I have to remind everyone: Play nice and don’t insult each other and stuff like that.

#62 ::: Eric Walker ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2014, 04:13 AM:

First, I must admit that I have not read every post in this thread; It's late, and I am worn from watching the elections.

Basically, I disagree with Patrick's assertion. But, much depends on how one defines "right". Yes, of course, any citizen has a "right" in one sense to complain about anything. But in a different sense of "right", one forfeits at least the moral right to complain by refusing to participate in the process that at least in theory might mitigate or obviate one's need to complain. (That obviously excludes folk who do not vote for reasons beyond their reasonable control.)

It looks, to me, as if those fairly distinct senses of "right" are being conflated here.

#63 ::: Mark Phillips ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2014, 04:58 AM:

Looking in from Australia, I find the US Federal voting system bewildering. I don't understand why you continue to hold your elections on a work day, don't make postal or pre-election voting available for those unable to attend on the day, plus the hoops that citizens are put through just to get their name on the electoral list it is no wonder that turn out is low.

Here in Australia elections are held on Saturdays, placing you rename on the electoral list is simple matter of logging on the Australian Electoral Commission website (Federal elections her are run by an independent Federal Commission) and postal votes are easily arranged for those who cannot due to ill health or other reasons to either complete a postal vote or attend a pre polling centre. The AEC also sends out mobile booths to remote and distant locations.

OK some of this is due to us requiring you to have your name noted on polling day (you don't have to vote just turn up at the polling centre) so the system is set up to ensure everyone has the ability to cast their vote if they wish.

#64 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2014, 06:10 AM:

Well, to clarify (in response to #62), I think that non-voters have every moral right to complain, yes.

I also think they should vote. But I don't think the system we currently have is so obviously excellent that declining to participate in it automatically strips them of what seems to me a fundamental moral right. In fact, that was my original point.

I note also that comment #62 kind of undercuts the assertion, made elsewhere, that sentiments like this are nothing more than "shorthand" for something else. No, some people really do believe that if you don't vote, you forfeit an actual right. I disagree with this.

I don't think that if you disagree with my disagreement, you're automatically a "bigot" or a "pedant" or any of the other terms that were suddenly being bandied about (or imagined) a few messages upthread. I think this is a disagreement that can be discussed without resorting to insults. And also without concluding that someone else's disagreement is tantamount to $DEADLYINSULT. It's a disagreement. Engage on the issue, obvs.

#65 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2014, 07:28 AM:

"If you didn't vote, you can't complain" is the liberal/goo goo version of "sheeple".

#66 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2014, 08:26 AM:

Mark Phillips @63: Election Day being a Tuesday has become a matter of tradition; I agree that moving it to Saturday would be a good idea, but there are a lot of people in power who don't want anything that would make voting easier or increase turnout.

We do have voting by mail, and early voting, however.

#67 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2014, 09:32 AM:

Daniel Boone #58:
Brenda #45, I can never hear the "If you aren't part of the solution, you are part of the problem" aphorism without thinking of the chemists' rejoinder: "No, if you aren't part of the solution, you must be part of the precipitate."

Which, if you think about it, is an even more aggressive statement.

Memes are funny things; they get in your head and they latch on like lampreys.

Which is commonly used as a manipulative tactic (since a meme can block competing memes). It's worth being skeptical about the memes you find sticking onto you.

#68 ::: Susana S. P. ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2014, 11:05 AM:

Patrick@#39
You know something about the lesser of two evils? With the lesser of two evils, you get less evil.

You are my hero.

(Hi! I'm not really here, except occasionally, but when I am, you all make me happy. It was about time I said that.)

#69 ::: skzb ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2014, 11:10 AM:

My reasons for rarely voting are well known to anyone who has discussed politics with me, and bringing them up now would be pointlessly distracting. So I'll just say, as one of the chronically annoying, thank you. :-)

#70 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2014, 11:23 AM:

One of the things I see happening here -- and I was one of the people guilty of it, so it's my responsibility to say something -- is that a lot of us, when we say "people who don't vote", are actually thinking, "people who could have voted, who had no procedural obstacles and no active interference from asshole employers or medical conditions, but simply couldn't be arsed to do so". I apologize for not having made that clear the first time around.

And yes, I think that holds true even if you live in a location where your vote is going to be lost in a sea of opposing ones. One of the memes the right wing keeps pushing is that progressives are a tiny minority of crackpots -- that "REAL America" wants what they're selling. And if you don't vote because you live in a "safe" district, your silence reinforces that meme.

#71 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2014, 11:27 AM:

When people say, "I don't care who you vote for, just vote", are they secretly imagining that this will get more votes from people who agree with them?

I don't feel any assurance that habitual non-voters will vote in any particular direction.

#72 ::: Lydy Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2014, 11:52 AM:

The people who really annoy me are not the people who don't vote. I have dear friends who don't, for a variety of reasons, some of which make sense to me, and some of which don't. Nor am I upset with the people who have given up on the system. The people that vastly irritate me are the ones who vote wrong. Most especially, the ones who vote for the wrong reasons. And I don't care how sincere they are. The ones whose votes are driven by, for instance, fear of ebola, but who oppose every reasonable public health initiative, they make me crazy. The ones who think the government shouldn't interfere, but who think that it should regulate medical procedures that women choose. The ones who are viciously against illegal immigration but who religiously buy at Walmart, Walmart whose low prices are predicated upon the abusive employment of those same immigrants. The ones who believe the equivalent of the classic "Keep the Government off my Medicare" sign. Gods, but I wish they wouldn't vote. None of which is to say that I in any way want to do anything to prevent them from voting, or to prevent them from speaking.

#73 ::: Yarrow ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2014, 12:14 PM:

Paxus Calta says, "Your passport to complaining -- is your willingness to do something about it."

I like that formulation much better than "If you don't vote you have no right to complain." For one thing, there are many somethings that are likely to be more effective than voting. I knew more than one person who dropped everything and went to New Orleans to help out after Katrina. Some of them were voters and some of them weren't. But I'd say all of them had a better passport for complaining about FEMA than anyone whose only act had been to vote against Bush.

The other part I like is that it speaks of "your willingness to do something about it," not your already having done something about it. Often we start complaining before we figure out any productive way to change the thing we're complaining about. And let's face it -- most of our choices are not likely to have the effect we want. Voting, street demonstrations, organizing for party politics, organizing for anarchist groups -- nothing ever works. (Until suddenly something does. It does happen. But rarely.) Being willing in the face of those discouraging choices is hard. Piling more discouragement on those who might be willing to do something (even if it's not our favorite something) is counter-productive.

#74 ::: Jack Heneghan ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2014, 12:35 PM:

Of course you have the right to complain, but if you didn't vote I am not going to listen to your complaints with much interest.

#75 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2014, 01:52 PM:

Jack:

My guess is, unless you were basically on the same page with me before, you weren't going to listen to my complaints with much interest either way.

FWIW, I didn't vote yesterday. That was partly apathy, for reasons I've summarized here in the past. But mostly, it was child-meltdown- and manufactured-crisis-induced spoon shortage. It is truly amazing how much energy can be sucked out of me by my kids just deciding that now would be the optimal time to be maximally unhelpful, or surly and mouthy, or just to have a huge, wildly age-inappropriate public freak-out.

#76 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2014, 01:56 PM:

Mark Phillips @63: I don't understand why you continue to hold your elections on a work day

According to Wikipedia:

In 1845, the United States was largely an agrarian society. Farmers often needed a full day to travel by horse-drawn vehicles to the county seat to vote. Tuesday was established as election day because it did not interfere with the Biblical Sabbath or with market day, which was on Wednesday in many towns.

don't make postal or pre-election voting available for those unable to attend on the day

In my county, all registered voters got mail ballots (this election, at least). I dropped mine in the ballot box more than two weeks ago. No special arrangements necessary.

no wonder that turn out is low.

In some parts of the country, efforts are actively made to supress voting (by the "wrong sort.") See: "civil rights movement."

David Harmon @67: "[I]f you aren't part of the solution, you must be part of the precipitate." Which, if you think about it, is an even more aggressive statement.

::thinks about it::

How so?

#77 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2014, 02:09 PM:

Serge Broom @ 48

Nope. Optimism and cynicysm are nothing like pedantry.

In my experience, determined believers of their opinion point who refuse to bend or make allowances have very little to say to each other that actually gets through the my-way-is-the-right-way brain filter. Both sides stand back and shout at each other about the wrongness of their thinking hoping that volume will get through were rhetoric did not. What I was trying to say is that the truly tired (or very patient) my-vote-doesn't-count cynics don't bother engaging with your-vote-does-count optimists. It's more of a "they, too, will learn disappointment and come around to my way of thinking. So I'll just conserve my efforts for other things." *

Or, as George Carlin put it: "Beneath every cynic there is a disappointed optimist." Some people are more militant in their disappointments than others.

I come from a large, politically diverse family who love debate and are firm holders of their ideals. They will even pick fights with each others over political positions because that's guaranteed debate bait. It's kinda like a full contact sport.

I've also been told, by some non-family members, that not voting for either big ticket party is the same as not voting at all, so I'm wasting my time by voting the way I do. The more politically rabid family members take a similar view. They only vote outside of their party lines because that is only marginally better than not voting at all. Voting is a civic duty and they trot out the don't vote/don't complain rhetoric all the time.

-----
* I liken this to volunteer burn out. Political activists who see their dreams die is one kind of "my vote doesn't count, so why bother" member. The disenfranchised who have been courted for votes, but not had any other attention** from The Big Two are the biggest "my vote doesn't matter, so why bother" is another kind membership in the non-voting club. I know this because I used to ask why didn't you vote instead of haranguing non-voters about civic duty.

-----
** In my opinion, the Tea Party rose from the large pool of "I'm being ignored" rage. I was hoping that the party would make a long-term go of it even though I had a metric crap-ton of issues with their rhetoric. But my opinion of the two party fallacy of politics is not something I care to air in this thread.

#78 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2014, 02:52 PM:

72
Oh yeah. (And if anything is done to fix the problems, they whine about that, too. Because it's never the fix that they want.)

#79 ::: Jon Marcus ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2014, 03:08 PM:

Patrick@64: "No, some people really do believe that if you don't vote, you forfeit an actual right. I disagree with this."

Examples? I've never run into anyone who would actually try to compel the silence of non-voters. For what it's worth, I also disagree that non-voters should forfeit actual rights, and I suspect most others here do too.

In my (admittedly limited) experience, the message is better worded as "Didn't vote? Don't complain." If that's the case, then you're complaining about people misusing language/being imprecise on the internet. I 'spose that's as good a windmill to tilt at as an, but...

#80 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2014, 03:37 PM:

Mark Phillips @ 63
Because all elections, federal or otherwise, are run by the individual states. In my state, voting is administered on a county-by-county basis (So 105 different levels of access based on each county's budget). Each state is allowed to control their voting process. That is why election tampering is very prevalent in some parts of the country and other parts of the country bend over backwards to make voting available by all of the things you mentioned.

#81 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2014, 05:01 PM:

Jacque #76: ::thinks about it:: How so?

In the chemist's normal context, they'd be talking about a neutral separation of two things -- they might well be trying to collect the precipitate. But in the "slogan" context, the solution is predefined as "the good part", the side associated with success. So, if you're part of the precipitate...you're "out", or at least failing. In a work/business context, it maps uncomfortably close to "fix the problem or you're fired!"

#82 ::: Mark Phillips ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2014, 05:15 PM:

Thank you all for your responses.

Victoria @ 80

As it is a Federal Election I do not understand why the election is not managed at the federal level. I'm guessing it is written into the US constitution that elections are managed by the states?

Jacque @ 76

Reading about the elections from afar I was led to believe that your county's process is not the norm?

David Goldfarb @ 66

So it is written into the constitution that the day is the first Tuesday if November? I'm guessing that would be very difficult ti change.

#83 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2014, 05:16 PM:

If you throw a brick straight up into the air, and stand there entirely without gorm, some will say "you have no right to complain" when it hits you in the head. Of course you do, because free speech etc. What they mean is that it's anything from silly to hypocritical to complain about a situation you did to yourself through action (throwing the brick) or inaction (not jumping out of the way).

I think there are people who have good reasons for not voting (a few in this very thread). In fact "I choose not to participate in this sham democracy" is a perfectly good reason (I do choose to participate in this semi-sham democracy, to be clear).

What I do not buy is that I should have patience to listen to complaints from people who have chosen not to participate in our flawed-to-the-point-of-disintegrating political system. Complaining and criticizing are forms of participation (remember free speech? assembly for redress of grievances?); if you don't vote because you choose not to participate, then don't fucking participate at me.

But that's personal. I absolutely think they have a right to complain, just as anyone has a right to put up a blog supporting Ibk Qnl, or gloating about street harassment of women, or publishing racist photoshops of POTUS. They do not have a right to my attention or respect.

Just to be absolutely clear, if someone didn't vote because they were ill (including being spoonless for any reason), occupied with an emergency, exhausted, or any number of other good reasons, I don't treat them the same way. The people who turn up their noses at politics piss me the hell off, though.

I guess I fundamentally regard voting as a duty, and have trouble respecting people who shirk it without cause.

Last thing: I don't think voluntary non-participators "have no right to complain." But I do not buy what many of them seem to think, which is that not voting means they bear no responsibility for what happens politically. Sorry, to wash your hands of American democracy, dirty and broken as it is, not voting really isn't sufficient. That benefit kicks in around "renouncing your citizenship."

#84 ::: skzb ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2014, 05:51 PM:

And suddenly, just like that, my patience evaporates.

Xopher @83 et. al: What about people who voted for the candidate who won, and then didn't like what that candidate did? Do they have the right to compl...I mean, do you believe you "should have patience to listen complaints" from them?

Now, of course, I can understand your respecting those who voted for McCain complaining that under Obama the war is continuing, that the police are increasingly militarized, that the gap between the rich and the rest of us continues to widen, that the Government is committing murder without trial, installing a neo-fascist government in Ukraine and then using its "defense" as a pretext for war, bringing domestic spying to new and terrifying levels, that more human beings have been deported under this administration than any other in history, and that the lack of heath care is, in essence, no closer to a solution than it was before. But do Obama supporters have the right to object to these things?

Because I am truly puzzled why you'd listen to an ex-McCain supporter saying these things, and even, perhaps, an Obama supporter, but wouldn't listen to someone who said, 6 years ago, that this is exactly what would happen if either candidate were elected, and thus felt no reason to vote.

#85 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2014, 06:02 PM:

Because the presidential election is the only reason to vote?

#86 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2014, 06:22 PM:

I would add, with equal disbelief to our Australian colleague (as I am U.S.A. Northern, rather than U.S.A. Southern or Atlantic), that those who would risk loss of job or loss of rent if they chose to take the time to vote rather than work their required, assigned shift, are in the category.

As a Canadian, who has by law a block of 3 consecutive hours minimum on polling day to vote (and the punishment meted out to companies who get convicted of attempting to evade that requirement is impressive), the fact that not only is voting on a work day, but there is no requirement of anybody to allow you time to vote is croggling. Add to that the fact that it's so much quicker to vote in some counties than others, and it's odd the racial and economic makeup of some counties than others, and...

Yes, mail-in ballots, advance voting, et al. I've seen how much those are trusted (and, frankly, how much I'd trust them, too, given some history). But just a "0600-2000 poll hours. Your employer must allow you a 3 hour block of time during those hours to vote. If your normal work hours allow you that three hour block, your employer need not give you anything, however, and it does not have to be paid; but it does have to exist" - seems sane, no?

#87 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2014, 06:29 PM:

Mark Philips #82:

The US is in an unusual situation in that the States came first (as independent English colonies), all with existing traditions of self-governance, complete with elections, legislatures, etc. The current US Constitution was the second (or third, depending on how one counts) national government.

The previous governments recognized the independence of the states/colonies, while the current constitution had a stronger central government. When it was made, it was stronger than the previous governments, but overall it was still very weak, compared to the State governments at the time.

One of the things the constitution did was leave in place the existing election structure, explicitly stating that the States set election procedures, elector qualifications, etc (within reason: the electorate for Federal elections must include everyone qualified to elect the most numerous house of the State legislature). But the election rules, procedures, etc are all decided by the States.

The practical aspect is that there are (at least) 51 different sets of rules, and changing that would be hard.

In one sense, this allows for greater experimentation as to how elections should be conducted. Remember that each US State is about the same size (in population) as a traditional country. The smallest US State (in population, Wyoming) has more people than 78 other countries (according to Wikipedia). The two largest states (California and Texas) have more people than Australia, with New York just under. So the US having 50 different election laws and procedures is similar to, say, Europe's 50 countries having different election laws and procedures.

#88 ::: Lenore Jean Jones/jonesnori ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2014, 06:46 PM:

As to mail-in ballots, not all states have them as a routine item. Here in New Jersey, the only mail-in ballot is the absentee ballot, which (at least the first time) you have to apply for. They are frequently used by dishonest politicians attempting to stuff the ballot box. There are regular stories of people being paid to hand over blank signed absentee ballots to dishonest campaigns. I wonder how careful states with routine mail-in ballots are at preventing election fraud?

#89 ::: Lenore Jean Jones/jonesnori ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2014, 06:49 PM:

I should add that the election fraud in NJ is normally related to local elections, not federal.

#90 ::: Cygnet ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2014, 06:51 PM:

Some of the people up for election in this election only had one (Republican) candidate. I skipped those. What was the point? But I did vote for the rest, where there was actually a choice.

Our new governor is a real piece of work. I actually wish Jan Brewer could have run for another term, just because she would be a better option than he is. Never thought I'd find myself saying that ...

#91 ::: Cygnet ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2014, 06:53 PM:

Oh, I should mention I got taken off the voter rolls, with no explanation and no notice. My name just disappeared. Poof. Nobody could tell me why. The only reason I knew I'd been deleted was that my father was getting campaign mail and I wasn't. I caught it in time to vote in this election, but it was a near thing.

Gotta love Arizona corruption as usual.

#92 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2014, 07:36 PM:

David Harmon @81: So, if you're part of the precipitate...you're "out"

Hm, okay. Maybe it's my overgenerous heart, but I always read it as just a good ol' play on words. I think mapping it onto actual attitudes about solutions and not solutions is...missing the point.

Mark Phillips @82: Reading about the elections from afar I was led to believe that your county's process is not the norm?

Sadly, there is a wide range of election practices in these here United States, cf Victoria @80. See also: there's a reason they call us the "People's Republic of Boulder." Well, many reasons, actually.

So it is written into the constitution that the day is the first Tuesday if November?

Statute (a law enacted by Congress) rather than constitutional (wich requires, IIRC, an act of Congress plus ratification by [some majority] of states).

So: somewhat less difficult a change than a constitutional amendment (or article? Civics was a loooooong time ago), but nevertheless, not trivial, especially in this day-and-age of congressional gridlock. And, anyway, I don't think it being a workday is all that much of a hurdle (and not everyone works the standard M-F workweek, so it's always going to be on somebody's work day, and besides which, IIUC, employers are required to give leave to vote). I think it would have to be a much bigger deal to motivate anybody to change that. As to early voting and voting by mail: already being implemented as we speak, just not (as Gibson says) evenly distributed. (I get the vague feeling that mail voting is actually cheaper in many ways than election day voting, but I don't have the cites to back that up.)

Mycroft W @86: Your employer must allow you a 3 hour block of time during those hours to vote.

Far as I know, this is required, but I could be wrong. I know for sure, though, that all employers I've worked for have honored this. (Which is not to say that no dishonorable employer wouldn't balk, given opportunity and incentive. I can easily imagine, frex, Walmart employees who have to commute to the next city over being denied sufficient time to get to their polling place by some weasely scheduling that still qualifies as "legal".)

#93 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2014, 09:39 PM:

skzb 84: I'm so sorry your patience has evaporated. I do hope it will recondense at some point, or your life will be rather difficult.

#94 ::: Mark Phillips ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2014, 10:56 PM:

Jacque @ 92

I get that each state will have a separate system for elections to their state legislatures - same thing happens here.

I still cannot get my head around why federal elections are not controlled by an independent federal commission responsible to the federal legislature - as it is here in Australia and your northern neighbour.

I guess I shall remain somewhat bewildered.

#95 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2014, 11:13 PM:

Mark Phillips, remember how geographically vast this country is. There was a time when it wasn't actually possible to run elections centrally, so the system was designed to distribute the effort. Now that we absolutely COULD have a central authority, we'd have to get it past the "it was good enough for my great-grandfather" types. Who just took over the Senate.

You know that weird Electoral College thing we do in Presidential years? Time was, it really took until mid-December to get all the Electors to Washington to elect the President.

Our system is grotesque and archaic, but there are reasons why it was built the way it was. It needs to be brought into the 21st Century; the trouble is, it requires amending the Constitution to change it, and the needed overhauls are huge. No one wants to trust the changes to their political enemies...or some of their friends.

It may not matter soon anyway. The way the Koch brothers are buying up politicians, the Constitution (and elections) may be entirely moot in our lifetime. When the US sells its naming rights (and becomes the Koch United States or something), you'll know this process is complete.

#96 ::: Mark Phillips ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2014, 12:57 AM:

Xopher @95

Good luck with changing your constitution. I suspect you stand more chance than we would. Here we require a referendum in the positive of 50% + 1 of the electorate AND 50% + 1 of the states. Pretty much every proposed change gets rejected.

#97 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2014, 01:26 AM:

Mark Phillips @96: Oh, it's worse here than that: after being officially proposed by Congress, it has to be ratified by 75% of the states. That 50%+1 -- that's easy, comparatively. (It can be ratified either by the state legislatures, or by special ratification conventions in each state -- neither one is very likely.) In order to be officially proposed, it needs a 2/3 majority in the Senate and in the House; or to be put forth by a convention called by 2/3 of the states. Here's the Wikipedia article.

People have succeeded in getting past this hurdle 18 times since 1789 (and one of them rescinded an earlier one), for a total of 27 Amendments. The first 10 were passed pretty much immediately, as a bundle. Six didn't pass. I missed when the 27th passed in 1992 -- but that one took 202 years to get its 75%.

Here is the list of amendments, ratified and unratified. I hadn't known about all the unratified ones, so thanks for having me look it up -- I learned something today.

#98 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2014, 02:49 AM:

We complain about our electoral system and having had a general election on September 20 (we have one every three years), it's all still fresh. But despite its faults I wouldn't trade the New Zealand system for the US system. As an observer from afar it looks like a system that's being gamed into an impasse. But it's not a game, the stakes are much higher.

#99 ::: Mark Phillips ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2014, 04:22 AM:

Tom Whitmore @97

The US is still has a better average than Australia. Since Federation in 1901, of the 44 the proposals put to referendum, only 8 have been successful.

Those that were successful have been with bipartisan support.

#100 ::: Dave Crisp ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2014, 07:23 AM:

My understanding is that the reason referendums in AUS are so hard to pass is because of the way the demographics work out.

The requirement - as Mark said @95 - is for a majority both over the country as a whole - including Canberra and the NT - as well as individual majorities in at least four of the six States (including any state which it would affect "unequally").

The way the Aussie population is concentrated in the SE corner makes it very hard to win the national majority without carrying both Victoria and NSW. However, these are also the two most left-leaning States, so any proposal which is popular enough in the south-east to win the national majority is unlikely to be attractive enough to the more conservative portions of the country to carry two other States as well.

Conversely, anything which wins in the four other states is likely to be too right-leaning to be popular in Sydney and Melbourne, and will find it hard to get the overall majority.

By contrast, passing an amendment in the US is a doddle.

#101 ::: Jon Marcus ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2014, 10:49 AM:

xopher @ 83: Are you saying that people who have "chosen not to participate in this sham democracy" shouldn't complain about living in a sham democracy? Or about the immoral actions said sham democracy takes in their name? That seems...odd, at best. But it does seem to be what you're saying. Or am I (and skzb?) mis-reading you?

OTOH, these folks do annoy me. "Self-centered douchecanoe" seems an apt description.

#102 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2014, 11:07 AM:

Mark Phillips @ 82

What Buddha Buck @ 87 said.

In addition to that, I'll add: logistics issues/cost of operations/budget fights about the same, inertia (aka: if it ain't broke...), and a very real Federal/State mutual distrust in some parts of governance. The "51 states means 51 different ways of doing things" covers a lot more ground than just elections. Different regions of the USA, normally IDed/grouped by state have very different ideas of what is good/bad, workable/unworkable, and tolerable/intolerable.

For a non-political example, ask people around the US about best kind of BBQ or whether chili should/should not have beans in it. If you want to see a Texan* rant, tell them the best chili in the world comes from Cincinnati. (It has both beans and pasta, and most die hard chili fans from Texas swear that chili does not - and never will - contain beans.) That response bears a striking resemblance to how a Texan will react to someone telling them "your voting practices are messed up. Here's how it should be done.")

For every single state, changing the voting laws falls under the heading of "give them an inch and they'll take a mile." States managing the election process was one of the biggest sticking points in all the continental congresses. It hasn't and will probably never go away. My country was built on compromise between radically different groups. The results may not be logical, or seem reasonable, but as working solutions go... they work. Mostly. For a given definition of "work".

---
* Food based metaphors aside, Texas entered the union after it had been it's own country for a short time. It also had contingency plans to enter the union as four separate states to help decide the slave/free issue. So Texans, as a rule, really, really, REALLY don't like the Federal government telling them what to do.

#103 ::: skzb ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2014, 12:05 PM:

@Victoria 102: Actually five states. Nitpickers R us.

#104 ::: Cygnet ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2014, 01:12 PM:

Now I'm wondering why I even BOTHERED to vote. Arizona has an online tool to verify that your vote was counted:

https://voter.azsos.gov/VoterView/AbsenteeBallotSearch.do

They have no record of my vote. It was an absentee ballot, but we dropped it off at the county recorder's office in person. How the heck did it not get counted????

Makes me wonder about many past elections, when I never bothered to check if I was counted or not.

#105 ::: Lady Kay ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2014, 01:36 PM:

In Maryland, absentee ballots can not be counted until all in-person ballots have been counted. That might be what is going for you, Cygnet @104.

#106 ::: zanzjan ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2014, 02:15 PM:

Thank you for this post, definitely nails down something I've been incoherently muddling over since the election.

On a tangential post-election pet-peeve, I'm really starting to be bugged by the "stupid people" rhetoric around vote results, though I admit I've probably been guilty of angrily tossing out that lazy characterization myself in years past. When very, very smart people with ridiculously large pools of influence and resources can so dramatically control the flow of information and education, and dispense fear and doubt at the level of cultural saturation that they currently do, calling someone "stupid" because they couldn't get their head above those deep waters seems disingenuous at best, and at worst, very catastrophically missing the point.

Well. Not sure that made any sense either, but this week definitely has left lots to think about.

#107 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2014, 04:17 PM:

Mark Phillips @94:

There is only ONE Federal office that every registered US voter actually votes on -- The Office of the President/Vice President -- and there we are voting to direct our representatives in the Electoral College which team to select.

Each State holds statewide elections for their two members of the Senate, and each Congressional District elects a single Representative to the House. The Representatives have two-year terms, our Senators serve for six. Congressional sessions cover as two year period, the current one having begun in January of 2013 and closing sometime this December.

I don't see why we'd need one more level of election governance (Federal commission?) than we already have.

#108 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2014, 04:36 PM:

Mark Phillips @94:

In addition to what Lori Coulson stated, we in the States seem to like to have an insane number of elected positions, all elected in one election, usually spread across many levels of governance.

On the ballot in my city last Tuesday were 10 different elected positions: 1 for Federal representative, 3 for state-wide office, 3 for state government (but not a state-wide office), two for county government, and one for a city position. In addition to that, we had four ballot proposals to consider (three proposed amendments to the State constitution, one proposed amendment to the City charter). We don't elect the dog catcher here, but in some US towns/cities, they do.

If you want to look at the ballot, it's at http://www.tompkinscountyny.gov/files/boe/2014/Sample_Ballots/General/Sheet%2001.pdf

In past US election discussions (especially around electronic voting machines) I've often heard foreigners wonder at why the US has to make things so complex. It usually ends up that their country does things to make it simpler: fewer elected positions, elections for different positions on different days, etc. That is not, apparently, the American Way.

#110 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2014, 06:13 PM:

skzb @ 103

I learned it as four states and the teacher sketched out the borders on a map. I found reference to a total of five states, so I think my teacher suffered from fencepost error and conflating iconography with reality.

#111 ::: Mark Phillips ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2014, 06:43 PM:

Thank you for all the comments. Much appreciated.

Remember that Australia is the same size as the contiguous states with less than one-tenth of the population. We were also colonised after you through the British government out (they had to send the convicts some where). By the time we created a federal government there were six independent states that did not see eye to eye. However, communications and transport had developed to the point where a more centralised form of federal government was possible.

One of the consequences was to give the federal government control over its own legislature

From the British we inherent a tradition of independent public service so that many of the roles which are subject to election in the US are independent statuary bodies. So we don't elect the positions that you take as granted as being electable positions.

That said, we have our own craziness. If I remember correctly at our last federal election some of the papers for election of the senate (12 senators for each state 6 elected at each election by preferential proportional ballot) were over a metre in length with over 100 candidates

#112 ::: rea ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2014, 07:51 PM:

Everybody has the inalienable right to complain, and nobody is required to vote. But look, turnout was about 38%, and the people who voted were a lot more old, white, and conservative than the population as whole. If more of the oppressed, disposed, and left would turn out reliably to vote, the results of elections would maybe become more to their liking.

#113 ::: rea ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2014, 07:55 PM:

And oh, I wish I could type, or at least proof read. "Dispossessed", not "disposed"

#114 ::: skzb ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2014, 07:55 PM:

112 @rea: I beg to submit that the perception that no electoral options will help them is why more of the oppressed, disposed, and left do not vote. I agree with them. I accept that some many do not agree, but do you recognize that there is, at least, a reason for their perception?

#115 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2014, 08:41 PM:

Jon 101: Are you saying that people who have "chosen not to participate in this sham democracy" shouldn't complain about living in a sham democracy? Or about the immoral actions said sham democracy takes in their name? That seems...odd, at best. But it does seem to be what you're saying. Or am I (and skzb?) mis-reading you?

I'm saying that if they won't do the ONE THING expected of them to make things better, I'm dramatically less interested in their opinion. I didn't say they shouldn't complain. I'm saying that I'm less (all the way down to completely UN, in some cases) sympathetic to their complaints. (I did say "don't fucking participate at me." I meant that I don't recommend it, because you'll get a faceful of my anger, not that you shouldn't have the legal right. I would also say that my anger toward people who don't vote is strongest the day after a disappointing election!)

But on reflection I mind the people who take a principled (if IMO wrong-headed) stand against voting less than the ones who just can't be bothered, because most of the issues don't affect them, and why should they care about anyone they do affect? Funny how those people are disproportionately white, male, and well-off.

Still worse are the ones who say "the two parties are the same anyway," which is an outright lie. Of course, rich white men don't usually care about the Voting Rights Act; again, not going to affect THEM. (Admittedly, the issue of who appoints SCOTUS (in)Justices is more relevant in a Presidential year; I offer it here as an example of the difference between the parties. More directly relevant in this election are abortion rights, marriage equality, and the ACA, none of which affect the lives of straight white men of comfortable means very much at all.)

An analogy: If you tell me this boat doesn't steer as well as it should, and so you won't help hold the rudder (while I'm, say, struggling with the sail), and those of us who do try crash on the rocks, I'm going to be very angry if you say "see? doesn't steer well."

One last thing: I voted for Obama twice. I'd vote for him again if I could. I voted for him even though he was against marriage equality the first time. (In the primary I had a choice between two candidates who both opposed marriage equality; I held my nose and picked one.) I am NOT happy with everything he's done, or left undone. I know McCain and Romney would have been bad on all the things Obama is bad on, and also bad on things Obama is good on.

I made my choice, and I stand by it. And I (along with people who didn't vote and people who voted for the bad guys) have a right to criticize. In my case I can say "I voted for him, and I think..." The GOP voters can say "See? This is why I didn't vote for him" (though if they say that around me I'll give them a Bronx cheer). The people who didn't vote...are standing there saying "see? doesn't steer well."

Our system is fucked up. I know it; you know it. I regard my vote as one of the few things I can do to make it incrementally less fucked up.

#116 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2014, 08:45 PM:

Jon 101: Are you saying that people who have "chosen not to participate in this sham democracy" shouldn't complain about living in a sham democracy? Or about the immoral actions said sham democracy takes in their name? That seems...odd, at best. But it does seem to be what you're saying. Or am I (and skzb?) mis-reading you?

I'm saying that if they won't do the ONE THING expected of them to make things better, I'm dramatically less interested in their opinion. I didn't say they shouldn't complain. I'm saying that I'm less (all the way down to completely UN, in some cases) sympathetic to their complaints. (I did say "don't fucking participate at me." I meant that I don't recommend it, because you'll get a faceful of my anger, not that you shouldn't have the legal right. I would also say that my anger toward people who don't vote is strongest the day after a disappointing election!)

But on reflection I mind the people who take a principled (if IMO wrong-headed) stand against voting less than the ones who just can't be bothered, because most of the issues don't affect them, and why should they care about anyone they do affect? Funny how those people are disproportionately white, male, and well-off.

Still worse are the ones who say "the two parties are the same anyway," which is an outright lie. Of course, rich white men don't usually care about the Voting Rights Act; again, not going to affect THEM. (Admittedly, the issue of who appoints SCOTUS (in)Justices is more relevant in a Presidential year; I offer it here as an example of the difference between the parties. More directly relevant in this election are abortion rights, marriage equality, and the ACA, none of which affect the lives of straight white men of comfortable means very much at all.)

An analogy: If you tell me this boat doesn't steer as well as it should, and so you won't help hold the rudder (while I'm, say, struggling with the sail), and those of us who do try crash on the rocks, I'm going to be very angry if you say "see? doesn't steer well."

One last thing: I voted for Obama twice. I'd vote for him again if I could. I voted for him even though he was against marriage equality the first time. (In the primary I had a choice between two candidates who both opposed marriage equality; I held my nose and picked one.) I am NOT happy with everything he's done, or left undone. I know McCain and Romney would have been bad on all the things Obama is bad on, and also bad on things Obama is good on.

I made my choice, and I stand by it. And I (along with people who didn't vote and people who voted for the bad guys) have a right to criticize. In my case I can say "I voted for him, and I think..." The GOP voters can say "See? This is why I didn't vote for him" (though if they say that around me I'll give them a Bronx cheer). The people who didn't vote...are standing there saying "see? doesn't steer well."

Our system is fucked up. I know it; you know it. I regard my vote as one of the few things I can do to make it incrementally less fucked up.

#117 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2014, 08:45 PM:

Arggh. Sorry.

#118 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2014, 09:04 PM:

zanzjan @ 106:

I'm really starting to be bugged by the "stupid people" rhetoric around vote results, though I admit I've probably been guilty of angrily tossing out that lazy characterization myself in years past. When very, very smart people with ridiculously large pools of influence and resources can so dramatically control the flow of information and education, and dispense fear and doubt at the level of cultural saturation that they currently do, calling someone "stupid" because they couldn't get their head above those deep waters seems disingenuous at best, and at worst, very catastrophically missing the point.

How perfectly said! (I'd say more, but you said enough.) Even further off the point is calling those very smart people who do indeed manipulate the world stupid. They aren't. They're bad.

Victoria @ 102: In my dream world--which is to say, the late seventies, when I often had Cincinnati-style chili at a friend's house--it did not have pasta and it did have cinnamon.

#119 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2014, 09:10 PM:

Xopher @ 116: "the ONE THING expected of them to make things better"

What makes voting the one thing? Serious question.

#120 ::: Errolwi ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2014, 09:48 PM:

In Maryland, absentee ballots can not be counted until all in-person ballots have been counted. That might be what is going for you, Cygnet @104.

ISTR reference to some states not counting absentee ballots if they could not impact the results.

BTW, this is in complete contrast to NZ where counting of Advance votes starts when polls close.

#121 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2014, 10:21 PM:

In WA, there were (back before we went to all mail-in voting) "provisional ballots". These were used when someone had an irregularity, like not being at their appropriate polling place. They didn't get counted until after the polling was done, and then only if they might have an impact on the result. I always thought that was kind of weird.

#122 ::: skzb ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2014, 10:37 PM:

Xopher 115: Brother, that stick you're pulling? It isn't connected to the rudder. You're just pulling a stick back and forth, and it's not doing anything to change where the boat is headed. How 'bout we figure a new way to direct the boat, that actually does something?

Yes, I know you don't accept my analogy as accurate, any more than I accept yours. I'm not expecting to convince you--nor, I imagine, are you expecting to convince me.

But I'm hoping to get across that, when it comes to addressing problems, those of us (I'm including you in this) who would like to solve them need to take these differences seriously, examine them, fight through them. A stance of, "I'm not listening," which is what I understood you to say, is not productive.

#123 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2014, 11:15 PM:

skzb @ 122: But why should Xopher--or you--or I--pay attention to people whose opinions we don't respect because those people can't be bothered to think? He's specifically indicated that the people who choose not to vote on principle, because they are rejecting both candidates, are people that he might (trying not to speak for Xopher, here) listen to, or even discuss the election with; he reserves the right to ignore the people who just can't bothered or who facilely declare that "both parties are equally bad" despite some very real differences between the two parties.

Look. I am someone who, after long thought and consideration, has occasionally been tempted not to vote in a particular race (not an entire election) because both candidates seem equally noxious and not-supportable. But even that's rare, simply because the two parties and hence their candidates usually do disagree on particular issues in ways that matter deeply to me, if not to others, and so I can usually find a lesser of the two evils. (I may hate having to vote for the lesser of two evils; doesn't mean I don't do it.) Unless I am convinced that two candidates are exactly equivalent in all issues, I'm not going to bother listening to the person who says "I won't vote because both sides are useless/evil/whatever"--because that equivalance is in my experience so rarely, extraordinarily rarely, true. Thus such a statement reveals a non-voter who isn't thinking, who is as lazy as the non-voter who just thinks voting is too much of a nuisance to bother with . . . and why should I listen to either of those people? They can complain all they want; their casual dismissal of the process of voting would seem to indicate that they haven't really been thinking about the issues, and I'd rather spend my time on the complaints of people who have something substantive to say.

Of course, none of that means that they--or any non-voter--has no right to complain; that's a different matter. I'm not trying to silence anyone. But--well, that everyone has the right to complain, or to speak, does not mean that I am required to listen.

#124 ::: Mark Phillips ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2014, 11:18 PM:

My sympathies are with both Xopher @ 115 and skzb @ 122.

I sympathise with the position that you have to be in involved to have any hope of influence but at the same time I can understand why more than 60% of those legible to vote don't. Why bother engaging in a system that will just leave you feeling soiled?

The question I ask myself is why a third party hasn't arisen in the US to harvest the votes of those disenchanted and disaffected with the status quo? I'm guessing the economic fire power of the two major parties would drown out any fledging party and your first past the post system and lack of any proportional representation would make it difficult for any third part to get off the ground.

#125 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2014, 11:19 PM:

skzb, #114: This is to a considerable extent a chicken-and-egg issue. The people under discussion don't vote because they don't perceive that it will make any difference, and so no politician feels inclined to take them into account when making decisions, and so it doesn't make any difference, lather, rinse, repeat.

OTOH, if they voted in large enough quantities to affect the results of elections, there would be politicians who would factor that into their decision-making. Change would probably still be slow, but it wouldn't be nonexistent. It's a case of "doing something may not help, but doing nothing certainly won't help".

Xopher, #115: I know McCain and Romney would have been bad on all the things Obama is bad on, and also bad on things Obama is good on.

Yes, exactly. This is why I get bent about people who say that because I won't support their pet (usually Libertarian) candidate I must be totally besotted with Obama. NO. I'm making a choice between a candidate who's going to do / has done at least some things I like, and a candidate who isn't going to do ANYTHING I can support. That's my version of "voting for the lesser of two evils means you get less evil".

#126 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2014, 11:21 PM:

Annnd . . . just reread my comment @17 and realize that I strongly implied that having to choose between two equivalent evils was a common occurrence for me. Oops. I'm sorry. PNH is right: there is usually a "lesser evil" candidate, and that's the one I vote for.

My apologies for the sloppiness. I blame election fatigue. It's been miserable, here in Illinois, and now we're facing a major mayoral race I can't even vote in, but have to live with the results of anyway . . .

#127 ::: Eric Walker ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2014, 05:53 AM:

Patrick @ #64

Again, it is a matter of nice distinctions.

One is what is being complained of. Clearly, there are people who, on considered principle, choose not to vote. But in my experience, those folk, when they complain, complain about the system that has driven them to that position (which is perfectly sound, agree or not), not about the particular results. If a person abstains on principle then complains about how the election came out, that person is, for my 2 cents, dead in the wrong, just as would be anyone who could have voted but just didn't bother--not on principle, but (probably) out of laziness or indifference.

I do not believe that assertions of that sort are shorthand for anything but a resentment of folk who want to eat their cake and have it, too: not vote, then complain about results. No, they do not forfeit a right to participate in discussions on the outcomes and what, in time, derives from them, but the opinions that they have one kind of "right" to express--a legal one--are not anything that I reckon they have a moral right to express.

And to emphasize that second nice distinction, I am not speaking about a moral right to criticize the system in general: I am speaking about a moral right to complain about the particular outcomes of a particular election.

#128 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2014, 07:15 AM:

I'm seeing a lot of very comfortable assumptions about who Those People Who Don't Vote are—not the good ones, of course, with reasons that we think are worthy—but the other ones. The lazy, feckless ones, whom it's safe to discount, whom one is justifying in dismissing without, you know, talking to them.

You know what the structure of those comments reminds me of? It reminds me of comments about the poor and unemployed that I see in right-wing culture: the division into the unworthy and the worthy, the sweeping statements about people the speaker knows nothing about, but feels they understand entirely and are entitled to condemn. Lots of assumptions, not a lot of emotional work.

Wouldn't it be interesting to instead figure out why people don't vote? Learning more about that, and seeing what might be addressed—or simply treating people with respect instead of contempt—might lead to that much-desired increase in voter participation.

#129 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2014, 07:54 AM:

abi @ 128: "the division into the unworthy and the worthy, the sweeping statements about people the speaker knows nothing about, but feels they understand entirely and are entitled to condemn."

Exactly! Thank you.

#130 ::: rea ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2014, 08:43 AM:

skzb, @114--like Lee @ 125 says, it's a chicken/egg problem. But, if you want to change things, how are you going to do it except by mobilizing voters?

#131 ::: skzb ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2014, 09:30 AM:

rea @130: I cannot answer that question without pulling the conversation away from its point. Can you, for now, accept on faith that I very strongly believe elections will not keep the ship from the rock, but other methods will? For this conversation, that is what matters.

#132 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2014, 09:37 AM:

rea @ 130: "if you want to change things, how are you going to do it except by mobilizing voters?"

A couple of suggestions:

The Bonus Army

The Flint Sit-Down Strike

The point isn't to influence voters so much as it is to force the powerful, who determine the agenda and devise the choices, to give voters better choices, choices they'd rather not.

That Overton Window? Its bounds are not changed by voting.

Voting follows social movement, not the other way around. If you don't have enough power to demand better choices, why would you be given them? You'd have what you have right now, bad and worse.

(This is my continual beef with changing the voting system to something like Hugo voting--if you don't have the power to win a vote now, how will you win a vote to change the voting system?)

Walter Reuther said something like, "Power is making the boss say yes when he wants to say no."

That sort of power precedes winning elections rather than following them.

#133 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2014, 11:20 AM:

Fair enough, abi. As I said, it's been a LOOONg election season, and my crankiness is pretty much over the top . . .

#134 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2014, 11:40 AM:

Xopher:

I don't think statistics w.r.t. rates of voting fit very well with your description of people who don't vote based on their privileged, comfortable lives. In general, the rich vote more often than the poor, women vote more often than men, and whites and blacks vote more often than Hispanics and Asians. (In 2012, more blacks than whites voted; most years, it's been more whites than blacks, but both vote at a notably higher rate than Hispanics and Asians).

Mary Frances:

The problem with lesser-evil voting is that it's often politically profitable to be pretty evil--keep the intelligence agencies sweet on you by sheltering war crimes and hammering whistleblowers, keep the donations from big banks coming in by handling financial regulation with great deference to the Goldmans and Citibanks of the world, keep the endless brushfire wars going to keep the Pentagon and defense contractors happy, etc. You'd like to give your guy an incentive *not* to be evil, even when his opponent is evil.

If your candidate can keep your vote despite doing all the above, so long as he's running against someone plausibly even worse, then you're voting for the least evil candidate, but you're also creating an incentive for your guy to slide over until he's an epsilon less evil than the opposition.

#135 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2014, 12:17 PM:

Vote. Don't vote. Do as you see fit.

#136 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2014, 12:18 PM:

Albatross @134, the hope is that if the incumbent is Evil (for some value of evil) that an idealistic challenger will come along and try to unseat him/her. Yes, I said hope; I realize this doesn't always happen. But it does happen sometimes; often enough that the hope isn't entirely unrealistic. And even if the idealistic challenger loses (as they so often do), the mere fact of being challenged on their Evilness often forces the incumbent to be a little less Evil for a while....

#137 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2014, 01:13 PM:

Albatross @ 134: True. Told you I hated doing it. I think you've also highlighted, from a different angle, what abi said about "comfortable assumptions" regarding non-voters.

#138 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2014, 01:15 PM:

John 119: The one thing (i.e. the one political action) expected of everyday citizens, by me and (in a slightly-better America) by everyone. Campaigning, commenting, demonstrating, blogging, is all extra. Voting is expected (or IMO should be) of every eligible citizen.

Being informed is not optional, either, or difficult. But that's all in support of voting.

Mary Frances 123: (trying not to speak for Xopher, here)

Thank you. But since you're speaking for me at least as well as I'm speaking for myself, I have no objection!

Mark 124: Why bother engaging in a system that will just leave you feeling soiled?

I agree with most of the comment, but this stuck out. It's an example of people feeling that their hands are clean if they don't participate. That's bullshit. They're after a false sense of moral superiority. [more vitriolic description deleted after reading abi 128] Not voting doesn't leave your hands clean; it just means you didn't try to help clean up the mess.

skzb 131: Can you, for now, accept on faith that I very strongly believe elections will not keep the ship from the rock, but other methods will?

rea may. I can accept that you believe it, but not that it's true. I have racked my brains for literally decades trying to think of some way to keep the ship from the rock other than (or, in my case, in addition to) electoral politics (and yes, I've worked on campaigns; yes, I've been part of get-out-the-vote campaigns, registration campaigns, leafletting on street corners, phone banks, anything you can think of).

I've participated in demonstrations, rallies, and marches; is that the sort of thing you mean? I consider those ways of influencing votes, either at the ballot box or in the legislative chamber, and if I'm going to influence the votes of others, than I must vote myself, simply to avoid hypocrisy.

I really think it's entirely relevant to this thread. I might have a better attitude toward non-voters if I believed they were working in other ways to improve things in a governmental sense. Charity work? I do that too (did more when I had more money and spoons). I have a friend who won't vote, but who sits all day watching his polling place to ensure that election laws aren't violated (after an incident a few years back where blatant electioneering was taking place IN the polling place). I don't agree with that, but I respect it.

I consider bloody revolution and terrorist action completely off the table as ways to effect change. I really wonder what's left.

I'd really, sincerely, like to read your ideas.

John 132: I think actions like that, while laudable, may fend off a particular rock, but won't keep the ship afloat.

Also: I'm not a veteran. I'm not a factory worker. How can I support them, other than by voting? Why should any official, elected or appointed by an elected one, care what I think if I don't vote? They care about getting re-elected, and getting their bosses re-elected. Non-voters are irrelevant in their worldview, except as they influence voters.

albatross 134: They're a subset, but they're out there. The only people who told me flat out (and directly) that they weren't voting in this election were white men. I'm aware that I'm not a statistically valid sample, though.

#139 ::: skzb ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2014, 02:31 PM:

Xopher @138: Good. Obviously, I'm not asking you to accept on faith that I'm right, merely that it is my opinion.

"I consider bloody revolution and terrorist action completely off the table as ways to effect change."

In brief, that's the crux of it right there. You consider revolution off the table, I consider it inevitable. What is not inevitable is: who will win.

The old chestnut goes "There are four boxes used for social change: soap, ballot, jury, and bullet, and they should be tried in that order." I contend that we are rapidly approaching the last, whether we wish to or not, and that still demanding we try the others is to leave us disarmed before an enemy who has already militarized and taken some practice shots at us.

Working to foster (what I consider) illusions in the electoral system in general and the Democratic Party in particular will, I believe, do nothing to prevent the clash of forces, but may succeed in preventing the working class from the preparation needed for victory.

I do not expect your agreement, and I really, *really* do not want to hijack this thread with that conversation. What this present conversation is about is, simply, this: Are you prepared (in a more appropriate topic or venue) to discuss the issue, or is the fact that I do not accept voting as a useful tool sufficient for you to be uninterested in the conversation.

#140 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2014, 02:35 PM:

We don't necessarily disagree on the inevitability of bloody revolution (and bloodless revolution isn't necessarily anathema to me; I mention it because you left off the adjective). We disagree on its desirability. I consider myself obligated to do whatever is in my power to stave off bloody conflict to the extent possible.

Even if the outcome is good, the dead are still dead.

#141 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2014, 02:59 PM:

What fraction of violent revolutions have left the countries in question better off, when all was said and done? My knowledge of history is pretty weak, but my impression is that violent revolution doesn't have a great track record. Given that it's also inherently pretty ugly (the word "violent" is the clue, there), that's a strong reason to try to avoid it.

#142 ::: skzb ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2014, 03:04 PM:

xopher @140: Oh, God. Revolution is never desirable. It's horrible--even relatively bloodless revolutions are no fun *at all*. And what's worse is the period immediately afterwards, even if it's successful. But, as I firmly believe it *is* inevitable, I would very much like to win, because a failed revolution is the worst option yet. And in my opinion, efforts to delay revolution involve fostering illusions that work toward defeat.

But, with all due respect, you haven't answered my question. I am not asking for agreement on revolution, or voting, or inevitability of violence; I'm asking if you agree that the bare fact of someone's not voting is a poor reason not to engage with that person. Evidence indicates that you are willing to listen--I mean, you *seem* to be listening to me. But I don't want to presume.

#143 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2014, 03:13 PM:

"The Revolution is like a bicycle. If it doesn't move forward, it falls over."
"Karl Marx?"
"No. Eddy Merckx."

- from 1973's "Les aventures de Rabbi Jacob"

#144 ::: Pfusand ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2014, 06:18 PM:

(Of course, I posted this on the wrong thread. Sigh.)

As I read through here, I am reminded of a family conversation that happened before my faher was born.

My grandfather, at the breakfast table: Those idiots [in our state government]! I could do better than that.

My grandmother, at the breakfast table: Prove it.

So he did.

Now, he was operating from a position of heavy-duty white male privilege. (We are not just white, we are "fishbelly white.") He was a graduate of Brown, he had married into an old and respected family, and his job brought him into contact with the social and political elite.

This probably got him elected the first time.

He was also massively intelligent, scrupulously honest, with a sharp tongue and a wicked sense of humor.

That probably got him elected all the other times.

So... you don't always have to settle for trying to get your candidate elected. Think about it.

#145 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2014, 07:45 PM:

skzb, #139: I would be interested in engaging with you on this topic in a different thread. I will warn you that I lean more toward Xopher's position than toward yours, but I'm willing to consider your arguments.

#146 ::: skzb ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2014, 07:59 PM:

Lee @145: Understood. I'm sure that, sooner or later, there will be an appropriate thread to have that conversation.

#147 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2014, 09:05 PM:

Well... I'm feeling that I helped to make a difference in at least one case. The candidate I voted for for Congress won in a tight race where the outcome was not certain until sometime Wednesday. And this was a Democrat in a deep red state defeating a Republican incumbent.

#148 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2014, 09:31 PM:

I think I have enough spoons to participate here.

Here's the thing; I haven't voted (as I've noted elsewhere) in over a decade, and part of that is the "I will not have this done in my name" thinking that some of you above have disagreed with.

But here's the thing; if I still lived in Tennessee, I could have voted for Bart Phillips[1] for Senate. I really think that in terms of changing the world, I'd do more good writing a good comment on Making Light than doing so.

1) His sister Becky Phillips-Aunt B of Tiny Cat Pants--is a blogger I've read for years; her stories are awesome.

#149 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2014, 10:55 PM:

Mark Phillips #124: The question I ask myself is why a third party hasn't arisen in the US to harvest the votes of those disenchanted and disaffected with the status quo? I'm guessing the economic fire power of the two major parties would drown out any fledging party and your first past the post system and lack of any proportional representation would make it difficult for any third part to get off the ground.

All of that, but there's also structural issues: Firstly, our electoral system is dominated by the Presidential race, where a third entrant will always take votes from the major party which they are most similar to. (See also, Ralph Nader in 2000, where he's sometimes accused of siphoning off just enough votes to tip the balance against the Democrats.)

The two-party system is also deeply enshrined in both electoral and congressional procedure -- for example, the negotiations over laws are between the groups from each party, each of whom confer among themselves and then go to negotiate with each other. (When we got a lone Socialist into Congress, they got admitted to the Democratic meetings out of "courtesy".)

AIUI, Historically, the only times a third party has ever gained traction in American politics is when one of the parties has gone into full-scale meltdown, in which case a third party can appear and replace the defunct party. The Tea Party was originally trying for that role against the Republicans, but was quickly co-opted by the globalist side of the right wing. (Even so, they're causing a lot of trouble for the Republicans.)

#150 ::: Mark Phillips ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2014, 03:16 AM:

David Harmon #149: Similar situation here in Australia where there a two major political groupings Liberal (Centre Right) and Labor (Centre Left). General one or the other party will hold a majority our House of Representatives. However, because we have compulsory attendance on polling day (you don't have to vote you just have to turn up but 95% of those who turn up vote — might as well since you are there) so both our major parties don't have to get the voters out they just have to get them to vote for them. This means they have to appeal to the widest selection so both fight over the centre rather than being repelled to the extremes.

The two party grouping breaks down in our senate. We select senators on a state wide electorate by proportional preferential (don't ask me to explain it it will make your head spin). Because we have 12 senators for each state, we vote for 6 senators at each election. Therefore any party that gets more than 14.% of the vote gets a seat but because of the preferential (instant — run-off) system, where voters preference are distributed, small and micro parties can be elected so that it is impossible for one of the majors to control the senate.

I have often thought the Instant Run-Off system would be a good idea for the States as it avoids the problem of spoiler candidates but I understand it will never happen as it would require there to be a single national electorate rather than a state based electoral college. My guess is that will never happen.

#151 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2014, 05:02 AM:

I just want to note that compulsory voting doesn't necessarily make for a high turn-out. Here in Turkey, voting is compulsory; turnout in the Presidential election in August was, if I recall, about 80%.

#152 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2014, 08:43 AM:

praisegod barebones@151

80% would be a stunningly high turnout for basically any election in the U.S.

#153 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2014, 09:32 AM:

I voted, mostly due to social pressure. I'm not convinced that voting by people who do as little research as I do (or less) is all that valuable.

There were a couple of interesting libertarian candidates (neither of whom I was able to vote for because of my location) this time around.

Both candidates believe in harm reduction.

Sean Haugh ran for the Senate from North Carolina on an "end war, don't spend money we don't have" platform. He spent less than 10K on his campaign, and got 3.8% of the vote-- about 100K votes.

Elizabeth Edwards won to be a representative in the State House in New Hampshire, -- one of 400, and getting paid $100/year.

#154 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2014, 11:00 AM:

Michael I: I was using the Australian figure as a baseline for places with compulsory voting. Obviously you'd expect it to get higher turnouts than in places where you don't have that.

Turkey has traditionally had high turnouts, but it was unusually low this year because of (depending on whose explaining it) either a) people couldn't be bothered to come back from vacation to vote or b) the secularist opposition running an uncharismatic figure with a religious background that their core supporters felt unable to support.

#155 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2014, 11:24 AM:

Nancy Lebovitz: Note that a quarter-million dollar online advertising push for Sean Haugh was also purchased by the Koch brothers. It's important to note that Haugh himself didn't know about this ad buy ahead of time, nor did he want it. It was an attempt by the Koch brothers to split the Hagan vote: the ads targeted Hagan specifically.

The tactic might even have worked. Tillis won by a margin much smaller than the Haugh vote. Then again, those voters may have supported Haugh anyway. I have no way of knowing.

#156 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2014, 11:55 AM:

Also, on "lesser evil" voting:

My personal ethical solution is to vote for the lesser evil, because by the time we've reached the two choices on the ballot, I don't see any way to effectively say "I would like a non-evil choice instead" by either voting or not-voting. It is sort of a harm reduction measure: realistically, one of these two candidates is going to be elected, and I want it to be the one who will be less harmful.

Moreover -- I'm a liberal, and when the Democratic candidate loses because liberal voters either stayed home or voted for a more-liberal third party, the Democratic candidate and party never seem to receive the message "I should be more liberal to win liberal votes." Instead, they receive the message "The voting public is inherently conservative and I should be more conservative in order to win their votes." Which is absolutely stupid, but it's what happens every time. (Meanwhile, when Republican candidates lose, they usually take the message that they didn't fire up their base enough and need to be more firebrand-conservative in order to win more, which I think is usually correct.)

However, the other component of my personal ethical solution is to try and find bottom-up ways to make non-evil candidates happen -- by trying to support non-evil candidates in local politics (where there is less big money and corruption, so that my support and vote actually might make a difference), and trying to support organizations that advocate for good things and push the Overton window.

(Note: Yes, I can imagine a situation in which both candidates were so evil that I would not be able to bring myself to vote for either one. So far that hasn't happened. You can draw whatever conclusions you like about my tolerance for evil.)

#157 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2014, 12:37 PM:

#155 ::: Caroline

Last I heard, it isn't confirmed that the money came from the Koch brothers.

I also have no idea how much difference those simple-minded ads made-- is there any way to tell?

#158 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2014, 04:47 PM:

skzb 142: But, with all due respect, you haven't answered my question.

I believe I have. I will engage with people who don't vote for good reasons, but not those who don't vote out of laziness or lack of concern for others. I will listen long enough to discover which category I think someone is in. Contempt for the whole system is a borderline case, and requires more investigation to determine if it's principled or if it's just putting a layer of superficial nihilism over one of the stupider reasons.

Note that this is my process for determining whether I want to engage with that person, not for deciding what basic rights they should have.

Mark 150: we have compulsory attendance on polling day (you don't have to vote you just have to turn up but 95% of those who turn up vote — might as well since you are there)

I would support that here, despite the problems you outline. One question: I understood that voting was mandatory in Australia. How do they make it compulsory?

#159 ::: skzb ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2014, 05:22 PM:

Xopher @158: Okay, understood.

#160 ::: Mark Phillips ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2014, 06:32 PM:

Xopher 2158. Possibly poor choice of words on my part.

You are required to enrol upon reaching 18 years of age (you can pre-register from the time you are 16) and you are required to attend a polling booth on election days. If you don't and don't have valid reason for not attending you can be fined A$20!

What is a valid reason you ask? Our High Court has answered that question

'Physical obstruction, whether of sickness or outside prevention, or of natural events, or accident of any kind, would certainly be recognised by law in such a case. One might also imagine cases where an intending voter on his way to the poll was diverted to save life, or to prevent crime, or to assist at some great disaster, such as a fire: in all of which cases, in my opinion, the law would recognise the competitive claims of public duty.'

#161 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2014, 11:06 PM:

Yes, that's mandatory.

In the US it's mandatory to have a driver's license if you drive a car alone. If you drive a car without one, you will be punished (if you're caught).

In many states it is compulsory to have a learner's permit before getting a driver's license; if you haven't had a learner's permit, they simply will not issue you a driver's license. They can actually stop you from getting a driver's license.

#162 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2014, 11:52 PM:

Ted Cruz is going to be Chair of the Senate Science Subcommittee?
Christ on a pogo stick.

#163 ::: Mark Phillips ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2014, 12:36 AM:

Xopher @161 A$20 is about US$17 at the current exchange rates. So the penalty is minimal.

I think there is a cultural imperative in Australia to vote. Voting is considered a 'civic duty comparable to other duties citizens perform e.g. taxation, compulsory education, jury duty'

#164 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2014, 03:50 AM:

Xopher @ 138: Yes, but what gives voting that exalted place? Why is it more important than exercising the right to assemble for redress of grievances? Is it that is is so easy and risk-free? What makes voting the one thing expected?

#165 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2014, 05:10 AM:

albatross @134: so long as he's running against someone plausibly even worse

<snerk> The electoral equivalent of "you don't have to run faster than the bear, you just have to run faster than the other guy"?

#166 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2014, 05:12 AM:

There are times, seeing how some Americans talk about democracy and elections and voting, when I come to think that voting is seen as a something magical, a political abracadabra to generate a government in a puff of brightly-coloured smoke.

Does this make the attractive-looking ladies of the TV news the equivalent of the stage conjurer's scantily-clad assistant? On what I know, the stage conjurer's assistants are clever and skilled people. They have to know how the tricks work. I am less sure of the TV newsreaders.

#167 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2014, 07:05 AM:

Dave Bell #166: There are times, seeing how some Americans talk about democracy and elections and voting, when I come to think that voting is seen as a something magical, a political abracadabra to generate a government in a puff of brightly-coloured smoke.

There is some of that, but remember that voting traditionally has represented the political voice of the citizen. That's why so much effort was spent to keep blacks and women from voting (and still is, for blacks and other minorities). Of course, crooked politicians have found many other ways to undercut the system, sometimes behind the scenes.

#168 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2014, 08:14 AM:

Dave Harmon @ 167: This comment was triggered by yours but is not a direct response to it in any sense which would indicate I'm directing it at you personally.

This country was founded on people invading a continent on which someone else was already living, doing their best to exterminate those people and, in the meantime, bringing people stolen from yet another continent to be worked and bred like animals. Once the vote was finally established by these excellent killers and slavers, they only extended it to their fellow white men and further limited it to those who owned real property. They had no collective intention (despite a few good apple) of bringing about freedom and justice for an "all" that extended beyond "them".

The vote is not a political voice. It was originally a means for those in power to divide their spoils. As the franchise slowly extended, the power of the vote diminished, a bit because of dilution, but mostly because those with power intended to keep their power regardless of what the common people might wish and accordingly made the ability to vote less and less useful. It's now a small, low-cost means of exerting a very limited amount of power to choose among a small set of constrained, predetermined--and not by you--choices.

So I vote, because it's easy and because I'll exercise this tiny bit of power in order to make the horrors imposed on people by the power slightly less horrible, but I don't expect to get anything more than that from the people I vote for.

It's a charade, but one that still contains a little bit of power, like a god whose followers have lost faith but not quite forgotten.

So I use that power, but I'm not feeding the dying god.

This has been your early-morning rant from an ill-tempered Arkansawyer.

#169 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2014, 08:50 AM:

John A Arkansawyer @ 168: What you forget in your summation for the prosecution is the constant throb of resistance to the evils of the nation. A surprising number of the politically powerful (which is to say, damn few but more than you'd think based on self-interest alone) have had at least sympathy for the plebes. Our acclaimed artists and thinkers are mostly temperamentally on the side of the exploited and powerless, and the majority of them have manifested this in their politics. And our people are a generally restless bunch who turn surly and ungovernable at the damnedest times.

It's definitely the underdog side of American history, and it's usually described as unAmerican and notVeryNice, and it's getting its ass kicked every day in every way, and it's by god hanging in there and refusing to give up and long may it swerve!

This has been your morning rant from the sunny side of Arkansaw.

#170 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2014, 09:28 AM:

John A Arkansawyer @ 168... This country was founded on people invading a continent on which someone else was already living

That's not exactly a feature unique to American History.

#171 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2014, 10:06 AM:

If a handful fewer people had voted for Al Franken in Minnesota, we'd have had one fewer Democrat in the Senate, and perhaps we wouldn't have gotten the Affordable Care Act. It's an imperfect law, but it helps -- I know at least one person who would have gone bankrupt without it. Voting is a lot like pushing on string, but sometimes the string does get to where you're pushing it.

#172 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2014, 10:36 AM:

Mark Phillips, #163: Voting is considered a 'civic duty comparable to other duties citizens perform e.g. taxation, compulsory education, jury duty'

And there are a significant number of Americans who also rail against any or all of those things. Some of them are elected politicians. (Often the resistance to compulsory education comes in the guise of pushing either homeschooling or "voucher schools", which is code for "handing over tax money intended for the public school system to private corporations".)

#173 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2014, 11:05 AM:

Lee @ 172: The flip side of that is that in my experience, relatively well-to-do liberals spend the money they need to so their kid gets a Montessori* education. When have you heard someone advocating a Montessori option for the public schools?

American liberals have been playing mostly on defense the last few decades. It shows in their lack of ambition and imagination. Those of us to the left of liberal aren't doing that much better, and even when we are, there is a large scorched area to our right where retreating liberals slashed and burned in their frightened retreat from the sixties. That disorganized rout was the beginning of the end of the New Deal. Even the Affordable Care Act is well to the right of Nixon's proposed universal health care.

So everyday parents look at the public schools, which they are told suck by rightists and liberals alike, and hear zilch from liberals which makes it sound as though they have the same civic concern for all children which they have personally for their own children. Why, then, would you expect those parents not to support vouchers and charter schools? Someone is advocating something which might improve their children's chances at a good education. That's kind of a no-brainer for them.

People aren't sheeple. They act in their interests as they understand them. They are as rational as they can be when they are bathed in a miasma of systemic lies and deception, a process and a product Teresa notes has become industrialized.

So if you want to break through that, you need something effective. Telling people what they hold which offers them hope is just a handful of shit isn't going to endear them to you if you don't at least offer them some wipes and hand sanitizer. Then you're just another arrogant jackass telling them they have a handful of shit. They already fear that, you know, and--usually with good cause--suspect those who point their shit out look down on them. They can certainly smell those people's shit.

*I only pick on Montessori parents here because I truly believe they've picked something for their children which is genuinely different in a good way. Their good judgement at this small scale is why I bother calling it into question at the large scale.

#174 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2014, 11:30 AM:

John A Arkansawyer @173:

American liberals have been playing mostly on defense the last few decades.

It's not just an American problem. Before the Scottish independence referendum Irvine Welsh posted a heartfelt explanation of how the Labour Party has failed the British left. (I Parheliated it at the time.) The line that struck home for me:

Yes, politics is the art of the possible, but the message from the Labour Party to the people, is that in the face of neo-liberalism, nothing is possible – but keep voting for us anyway. Why? Because, goes the stock reply, ‘we care more than the Tories’. This is true of Labour voters and party members, but it hasn’t been true of the leadership for a long, long time.

I don't know that the Democratic leadership has sold its soul as thoroughly as Labour did under Blair, but sometimes I think it's left said soul in the pawnshop a little longer than is prudent.

#175 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2014, 12:56 PM:

There was a rather long (and acrimonious) comment collection on one post yesterday at Daily Kos, where a couple of the commenters were quite willing to write off everyone who doesn't vote every election. They were catching a lot of flak, as you might expect, and not all of it from younger people.

#176 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2014, 01:32 PM:

John A Arkansawyer @ 173... Go ahead. After all, the cliché about liberals is true. We *are* too polite to react in the deserved manner when someone insults us.

#177 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2014, 01:39 PM:

Mark 163 I think there is a cultural imperative in Australia to vote. Voting is considered a 'civic duty comparable to other duties citizens perform e.g. taxation, compulsory education, jury duty'

Well, that's a bravo for Australian culture in my book. I think the concept of duty is underrated among American civilians.

John 164: Yes, but what gives voting that exalted place? Why is it more important than exercising the right to assemble for redress of grievances? Is it that is is so easy and risk-free? What makes voting the one thing expected?

Hmm. I think of voting as a duty, and those other things as extra. Not really sure why. Maybe because it's something everyone does at once (I'm big on collective actions). Whether you're voting for the bad guys or the less-bad guys, we all vote together; if you're voting for the bad guys, we're probably not peaceably assembling for redress of the same grievances.

Also, yes, it's relatively risk free...with some horrific exceptions.

#178 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2014, 01:41 PM:

Serge @176:

That comment would have been better abandoned at preview, my friend.

#179 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2014, 02:10 PM:

Agreed, Abi.

#180 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2014, 02:12 PM:

abi @ 178: I'm pressing pretty hard on strongly-held beliefs right after an election that left many of us badly shaken. (Including me. It's a bad short-term outcome, and the thoroughness of it.) And I was painting with a very broad brush.

Serge is one of the most cheerful, even-tempered posters here. If I've ticked him off that much, I'm sorry--that's not just a general sorry, but an "I'm sorry, Serge"--and maybe I'm pushing too hard. I'll do my best to tone down. I'd like to be heard and that may help.

Serge @ 179: Thank you.

Xopher @ 177: That's a nice way to view it and I get what you're saying. I don't entirely agree, but it's still an appealing view. What I like about (for instance) demonstrating is similar except just the opposite. I like joining together with the like-minded to act in our common interest. It's also collective action, but one with a smaller scope, both in number and in breadth of vision. I'm big on people acting in their interests, both their individual interests and their collective interests. So many don't.

#181 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2014, 02:18 PM:

The argument I remember hearing for mandatory voting is that it's a defense against attempts to keep people from voting, say by threatening to fire them or otherwise retaliate against the wrong sort who vote.

#182 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2014, 02:21 PM:

My apologies, John.

#183 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2014, 03:07 PM:

The duty to vote is being discussed pro and con at Bleeding Heart Libertarians. One line of argument is that, yes, we have the duty to be good citizens, but voting is only one of the ways to fulfill that civi duty.

#184 ::: rea ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2014, 04:53 PM:

skzb @ 131: Can you, for now, accept on faith that I very strongly believe elections will not keep the ship from the rock, but other methods will?

With all respect, there's a category error there. There are some very serious things wrong with our society that voting can't fix, that must be addressed through mass social movements and maybe, as you say, revolution, although I hate to think of the bloodshed that would result from a revolution.

But there are also issues at the margins that may not make a difference to the vast arc of history, but can make a difference to individuals--a program to help pay for health care for those who couldn't otherwise afford it, for example. And on those issues, voting can and does make a difference. So, unfortunately, does not voting.

We need a metaphorical new car, but that's no reason to forego a metaphorical oil change on the old car.

#185 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2014, 04:56 PM:

On good and bad reasons for not voting. Yes, in theory, I can see a difference between being too lazy, being terminally cynical, and being overwhelmed by other things in life and thus not having enough spoons left to get to the polls or apply for an absentee ballot.

But here's the thing about counting spoons. The person who gets to declare a shortage of spoons in their life is that person themself, not someone else. I shouldn't look over their shoulder and second-guess them. Besides, they may say "both parties are equally bad" in the hopes that it's more socially acceptable than "I was too tired after trying to find something to cook that my kids would eat."

So even though in theory I think there are better and worse reasons for not voting, in practice I can't know enough to judge someone else's decision.

#186 ::: Neil W ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2014, 06:01 PM:

Alan Beatty @185 gets close to what I've been thinking while lurking here: We should judge the complaints on their merits (and then dismiss, argue with, commiserate, attempt to correct etc. as appropriate). Somewhere amongst the merits is the person's ability, willingness and record on acting on the complaint, which includes if they voted on it. But we might want to consider ranking it below our own charity and the effect of the things complained about.

Meanwhile here in the UK it seems that Nigel Farage* will be on my ballot paper next May. I will be strongly encouraging people in my constituency to vote. And looking at the likely candidates I will be complaining like hell afterwards.

* Leader of UKIP. You can look it up if you like.

#187 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2014, 06:26 PM:

What I've been seeing in the comments reminds me a bit of Scalzi's post on Straight White Males being analogous to the lowest difficulty setting in a game. The bulk of the negative reaction to that was primarily along the lines of "that doesn't apply to me - it's not specific enough."

So I've seen a good deal of reaction along the lines "Hey, I have really good reasons for not voting."

Okay. People can have good reasons for doing (or not doing) just about anything. But the whole point of generalizations is that they are supposed to be broadly descriptive without the need to handle every exception.

If you have to place a dozen footnotes for every statement, there's no point in making one. And yes, I know that that generalizations can be overly broad, or too sweeping.

And, being human, if someone makes a generalization that touches me or what I do or believe, I would be tempted to respond negatively. But I hope I would recognize that for what it is.


#188 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2014, 08:43 PM:

Possibly of interest:

In his post-election press conference, Obama sent these 2014 nonvoters a signal:

"To everyone who voted, I want you to know that I hear you. To the two-thirds of voters who chose not to participate in the process yesterday, I hear you, too. All of us have to give more Americans a reason to feel like the ground is stable beneath their feet, that the future is secure, that there’s a path for young people to succeed, and that folks here in Washington are concerned about them."

I hear you, too. That’s not what most of us learned in school. Our teachers said that if you want to be heard, you have to vote. But the president of the United States says otherwise.

#189 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2014, 10:21 PM:

Also perhaps of interest:

So why does the Constitution give the power to set the qualifications for voters to the US Congress to the states?

...the answer is simple: the price of the slave-holding states for participating in the new government established by the 1789 Constitution, was that the new Federal government would not have the power to even potentially interfere with the institution of slavery. What if the Federal Government made a law permitting slaves to vote?

The Constitution leaves the qualifications for voting and the administration of elections to the states so as to not potentially threaten the systems of oppression in effect in the states.

The state administration of federal elections, and the state determination of the qualifications for voters in federal elections serves no other purpose and is now a source of partisan mischief. We have seen it in denial of African American voting in the South, and in the all the efforts for voter suppression now.

Taking the Offensive against Voter Suppression is demanding that Federal Government establish a National Elections Administration, under the Justice Department, which establishes a single national voter registration list, and uniform elections rules and schedules across all fifty states.

#190 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2014, 12:04 AM:

So I've been thinking this over for a couple of days now, and while I'll express this differently elsewhere, I've come to consider this idea: The place voting rights occupies in the minds of liberals is the place gun rights occupy in the minds of conservatives.

Again, broad brush and all that.

I'm not claiming the two rights are equally important--they're differently important enough to not be easily comparable anyway--only that they have similar places in the minds and rhetoric of Team Red and Team Blue

#191 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2014, 10:18 AM:

One more piece before I shut up and listen for a while:

There have been many post election day mournings since I began voting in 1980.

There are many things wrong,
broken, dangerous, violent,
with our country,
it is true.

But there is this:

I am not dead yet.

Go read the whole thing. It'll do you good.

#192 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2014, 10:48 AM:

Allan,

Also, those reasons can overlap. If I thought the election was between Sauron and Elrond, I'd go vote even from the bottom of a spoon-well with three hungry children eating leftovers at home. But for Sauron vs Saruman, even if the Uruk-Hai are a little more competent administrators and I like their forest-clearing policies a little more than the Unblinking Eye, I might not have the energy.

#193 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2014, 11:47 PM:

I voted, as I almost always do.(*) I hope undervoting doesn't cancel in my state (California), because I left a few offices blank. (To quote Lee Gold, re. a mayorial election in Los Angeles some years ago, "I don't want either of those horrible people in office".) Several years ago I concluded that I would not live long enough to ever vote for a Republican in any office more important than Dogcatcher. (I don't think that's an elective office any more, but you know what I mean.) When my only option is to vote for a bunch of candidates who are Liberal Republicans, by my longstanding evaluation, though they are listed as "Democrats", I get queasy. Sometimes I hold my nose and vote for one of them, sometimes I just leave the whole section blank.

(*) At times I've been so overwhelmed by other problems that I've not voted in local elections that involved little more than School Boards. These are, IMHO, probably more important than Presidential Elections, but it's ridiculously difficult to find out anything important about the candidates.

So, yes, "I refuse to participate in this farce" is an Attitude I can respect. So is "I do not have enough information to make an informed choice". And there are probably other reasons I'd consider respectable.


#194 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2014, 10:18 AM:

I strongly believe that rights are balanced by duties. That is to say, that citizens have rights -- emergent from nature, not granted by the state -- which must be protected by the state, but they also have duties to the state which are the price they pay for the protection the state provides. Those duties include public service (military and non-military) at the state's call in emergencies such as wars, jury duty, and voting.

Freedom is not, to cite a cliché, free. It is paid for by the work of all citizens to maintain it. That work includes serving in its defense by voting, by serving on juries, by, if need be fighting for it (or, if one does not wish to shed blood, saving lives for it).

#195 ::: clew ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2014, 06:50 PM:

When my only option is to vote for a bunch of candidates who are Liberal Republicans, by my longstanding evaluation, though they are listed as "Democrats", I get queasy. Sometimes I hold my nose and vote for one of them, sometimes I just leave the whole section blank.

Would write-ins be suitable? Allowed? I assume they don't count as undervoting.

#196 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2014, 01:55 AM:

Fragano @196

That raises a couple of questions for me. Like many theories of political obligation, it says a lot about citizens and their duties. But where does it leave metics like me (and iirc, you), whose rights are protected by the state, but cannot vote, do jury service, serve in the military and so on? Are we obliged to seek citizenship so we can fulfil those duties?

And what about those whose security isn't protected by the state to any reasonable degree? There are communities for whom that's true - or has been true in the recent past - where I live. And perhaps not just here, either.

#197 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2014, 02:57 PM:

Mark Phillips @ 63 (and many others): moving Election Day to the weekend might not help. A lot of people with rigid work schedules are required to work weekends, because that's when retail (e.g., shops, restaurants, and other businesses that tend to think in terms of regimented staffing) does most of its business. There have been attempts to allow advance voting -- and in some cases the Republicans have broken them, as in North Carolina this time.

skzb, generally: your offhand comment about the Ukraine suggests a degree of rigidity (or lack of information) such that arguing with you may be a waste of time, but I'll point to historical evidence that the trouble with revolution is that it incites counter-revolution. Sometimes a small mass can drive a larger -- I've seen estimates that the British colonial population in North America was one third pro-union and one-third neutral -- but that requires passivity from the losers; I've long thought Ernest Callenbach's Ecotopia was foolish for believing that the people between Sausalito and Salem would go along with big-city leftists. Elections make everyone stakeholders (opting out does not remove that privilege), and history shows that elections do make a difference; consider the situation with North Korea if Gingrich can't sabotage the agreement Carter negotiated for Clinton, or whether DOMA would have been tossed if McCain had been nominating SCOTUS replacements instead of Obama.

I can understand the despair of the ground-down, or the priority choices of the under-spooned, but the person who claims "clean hands and composure" from refusing to vote, while continuing to participate in the rest of the world, strikes me as dishonest; I think hermitage is debatable but at least the hermit separates from the whole world.

John A Arkansawyer @ 132: That Overton Window? Its bounds are not changed by voting.
      1. So what? There's a reason it's called a window rather than a slit; do you seriously believe the effect of all parts of the window is the same?
      2. In the short term you may be correct; in the long term, I doubt it. See above re SCOTUS; court compositions reflect elections, and decisions follow. And while some electorates (cf CA vs gay marriage) will overthrow a forward-looking court decision, others will not (cf MA, where the reactionaries couldn't even get to the 25%-of-the-legislature threshold to convene to amend the constitution against gay marriage); IMObservation, this in itself moves the window, as people see the demonstrated lies of the people trying to move it rightward. (Look at the figures for public support/opposition on gay marriage over the past decade)
      Note also that the public action you support has become steadily less effective due to Republican gerrymandering; people in safe seats can dismiss demonstrators as irrelevant to voting. (Yes, I acknowledge that gerrymandering reduces the effects of people's votes also -- but the votes are at least tied to seats.)

ibid @ 164: an assembly to redress grievances is a special order of business; somebody has to call it, and people may or may not turn out according to their level of grievance. (I see the dark side of this every time I forget what a zoning meeting is like and go to one.) Where and when such an assembly is held, and how it is publicized, is up to the assembler. OTOH, an election is an established periodic medium, widely publicized, at a known time, distributed widely so as to be as convenient as possible to as many people as possible (modulo the efforts of Republican-controlled legislatures, but even those are edge cases so far), and not even a sampling like most polls. I argue that this is a qualitative difference (which is why I'm giving more detail.)

ibid @ 168: The vote is not a political voice. It was originally a means for those in power to divide their spoils. Not according to my New England ancestors; look up "town meeting".

ibid @ 190: What qualifications does Tom Schade have as a constitutional scholar? His opening immediately suggests the cliche that every problem has a simple, obvious, wrong answer.

#198 ::: Alexander Kosoris ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2014, 10:23 AM:

My two cents on non-voting (from a Canadian perspective):

I don't like the thought of having to make a choice when, after becoming better informed of the parties' and leaders' platforms and policies, none of the options appeal to me. I hate that I constantly feel like I'm voting for the person who will do the least amount of damage to the country, or province, or city.

And, on the thought of becoming informed, if someone doesn't, for whatever reason, become sufficiently informed about the politicians who are running by election day: Should we be complaining that uninformed people are not voting? I don't think that uninformed people have less right to vote, but I think that we have problems if the people just go out and vote based on very little knowledge of the election when someone tells them that they have no right to complain if they abstain. The people who focus on voting should be focusing on engagement.

#199 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2014, 05:51 PM:

Alexander:

If there is an obligation to vote, it seems like it must imply an obligation to try to become well-enough informed to do a good job. I don't think there is any moral obligation on anyone to vote, FWIW, and I'd say there's probably a moral obligation *not* to vote in areas where you know you are entirely ignorant. For example, imagine someone making a selection on a ballot initiative he didn't understand. His vote would amount to random noise, obscuring the votes of people who knew something about what they were voting for or against.

The value of getting lots of people to vote is that their votes provide an incentive for the people in power to try to keep their citizens reasonably happy and well-off. Big scandals, massive economic suffering, high crime, etc., are going to lead voters to vote the people currently in power out, and that means that elected officials from the mayor to the president have an incentive to try to make things better for at least that subset of people whose votes are in play. (They have no incentive to keep you happy if you will always vote and always vote Democrat or Republican. But if you always vote Democrat but might be convinced not to come to the polls this year if sufficiently irritated at the Democrats, then both Democratic and Republican politicians have an incentive to care about how you perceive things to be going.)

A major downside to having most everyone vote is that most people aren't that interested in politics, and so don't follow it that closely. It's pretty common that there are a lot of big popular issues where the positions of the two big parties are based on some kind of cartoon-physics version of the world that fits well with US TV news coverage, but not with what reality looks like. It's hard to imagine this sort of process leading to good policies.

#200 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2014, 12:27 PM:

Praisegod Barebones #196: You're right. It leaves a number of questions unanswered for citizens as well as metics such as ourselves.

In the first place, there is a duty of care on the part of the state for resident aliens, and a right of such residents to be able to speak if they can't vote as well as to participate in politics in ways short of voting.

Secondly, the state should not impose on minorities such disadvantages as inhibit them from participating and exercising their civil and political rights. Including the rights of asserting their particular identities in a peaceful manner. For example, by being able to speak their indigenous language (or vote for candidates who speak that language).

#201 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2014, 06:07 AM:

Well, we have the results from the Rochester and Strood by-election in the UK, occassioned by the sitting MP, Mark Reckless, switching parties from Conservative to UKIP.

From the BBC:

Rochester and Strood by-election full results
Mark Reckless (UKIP) 16,867 (42.10%)

Kelly Tolhurst (Conservative) 13,947 (34.81%)

Naushabah Khan (Labour) 6,713 (16.76%)

Clive Gregory (Green) 1,692 (4.22%)

Geoff Juby (Lib Dem) 349 (0.87%)

Hairy Knorm Davidson (Official Monster Raving Loony Party) 151 (0.38%)

Stephen Goldsbrough (Ind) 69 (0.17%)

Nick Long (People Before Profit) 69 (0.17%)

Jayda Fransen (Britain First) 56 (0.14%)

Mike Barker (Ind) 54 (0.13%)

Charlotte Rose (Ind) 43 (0.11%)

Dave Osborn (Patriotic Socialist Party) 33 (0.08%)

Christopher Challis (Ind) 22 (0.05%)


The Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats are the parties of the coalition government.

The campaigning was a maximum effort by the Conservative Party.

The Official Monster Raving Loony Party is at least fun. With the General Election due in May 2015, you can use the big rosette that party membership gets you to intimidate canvassing MPs. There are other goodies included. (The rosette might also be useful the next time there is a Gathering of Light in the UK.)

What's more significant is that the Liberal Democrats only got 349 votes, compared to 7800 in the 2010 General Election. The UKIP didn't offer a candidate then, so technically the only party to gain was the Green party, with a rise from 734 votes to 1692 votes. The total vote was nearly 7900 down on the General Election, despite all the hype, with a voting population of about 79000.

Incidentally, before 2010 the Constituency was named Medway, which confused some people since the Borough had the same name. I think there were some boundary changes as well, but it isn't totally new for the 2010 election.

#202 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2014, 10:12 AM:

Dave: congratulations(?) on the rise of your very own Tea Party.

clarification to my previous: the revolutionary/unionist/neutral split applied to the colonies that became the USA; I don't know nearly enough about Canadian history to guess who thought what when.

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