Saturday, February 02, 2008

Non-Voters Are Still Citizens

As Super Tuesday draws near, commentators of all stripes agree that only voters get to complain. It's one of the stranger get-out-the-vote strategies: if you don't support one candidate, you're not allowed to point out any the flaws of the political system.

How does this work? If a non-voter protests government corruption, their facts are not falsified and their arguments are not rendered illogical. Are such commentators suggesting we ignore intelligent points simply because someone didn't side with a candidate? Perhaps they believe that the governance of the country is only the business of those who participate regardless of who fund it or the who is affected by it. Should all their rights be ignored, along with freedom of speech? It hardly seems ethical to demand that either people support a candidate or become a second-class citizen.

Protest is a right, not a privilege; it's to be maintained, not earned. One does not need to be part of the institution to note its flaws. Indeed, it is only from the outside where the most insidious failings can be found. In some ways non-voters should garner special attention. They are so disenchanted with the choices at hand, they will refuse to participate even in the face of those who paint silent disapproval as ignorance and irrelevance.


Jenny said...

"Super Tuesday"? What's super about getting up early to avoid the crowds, waiting in line behind voters who are at the wrong location, being chewed out by cranky volunteers for not following non-existent instructions, and being blamed when you point out that the voting machine programmer made a mistake, giving you the ballot for the wrong political party or voting district?

Jenny said...

LOL I should have asked: Are YOU planning to vote?

Rhett said...

While I agree that non-voters should not be ignored and that no one should be forced to support one candidate if they do not agree with their policies, there is a problem. Protesting by not voting is not efficient and cannot work. Elected officials take office because of the votes that are cast, not because of the ratio of voters to non-voters. The respected parties chalk up the non-voters as being uninterested in the political process and simply focus on the needs and desires of their voting blocks. Officials may claim that they are concerned with those who do not participate and will try to get them interested, but that is just lip service. The more effective way of protesting is by voting for third-party candidates or write-ins such as "Mickey Mouse" or "Donald Duck." If a write-in movement for, say Colin Powell or Ricardo Sanchez or Warren Buffett, was large enough and successful in swaying an election (either by winning 5% or the entire election), then voters may get the attention of the parties and be able to demand better candidates. Just my two cents.

David said...

Oh absolutely; protesting through non-voting actually enhances the very people you're protesting. It doesn't make a lot of sense to protest that way. But it's a whole other thing to not vote because marginal cost exceeds expected marginal benefit. Voting really is a collective action problem.

Rhett said...

I like that marginal cost/marginal benefit reason for not voting. However, how would you really measure that? Is it measurable? I'm not so sure.

submarine said...

Hello Everyone,

I just uploaded two episodes (aprox 7 minutes each) of SubmarineChannel's latest MiniMovie “Dear Oprah”.
(The MiniMovie project are episodic documentaries of 8 to 10 episodes each)

In Dear Oprah, a crew of young European filmmakers set out to search for America’s missing voters. Episode 1 and 2 are now online. The first stop on their journey is Columbus, Ohio. A single mom and her kids in a poor neighborhood give us a chilling introduction on what voting can be like in the US. Ep. 1 also includes an interview with Norman Ornstein from the American Enterprise Institute.

In one of the upcoming episodes, the crew visits the Obama campaign rally with Edith Childs in Greenwood.