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Why Doesn’t Everybody Vote?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Posted in: You really should vote

I was just over at Bloggin’ In Black (or whatever it’s called these days) reading a post that was urging people to register to vote, and it really struck a cord with me.

I can’t tell you how mad I get when people tell me that they don’t vote.

My sister incurred my wrath at the last major election, because she didn’t want to vote. I preached at her for about a week, about the importance of having a say in how the country is run. She’s voted in every single local government election since.

TTG and I have a particular set of friends who never vote. Ever. It makes me crazy.

One of the things that my friend (the female half of the couple) and I, were most excited about when we turned eighteen, was that at last we’d be able to have our say. I remember us anxiously waiting for the polling stations to open, so that we could cast our votes. She voted for Lord Such’s Monster Raving Loony Party, and I voted for The Green Party. (Wasn’t that a tree-hugging left-wing thing to do? *g*)

Some would call them wasted votes, but at that time, my friend and I were vehemently opposed to the main political parties, (we were students after all) and this was a way for us to express our dissatisfaction with the political movement in the country.

I’ve never voted for the Green Party since that time, mostly because even their apparently brilliant transport policies were a total farce, and seemed to lack any kind of weight.

That friend, has never cast a vote in any of the elections since. And that fact annoys me to the nth degree.

Her and her husband have young kids, they have a mortgage, he owns his own business. All perfectly good reasons to take an interest in what’s going on in your country methinks.

So why don’t they? Why do some people choose not to vote?

One of the reasons our friends give, is that they don’t believe that there’s any real differences between the parties. I personally think that that’s a lame-assed excuse, because if they truly believed that, they’d simply go and spoil the paper. It may not count as a vote, but it is given as a statistic. Spoiling the ballot paper, tells people that you wanted to vote, but you just didn’t fancy any of the current political parties. Your opinion was heard, even though you ultimately didn’t select a candidate.

Whilst we were in the states, we were listening to a political radio show, where the DJ asserted that Democrats were the ones who were most likely not to vote, never mind keeping up with political news. His opinion was that people who had no real opinion about politics usually called themselves Democrats. The DJ suggested that these people were just lazy.

He made a point that all the Go Vote campaigns were usually conducted by Democrats, aimed at other Democrats. Apparently, a higher percentage of Republicans vote.

As much as I hated to agree with him, he probably had a point. I think the same goes for Labour Party supporters over here.

Anyway, there were a lot of sacrifices made on both sides of the Atlantic, so that our voices could be heard. Why would anybody look to diminish those endeavours, by choosing to not vote?

Like I said, it makes me crazy.


  • One reason I’ve heard often for people who won’t vote is that their votes won’t count. Here in the US there is a screwy thing called electoral colleges. Candidates win the popular vote (would seem perfect for a democratic republic, right?) yet lose the electoral college votes.

    In a “red” state, blue voters shrug–they know their votes amount to wasted time–and vice versa.

    Every four years there is much bemoaning and complaining about it, but no change is made. Apathy and inertia are kings.

    (Not that I’ve ever thought about this or anything)


  • I had an instructor once tell the class…

    Go vote. If you don’t vote, I don’t want to hear you bitching about the economy, about the politics, about laws, none of it. Your way to contribute and have your say is to vote. If you don’t take it, that’s your loss.

    I wholeheartedly agree. Yeah, some people might think, well, what’s it matter anyway…if you want to have your voice heard, then getting a politician who echoes your beliefs/views/opinions, etc is how you go about doing it.


  • Randi
    September 30
    7:12 pm

    As someone how has both voted, and not voted, for different reasons, I’d say it depends. There have been times where I haven’t been home to vote. Oh well. There are times where I don’t like either candidate and don’t want to vote for either of them, (this assumes there are only two candidates, which is more often true at the muni level), (and Karen, I don’t know what “spoiling the ballot paper” means, but where I live, we have electronic voting., then why would I show up? Maybe it works different across the pond…lastly, it’s my RIGHT to not vote, just as it is my RIGHT to vote. I think it’s just as powerful to look at how many people DON’T vote, as it is to look at how many do.

    However, in general, I agree with your stance that people do not get to whine if they don’t vote. My exception to that is, if neither party covers a particular topic, one that may be important to that person, then one gets to whine.


  • Sam
    September 30
    7:16 pm

    I am a blue voter in a red state. I do feel like my vote in inconsequential. I do vote, I just don’t think it matters.



  • I used to think like you till the last presidential election.

    Watching that many idiots vote for this moron called Bush made me depressed and frankly I am to the point if it gets much worse I may have spent ten whole years of my life defending this country but I can leave and become Canadian so easily.

    Really it is not someplace I really want to support much anymore.


  • I don’t think I realised just how complex the voting procedures are in some of the states in America.

    Over here, every single person of voting age receives a polling card telling us when and where we can vote, about a month or two prior to voting day. The polling stations are all usually within reasonable walking distance, and are usually within local schools, community centres etc. They are also usually on a bus route.

    The stations are open until 10pm, allowing people to go and vote after work. We confirm our names to the polling officials, who find us on their register and mark us off, and then we go and vote. It really couldn’t be simpler.

    The government practically walk us through the voting system in attempt to make it as easy to participate as possible.

    So I can definitely say that although over here, there is a lot of voter apathy, there are also loads of people who just couldn’t be arsed to get off their backside to go and vote.

    Randi, you can spoil your ballot by scribbling outside the designated areas on the sheet. This is something you may not be able to do in the US though.


  • What annoys me is that often the people and groups that are the most vocal and obnoxious in discussing politics don’t actually vote. For some reason they’re compelled to try to change everyone else’s mind and affect everyone else’s decision, but then they don’t bother to give their input where it actually counts–the voting booth.

    I love Craig Fergson’s take on the matter. The clip is long but definitely worth watching:


  • Mireya
    September 30
    9:03 pm

    The electoral college system in the US almost made me outright stop voting. Where I come from (Puerto Rico) the elections are won by the candidate with more popular votes, not by electoral college. The electoral college system was relevant when it was first implemented… it is not relevant anymore. It does make me feel like my vote doesn’t matter as much as the vote from one of the states that barely has any population. Makes me feel like a second class citizen, in all honesty. Then I look at the asshats that have been managing the government … and I don’t walk, I RUN to cast my vote in every election… doesn’t make any difference (again, thanks to electoral college) but it makes me feel better that my vote at least didn’t go to the people I don’t want running the government.

    Simplistic, but it works for me.


  • I don’t understand why the person with the most votes doesn’t win. Surely that would be fairer?


  • I’m not allowed to vote. I just live, work and pay taxes here and so logically shouldn’t have any say in things.


  • I’m not allowed to vote. I just live, work and pay taxes here and so logically shouldn’t have any say in things.

    Was that in response to my comment? If so, I should clarify.

    I understand people who can’t vote being vocal. Immigrants, etc. They want to speak up so other people can vote on their behalf.

    It’s the people that can vote and don’t that shouldn’t have any say in things.


  • Mad
    September 30
    11:56 pm

    I have a friend who never votes but will continuously drive me crazy complaining about this government person or that government person and I always tell her the same thing. She needs to vote so she can have a voice and she never does…drives me up the wall.

    OTOH, I have my oldest daughter who wants to vote so badly but she’ll only 17, won’t be 18 until next year.

    Several weeks back, my husband got mad at something said on TV…for the life of me, I can’t remember what it was right now….but he turned to me and said “we’re not voting this year” I paused and gave him a look saying “what’s this we stuff? Just because you’re in a snit doesn’t mean I have to follow your lead. I will be voting.” ROFL Now he’s changed his mind again and is waiting for me to tell him when Early Voting starts so the both of us can go together.


  • Jen, no it wasn’t–to be honest I hadn’t read your comment. Just my thoughts having lived ex-patriot in several countries, some of which (e.g. Scotland) do let resident aliens vote.


  • Oh, good. I wanted to be sure I wasn’t offending non-citizens. It’s one thing to not have rights; it’s completely different to have them and waste them.


  • I can even understand keeping it as a right for citizens–but I agree with you; I wish they would all use it.


  • Voter apathy drives me nuts too. I’m Canadian and have voted (in much the same process Karen does) in every election since I turned 18 cough cough years ago. No matter how bad the candidates, how certain I am that my vote might be a wasted one, I vote. Because I read what the suffragettes went through to earn the right for women to vote. And what men without property did before them in order to cast their ballots. Voting is a right and a privilege.


  • eggs
    October 1
    7:09 am

    I live in an electorate where a massive majority of the votes go to Labor. It doesn’t really matter which way I vote, my area will return a Labor member. So what I do with my vote is to “waste” it by voting for the Greens. Every person who “wastes” their vote like this sends the major parties the message that voters care about environmental issues and that they’d better start pulling a few decent environmental policies out of their arses if they want to stay in power.

    There are lots of smaller, single issue parties out there that you can vote for as a way of sending a message to the major parties about what’s important to you. Voting doesn’t need to be just about the election at hand, you can use your vote to influence longer term policy change.


  • The Profane Angel
    October 1
    9:02 am

    I was disillusioned, shattered really, on May 4, 1970 and haven’t voted since. A lot of my contemporaries feel the same way, others don’t. I call myself apolitical, which kept peace within the context of my husband’s family (rabid conservatives), but what I am is disillusioned. I may, however, vote this time. The long haired hippie freak awakened when son found himself in Iraq (came back safely, thank God) and memories of another war came rushing back – along with a smoldering anger and desire for change. For those who have no idea what happened on May 4, 1970, all I can say is Kent State University (ample documentation of that day can be found on YouTube).


  • Dawn
    October 1
    9:05 am

    I’ve voted every single year since I turned 18. For me not voting because you’re away from home is just an excuse. I’ve sometimes been away from home during an election so as soon as I realised that I would be I requested a postal vote. In fact, both dh and I have permanent postal voting ballots sent to us every year just in case we will be away, and even if we are home, then we just post the ballot in.

    I read somewhere recently – I think it might have been a link on this blog – and I can’t remember exactly how it went. But it was something about filtering out people who the parties didn’t want to vote – which were predominantly black/hispanics and if I recall Florida was one of the states this was done in. I’m so annoyed that I can’t remember how it went.

    Suffice to say JUST VOTE. You don’t need to be educated or rich to vote, you just need to let your opinion heard.


  • Liz
    October 1
    1:00 pm

    I am usually a lurker, but this is a hot button issue for me. I have voted every single time, even in my local (March) elections.

    The thing that I find shameful is that every time I talk to someone bitching about the way the government is run, my first question is “Did you vote?”

    More than 80% of the time the answer is no.


  • Anon76
    October 1
    2:43 pm

    I’ll admit, I’m a sporadic voter.

    It all stems back to when I was an eighteen-year-old. My state had an issue on the ballot to drop the drinking age from 21 to 18. My generation, being raised during the Vietnam war, figured that if we were responsible enough to die for our country, sign legal documents, and even vote for that matter, then we were responsible enough to handle drinking beer.

    So, we all signed up in droves to vote. We were getting our first taste of the American dream of controlling one’s own destiny.

    Yeah…Rrrrriiiigggghhhhtttt! The bill passed by a substantial margin, and not six months or so later, the outcome was reversed. Not with a vote mind you, but because the Federal Government threatened to pull their supplemental share of funding when it came to our roads and highways. Our state legislators well new they couldn’t maintain our infrastructures without help. (It’s like that in all states.)

    So, even though State Gov is seperate from Fed Gov, on many issues states still have to bow to the big boys. What a great lesson for energetic new voters to learn.

    Add in the electoral college, and well, I really do wonder if my vote counts. Does it Really?

    (Said by a person who has watched the two candidates spend an inordinate amount of time wooing voters here lately because we are a “swing” state. Electoral college bullshit.)


  • ME2
    October 1
    3:15 pm

    I had an instructor once tell the class…

    Go vote. If you don’t vote, I don’t want to hear you bitching about the economy, about the politics, about laws, none of it. Your way to contribute and have your say is to vote. If you don’t take it, that’s your loss.


    Shit, I am not an instructor, professor, teacher, etc. and I have been telling that to people for years.

    Of course, I am also the one who told the fine citizens of Detroit that if they were dumb enough to re-elect Kwame Kilpatrick they WOULD get what they deserved and guess what? I was spot on! Go figure!!

    Common sense is, afterall, just that. Common. Sense.


  • We have compulsory voting. I don’t understand the “my vote won’t count” mentality. Here, even the safest seats can, within one or two elections, become marginal. But if people don’t vote and assume things will stay the same, then yes, they pretty much will.


  • Dee
    October 2
    4:40 am

    After what happened in the U.S. in the Presidential Election in 2000 and what happened again in 2004, I lost faith in our system. I was seriously not going to vote this year (first time ever)… until Palin came on the scene. That woman scares me so damn much, I’m voting.


  • Anon76
    October 2
    6:02 pm

    Yeah, it’s the Palin thing that is def driving me to vote this year.

    I write historical books. Doesn’t mean I want to step back in time for real.


  • Sarah
    October 7
    4:52 pm

    I realize this may be an unpopular opinion but…

    If you’re not going to learn about the issues and candidates then I don’t want you to vote. If you’re voting Republican, or even Democrat, simply because you always have or your parents always have, then I’m not so sure I want you voting. In a perfect world, everyone would research the candidates, watch the debates and all that, in which case everyone should most definitely vote. But if you’re simply voting to vote then I’m not sure I agree with that.


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