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November 4, 2002
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Sorry for the US-centric post, but Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote Vote tomorrow!! This nation is run by a handful of individuals: Not the rich, nor the famous, nor the powerful, but those common Joes and Janes who take a few minutes a year to go and put a checkbox on a piece of paper (or whatever you do in your state). While it's all very fun to discuss politics on Metafilter, or post about it on your blog, or shake your fist at it while watching the evening news, election day is the time when your opinion is worth something more than the Special Olympics Award for Internet Debate. Your country is asking you a question, and how you respond determines the course we all take in the future. I apologize for the grand and idealistic rhetoric, but this is a grand and idealistic situation! VOTE ALREADY!!!
posted by oissubke (125 comments total)

 
So, you're pro-voting then?
posted by revbrian at 7:39 AM on November 4, 2002


If you live in Mecklenburg County, NC, Vote for my brother!
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:43 AM on November 4, 2002


This post is linkalicious.
posted by four panels at 7:49 AM on November 4, 2002


I'm a right-wing religious conservative, and I promise you I'm going to promote and vote for every conservative issue and candidate I can get my hands on. If you don't like it, then you'd better vote too!

Study the issues, study the candidates, examine your own political beliefs and desires. Don't just vote what your parents vote, or your friends vote, or your boss votes. Read about the candidates. Learn about the parties. Think about every item on the ballot and vote for what your heart and mind tell you is right.

Representative democracy is a brilliant idea, but like so many brilliant ideas, it's prone to failure because of participant apathy. A nation in which leaders are chosen but intelligent, interested, honest voters cannot fail. It will always succeed. Unfortunately, we only have the barest semblance of such a nation.

Voter turnout is more important to me than who is actually elected. If I turn out to be in the minority, and all my candidates and issues are shot down, I won't complain. I support the political system of this nation, and I trust that the sincere will of the majority will in general give us the greatest leaders -- if the majority (and not just a zealous minority) get out and vote.

If Congress is swamped with flaming liberals, I may weep and gnash my teeth, but I'll support and sustain the wisdom of the process by which they were elected. I'll entrust my future to them, because I believe the will of the majority is the only safe way to determine good government. It's not always perfect, but it beats any other system out there.

Maybe you didn't register and it's too late for you this year -- in that case, start studying, and learn about the issues that affect your state and your nation. Learn to discuss issues instead of arguing about them, and try to learn about them from all sides. Learn the double-talk that goes on in politics, so you'll realize what candidates are actually saying. Learn who represents you in the House and the Senate, and let them know who you are. You can vote the next time around.

But please, for the love of Mike, get out and vote. My children and grandchildren will be wholly affected by the decisions you make today, and I want to make sure that it's not just passionate, partisan voters like me that call the shots. The will of the majority is a safety net for this nation, and if we take that away, we land on hard, hard ground.
posted by oissubke at 7:50 AM on November 4, 2002


(P.S.: Please vote, especially if you're Republican!!!) ;-)
posted by oissubke at 7:51 AM on November 4, 2002


Oissubke - it's good to see some pie-eyed optimists on the other side of the divide, even though we probably don't agree on a single thing politically. Go you.
posted by notsnot at 8:01 AM on November 4, 2002


worst voting procedure ever
posted by jonvaughan at 8:05 AM on November 4, 2002


You Yanks can vote all you like, but is it really worth it, considering that the party with the most votes doesn't seem to win anyhow? :)
posted by metaxa at 8:06 AM on November 4, 2002


Most of these sites suck. They aren't really helpful to the majority of voters who are completely uninformed when it comes to their local elections.

I know it may be possible to build, but I would like a site where you can input your zipcode and get only the elections that will be on the ballet in your district, from local on up to house, senate and other national races. How many people know which judges to elect unless they have been in the area for a long time, or have went through the trouble of getting their voting records? To be an informed voter is almost a full-time job.
posted by corpse at 8:07 AM on November 4, 2002


And then there's perhaps the most important reason to vote of all: to preserve your right to complain after your candidate loses!
posted by spilon at 8:09 AM on November 4, 2002


I think representative democracy is archaic, and would love to see a more direct democracy take it's place now that we have the ability to vote more easily. That said, I never miss a chance to vote (except in primaries, which are for the weak and stupid).
posted by thirteen at 8:11 AM on November 4, 2002


I'm not from the US, but I'd be interested to hear what your recommendation would be if none of the candidates represent anything like your own personal beliefs. I agree 100% with your principle but I usually wrestle with this one every election.

As I see it you have three choices:

a) Spoilt ballot paper

b) Vote for the least worst option

c) Not voting

Typically I go for option a, occassionally option c. The only time I've gone for option b in a local election was the first time I was legally old enough to vote. In a general election I vote differently if I think it's up for grabs, tending towards the candidate who's most likely to win who also happens to be not Conservative. Last time it wasn't up for grabs - Tony Blair was always going to walk it. He'll probably walk the next one too and again I'll be one of the 200 or so people in my constituency to vote for the Socialist Alliance.
posted by vbfg at 8:15 AM on November 4, 2002


Corpse, try DemocracyNet (mentioned above.

I'm going to the dentist, then going to vote with a head full of nitrous oxide! W00t!
posted by JoanArkham at 8:17 AM on November 4, 2002


I'm not a big fan of his, but here's a bit from Michael Moore's letter today:

"TAKE THE DAY OFF THIS TUESDAY.

"That's right. Call in sick, skip work, skip school, skip Springer, and then devote the next 12 hours to dragging as many people as you can out of their homes and getting them to the polls.

"I know a lot of you cannot afford to do this. But, honestly, can we afford NOT to? Bush has been effectively stymied in his first two years from doing much of the serious damage he was hired to do (we owe a big thanks to Jim Jeffords for that). Yet, if he has both the House and Senate under his thumb for his final two years, we will all pay a huge price for many years to come.

"On Tuesday, go down to the local candidate's office and volunteer to do whatever is needed: give a ride to the polls for senior citizens who can't get there, make last minute phone calls to probable voters who may have forgotten to vote, pass out handbills on street corners, do cartwheels in the middle of the mall -- you name it, I am sure it will work."

Me, I'm Canadian, and not a member of the Liberal Party of Canada, so I'm effectively S.O.L.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:17 AM on November 4, 2002


I'm not from the US, but I'd be interested to hear what your recommendation would be if none of the candidates represent anything like your own personal beliefs.[vbfg]

d) Show up to the primaries.
posted by originalname37 at 8:18 AM on November 4, 2002


Already did, thanks. Early voting is a godsend.
on preview: vbfg, I end up going with option "b" all too often
posted by whatnot at 8:20 AM on November 4, 2002


This nation is run by a handful of individuals: Not the rich

Well, technically, I guess, no, it's not run by the rich... they just get to decide the laws.

it's prone to failure because of participant apathy

That, plus the fact that not everyone has time or access to voting, because they have to work three jobs to make ends meet, and don't get time off to vote... (I like Oregon's voting-by-mail system.)

Sorry, just a little frustrated after walking suburb districts yesterday in northern Chicago, and maybe 2 out of 100 people even caring.

corpse: That's a very good idea. I know there's sites that tell you your state reps, House reps, etc., but I haven't seen anything for when elections do come up. I know at least in Chicago advocacy groups usually put ads in papers or fax around sheets on who they recommend, because no one really knows judges or county clerks very well, but that's the best education I've found about local stuff. (on preview: dnet. Well, there you go.)
posted by gramcracker at 8:21 AM on November 4, 2002


oissubke - I actually don't agree. I hope the ignorant and uniformed DON'T vote. You have a duty to do your homework, know the issues and then vote. Those that just go to vote and don't know the issues or the candidates really annoy me.

Vote, yes. BUT BE AN INFORMED VOTER. Do your freaking homework first.
posted by Plunge at 8:21 AM on November 4, 2002


Ahem

Is Metafilter the place to post PSAs now?

My children and grandchildren will be wholly affected by the decisions you make today

I understand your concern, but should MeFi users give a damn about your grandkids?

( there's probably a new tagline there:
MetaFilter -- We don't give a damn about your grandkids )
posted by matteo at 8:27 AM on November 4, 2002


I know who I'm voting for: Rod Blogojevich for Illinois governor.
Now if only he actually had a blog.

No, that's not really the reason I'm voting for him.
posted by me3dia at 8:27 AM on November 4, 2002


for 20 years i have voted in every election i've ever been eligible for.

that streak ends tomorrow. this time they can go hang, for all i care.
posted by zoopraxiscope at 8:31 AM on November 4, 2002


I'm cutting out the middleman this year. I'm sending my absentee ballot directly to Scalia to fill out.
posted by RavinDave at 8:31 AM on November 4, 2002


I'm with Plunge. In fact, I would advise: don't worry about being an informed voter. Just be informed. If you are, I bet you'll vote. If you're not, you're already marginalized whether you end up voting or not.
posted by originalname37 at 8:32 AM on November 4, 2002


FYI to all: There are plenty of sites out there that let you see what district you're in, what candidates are running, what the ballot initiatives are, etc. Check your secretary of state's website, or your preferred state party. If all else fails, e-mail some of the candidates and ask them -- they (or one of their staff) will be happy to send you links galore about how/when/where/why to vote.
posted by oissubke at 8:32 AM on November 4, 2002


In fact, I would advise: don't worry about being an informed voter. Just be informed. If you are, I bet you'll vote. If you're not, you're already marginalized whether you end up voting or not.

Well said! I get so tired of trendy kids who don't vote because they think they're protesting the establishment or encouraging anarchy or some other crap by sitting around playing video games instead. If they knew a single thing about "the Establishment", they'd be the first in line at the polls trying to change it.
posted by oissubke at 8:34 AM on November 4, 2002


I'm not from the US, but I'd be interested to hear what your recommendation would be if none of the candidates represent anything like your own personal beliefs.[vbfg]

d) Show up to the primaries.


Errr, not being in the US...
posted by vbfg at 8:34 AM on November 4, 2002


vbfg: A lot of folks feel they are voting for the lesser of two evils. The cleverest thing I've seen in politics has been the centrist movement where the politicians don't stress the hard left ot right issues but appeal to the middle ground, then once elected do the strangest things. The wierdest example being how Conservatives yapped for years about *ending* welfare, yet it took the Centrist Bill Clinton to actually get on with it.
Question: people talk about "going and voting"...we don't have that option in Oregon, where every election is by mail. There are no polling places. Don't other states have this yet? Anyone see a problem with an all mail-in system (besides the obligitory plane crashes)?
posted by Mack Twain at 8:38 AM on November 4, 2002


I don't know how you can insinuate that my vote counts, oissubke. I live in a district full of Republicans, and while I will go out and vote, none of the candidates that I vote for will win. I don't count.
posted by St Seneca at 8:39 AM on November 4, 2002


Michael Moore: That's right. Call in sick, skip work, skip school, skip Springer, and then devote the next 12 hours to dragging as many people as you can out of their homes and getting them to the polls.

I don't like Moore's politics, but he's right about voting.
posted by oissubke at 8:47 AM on November 4, 2002


I will not be voting tomorrow.

I currently live in Nevada. I've been here for a year; I'll only be here for another year. With a rare and extreme exception or two, I don't think it's my place to decide how the state will be governed after I leave.

That said, I was preparing to walk the streets for a friend of a friend who is running, but he lost the primary before I had the chance to.
posted by claxton6 at 8:47 AM on November 4, 2002


Another great resource for finding out candidate information is from Yahoo!.
posted by marcusb at 8:48 AM on November 4, 2002


Errr, not being in the US...[vbfg]
DOH!
posted by originalname37 at 8:49 AM on November 4, 2002


After researching candidates, I create a personal 'voting cheat-sheet.' On the first column, I have the 'Office' (i.e.: Governor) and on the second column, I have the name of the person I plan to vote for. Then, when I vote, I bring the cheat-sheet with me and vote appropriately.

For at least 10 years I have used a cheat-sheet and it is interesting I have yet to see another person (during a primary, general, or run-off election) use a cheat-sheet. Perhaps my memory is worse than others because I cannot remember the name of each and every candidate I plan to vote for (at least in Austin, Texas... there are over 30 offices up for election).
posted by quam at 8:49 AM on November 4, 2002


Question: people talk about "going and voting"...we don't have that option in Oregon, where every election is by mail. There are no polling places. Don't other states have this yet? Anyone see a problem with an all mail-in system (besides the obligatory plane crashes)?

Sounds like it could be ripe for fraud considering most of the fraud spoken about this year has been with absentee ballots. I don't know what safeguards Oregon has in place though.
posted by Plunge at 8:49 AM on November 4, 2002


Metafilter: We're spending our grandkids' bandwidth!

Warning: curmudgeon ahead.

I've never understood what the urge to get as many people voting as possible is all about. If people don't care, they shouldn't vote. They will be bad voters, whose vote will not be informed, but who will be swayed by whimsy or the latest mudslinging TV commercial.

Is there any evidence that high turnout elects good statesmen? I didn't think so.

If people aren't voting, maybe it's because they're tolerably satisfied with the status quo, whatever its faults. I see nothing wrong with that. Might it be because they're burned out and hopeless? I suppose, but I don't get that feeling in the US right now. Gore Vidal and Michael Moore, yes. But not the average American.

That having been said, I'm voting, as I have in every contested election in which I could legally vote since 1974.

On preview: what originalname37 said. If you don't know what you're voting for, don't vote. You're just adding noise, not signal.

And Mack Twain: The wierdest example being how Conservatives yapped for years about *ending* welfare, yet it took the Centrist Bill Clinton to actually get on with it.

Clinton vetoed two welfare reform bills, until the Gingrich Contract with America Congress held his feet to the fire and made him sign one.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 8:50 AM on November 4, 2002


That's part of the problem Mack. Once you don't know what they're going to do you might as well toss a coin.
posted by vbfg at 8:54 AM on November 4, 2002


I don't know how you can insinuate that my vote counts, oissubke. I live in a district full of Republicans, and while I will go out and vote, none of the candidates that I vote for will win. I don't count.

I'm not "insinuating". I'm stating it in a flat-out declarative sentence: Your vote counts.

However, your vote "counting" doesn't mean that your candidates win. Several of my candidates are going to lose this year, possibly including (Heaven forbid) the governor's race.

People don't vote for third-party or independent candidates because the Republicans and Democrats have successfully convinced them that they'd be "throwing their vote away". Do you realize what would have happened if all the people who didn't like Gore or Bush actually voted for neither of them? The "lesser" candidates would have received a huge boost. They probably wouldn't have won, but they would have launched the notion that people other than Reps or Dems can be political condenders. Public awareness would have been increased. Debates and press coverage would get away from treating elections as a battle between Republicans and Democrats. Maybe it would take years, but eventually their chokehold on elections would have been broken.

Those who don't believe in the two-party system but vote to support it anyway are hypocrites, and they shame themselves and their nation.

Likewise, those who abstain from voting because "they're not going to win anyway" are allowing those who oppose them to create the illusion of dominance. With the low voter turnout typical of American politics, it wouldn't be difficult to round up enough voters to oust those you are against -- but you have to work for it, promote it, educate people, etc. It's work, but it gets the job done.

But maybe you're right, maybe you don't count. Not because you're outnumbered, but because you gave up. You're not out rallying support, educating the public, explaining why they should vote your way. Instead you're on MeFi, lamenting the worthlessness of your vote.
posted by oissubke at 8:58 AM on November 4, 2002


I live in DC, I'm excited to see what kind of government you all pick for us. Please pick us some good ones!
posted by Pollomacho at 8:58 AM on November 4, 2002


For at least 10 years I have used a cheat-sheet and it is interesting I have yet to see another person (during a primary, general, or run-off election) use a cheat-sheet. Perhaps my memory is worse than others because I cannot remember the name of each and every candidate I plan to vote for (at least in Austin, Texas... there are over 30 offices up for election).

In Arizona, the book that explains all the propositions actually comes with a cheat sheet that voters are encouraged to take with them. I always liked that.
posted by oissubke at 8:59 AM on November 4, 2002


Another reason to go vote: there may not be anyone/anything worth voting for, but there is always someone/something worth voting against. Viva la revoluçion!
posted by QuestionableSwami at 9:01 AM on November 4, 2002


Oh, by the way I plan on going to vote anyway, even though my vote REALLY doesn't count, since our elected officials are just figureheads and we are run by the Congress that you elect. Like I said, please pick us some good ones! Thanks!
posted by Pollomacho at 9:01 AM on November 4, 2002


World's tiniest violin just for you, St. Seneca. I'm a conservative who's lived for 30 years in Maryland, arguably the most doctrinaire liberal state this side of Vermont, and a raciial minority in my county. You just got to suck it up, vote and don't whine. It's good for the character.

Never thought I'd find myself agreeing with Michael Moore, though, if only for one paragraph
posted by mojohand at 9:07 AM on November 4, 2002


If I remember correctly, Slithy_Tove, that's not the whole story. Didn't the Republicans tack on all sorts of crap onto the welfare bills that Clinton had said he wouldn't support if they gave it to him? He didn't sign it because his arms were tied, but because Congress finally gave him something worthy to pass.

As for voting, it is one of the most important rights we have as people living in a democracy. It is such a shame that so many Americans take this for granted, and, in fact, take government and politics for granted. I agree that a representative democracy cannot work without an informed electorate, but for many reasons Americans choose not to be informed, nor to care about what affects their lives.

I don't think a direct democracy would work very well. I know that whenever it's time to vote for a local initiative I can barely understand what the hell it is saying. It takes reporters, etc. to explain what it means before I feel comfortable enough to vote on it. That's what bills are like, but worse. They are legal documents and read as such. If it were up to people to vote on a bill directly I think very few would understand what the hell they were actually voting on. That's why we have representatives. We vote on people who will generally vote the way we want so they can read all the boring stuff and figure it out so we don't have to. And if the rep doesn't vote the way you like, then you need to vote her/him out (don't even get me started on term limits). It is OUR responsibility to elect good representatives and to watch them and make sure they are doing a good job. If you don't vote, or don't understand who/what you're voting for, then you shouldn't say a word.

I better stop now or I could go on forever!
posted by evening at 9:10 AM on November 4, 2002


My thoughts on voting:
For those of you not voting tomorrow, you might as well as head down to your local veteran's cemetary drop your drawers, and land a big, stinky crap on the headstone of a vet. Because that's what you'll be doing tomorrow if you're not going to the polls.
Millions of people have died for something over half of our population can't be bothered with. It is thoroughly disgusting.
The best way to honor those patriots who have died for the American way of life is not to fly the flag every 3-day weekend, it's to go to your polling place, meet your neighbors, and cast your ballot. Even if you're a recluse, they make it easy for you, it's called an "Absentee Ballot"
If you don't make the effort, hand over your passports, and get the hell out of this country.
posted by themikeb at 9:11 AM on November 4, 2002


Representative government also protects the right of the minority. For those of you who live surrounded by those on the opposite side of the political fence, would you really like your neighbors directly making the laws that govern your life. Do you think the south would be integrated yet? Do you think we would have ANY taxes if we set the tax rates? There are definitely reasons for having representative government, of course I won't reap any of those benefits until I move somewhere where they have such a system...
posted by Pollomacho at 9:18 AM on November 4, 2002


worst voting procedure ever

Heh... there I was preparing to get all snippy about the things it left out, but that's a good article.

The most spectacular way plurality voting screws up is that it can pick a Condorcet loser -- a candidate that would lose in every pairwise election can win a plurality election of 3+.

This prospect horrified Borda, who set up the Borda count to never pick a Condorcet loser. OTOH, if there's a Condorcet winner -- a candidate that would *win* every pairwise election -- the Borda count can pick someone else. It's also subject to the reversal paradox, where if you eliminate the bottom-ranked candidate from consideration, the scores flip around. Here's an example; page down for the reversal paradox...

And approval voting has a neat twist.... while every voting scheme is manipulable -- some people have an incentive to cast ``lying'' votes -- there's a proof out there somewhere that manipulating approval voting is an NP-hard problem.

But then I'm a geek about this.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:20 AM on November 4, 2002


themikeb, so apparently that freedom that those brave men fought and died for does not include the right NOT to vote and NOT to think that sappy sentimentality is better left alone. Better agree with everything the President says, lest you be found unAmerican.
posted by Pollomacho at 9:22 AM on November 4, 2002


St Seneca: Do what my parents do (and what I used to do) in hardcore Republican Kansas: register as a Republican and vote in the primaries to get the most moderate Republican on the ballot. It's a realistic solution to the electoral college/majority takes all system.
posted by gramcracker at 9:25 AM on November 4, 2002


The best way to honor those patriots who have died for the American way of life is not to fly the flag every 3-day weekend, it's to go to your polling place, meet your neighbors, and cast your ballot.

Cliches are nice. Every drafted mutherfucker, every volunteer who died of a belly wound while screaming for his mother, because Lincoln or FDR or Kennedy, or Reagan or Bush decided it was worth spending their lives for the cause did not die for my vote. Given a choice between living and me voting, I am willing to bet the house that everyone of them would choose to be alive today.

There are plenty of reasons to vote. It is a good thing, but it is not what you owe the dead.
posted by thirteen at 9:26 AM on November 4, 2002


I voted for the first time a few days ago, when I mailed my absentee ballot. It felt good. Its something I've been waiting years to do, and while i don't think I'll be going to any parties thrown in my honor, I think I will treat myself to a cookie.



mmmmmmmmmmm cookie.
posted by joedan at 9:41 AM on November 4, 2002


Pollomacho: I plan on going to vote anyway, even though my vote REALLY doesn't count, since our elected officials are just figureheads and we are run by the Congress that you elect.

Yeah, what's with that "taxation without representation" thing in DC anyway?

Thirteen: Given a choice between living and me voting, I am willing to bet the house that everyone of them would choose to be alive today.

I wouldn't be so sure about that.
posted by oissubke at 9:43 AM on November 4, 2002


I don't know how anybody who was alive two years ago can honestly say that their vote does not count. The presidency was decided by 500 votes for cryin' out loud! 500 votes! The USA is as evenly split down the middle as is statistically possible. Every single stinkin' vote counts, now more than ever! Sheesh....
posted by spilon at 9:48 AM on November 4, 2002


what's with that "taxation without representation" thing in DC

Here's the text of an email I wrote last week on the subject:

"There’s a pretty good summary of the issue at http://www.dcvote.org/aboutissue/timeline.htm . That isn’t an 'official' site, and it has an (acknowledged) agenda, but it gives a pretty good wrap-up, including the Constitutional basis for the lack of voting rights.

"I’m a DC resident, so I have some personal knowledge of the issue. We can vote for the President, but we do not have full representation in Congress. We elect a 'delegate' to the House of Representatives, and she can make speeches and introduce legislation, but she cannot vote. We do not have any representation in the Senate. We have the same level of city government that other cities have (a mayor, city council, etc.), but we also have services that generally are associated with state governments, such as courts and drivers’ licenses. See the official DC website at http://dc.gov/ .

"You might also be interested to know that in protest of this situation, our city-issued car license plates bear the motto 'Taxation without Representation,' a slogan familiar to most here as coming from the revolutionary war of 200 years ago.

"Needless to say, it’s an odd situation."
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:54 AM on November 4, 2002


I get so tired of trendy kids who don't vote because they think they're protesting the establishment or encouraging anarchy or some other crap by sitting around playing video games instead. If they knew a single thing about "the Establishment", they'd be the first in line at the polls trying to change it.

I suppose by this measure I'm a "trendy kid", though I will be working tomorrow as usual rather than "sitting around playing video games". I like to think that I have spent enough time reading history and following political news to know a few things about "the Establishment", and yet I will not be voting tomorrow. Here's why:

1) I do not feel comfortable employing force to control other people. The referendum system is much closer to direct democracy than the election of "leaders", but it is still problematic. For example, here in Seattle there is a proposal on the ballot to construct a monorail. I think this is a great idea. I would be happy to help pay for it. But by voting for the monorail, I'd be saying not only "I think we should build a monorail and I'm happy to help pay for it", but "Everyone should help pay for it whether they want a monorail or not". Payment is enforced by police via the usual tax collection mechanisms. So, am I willing to force people to pay for a monorail they don't want? No. Therefore I cannot vote for the monorail. It's a rare initiative that can pass this test.

2) Of course there are differences between the two major American political parties, but these are more in the realm of rhetorical style and cultural affiliation than in actual political philosophy. The Republicans are less restrained about destroying the planet than the Democrats, for example, but both of them are committed to continued development. I've seen control switch from Republicans to Democrats and back, and all that seems to change is the style of rhetoric pouring out from the Beltway.
posted by Mars Saxman at 9:58 AM on November 4, 2002


themikeb, so apparently that freedom that those brave men fought and died for does not include the right NOT to vote and NOT to think that sappy sentimentality is better left alone. Better agree with everything the President says, lest you be found unAmerican.

Pollomacho,
Sorry you feel that way, but when decisions are made that affect my life, I'd like to have a say in how they are made and who they are made by.
I'm not some flag waving conservative, screaming god, guns, and glory. I just feel that it's important I make my best effort to influence what goes on in my government.
Representative democracy is supposed to be for the people, and I'm sorry you feel otherwise.
The only thing you accomplish by not voting is allowing those things you don't believe in and don't want to happen, and those people you don't like to consolidate and increase their power.
They're counting on the non-voter as a big part of their voting bloc.
posted by themikeb at 9:59 AM on November 4, 2002


Thirteen: Given a choice between living and me voting, I am willing to bet the house that everyone of them would choose to be alive today.

I wouldn't be so sure about that.


There is always an oddball nut. Put me down for a "nearly everyone".
posted by thirteen at 10:00 AM on November 4, 2002


If I remember correctly, Slithy_Tove, that's not the whole story. Didn't the Republicans tack on all sorts of crap onto the welfare bills that Clinton had said he wouldn't support if they gave it to him? He didn't sign it because his arms were tied, but because Congress finally gave him something worthy to pass.

Well, that's how the Clinton administration spun it. Funny how he didn't find something 'worthy to pass' until he was faced with Republican majorities in both the House and the Senate. I think Clinton made a virtue of necessity.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 10:18 AM on November 4, 2002


From: The Executive Committee Against Uppity Citizens
To: All Americans

Dear friend,

On behalf of Shell, Mobil, and Exxon; Boeing, Lockheed-Martin, and GE; all the Enrons, Halliburtons, and Harkens; President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and the other CEOs of the Cabinet; and thousands of us who are working for a better life for the wealthiest Americans, we have one simple request: Could you please just stay home tomorrow?

See, we have things to do. Nations to invade. Wetlands to destroy. Oil to drill. Courts to pack. Corporate taxes to cut.

What's frustrating for us is that we're coming up against some pretty stiff resistance. We've spent hundreds of millions of dollars to secure the Senate, but it looks like we just may lose it. Heck, we may even lose the House. We don't quite get what it is about our agenda that you people don't like, but it's clear that this time, you may be upset enough to actually do something about it.

That's why we're writing this message to you today. Please don't vote. Ask your friends not to vote. What could the harm be in sitting this round out? If you could just stay home on Election Day, we can get back to the important business of running the nation for you, and we won't have to bother you again.

Thank you,
The Executive Committee Against Uppity Citizens
posted by themikeb at 10:21 AM on November 4, 2002


This might get lost in the rhetoric, but here's a great link someone in my company's HR department (!!!) sent me.
If you're a registered voter, all you have to do is type in your information and it maps your polling place, times, etc. plus gives you candidate info including donor info, bio, candidate web site, party affiliation, etc.
Happy voting!
(BTW, Who said voting in primaries is for losers! I resemble that remark.)
posted by chandy72 at 10:22 AM on November 4, 2002


"Educate yourself!" I hear repeated throughout this thread. But how?

I've always voted in the general election, and usually in the primaries. But, like many voters (I suspect) I knew nothing about the candidates for the "minor" local offices, and voted for them either on the basis of their party or not at all.

This year would be different, I vowed. I would take the time to learn in advance about the candidates for all offices which I was eligible to vote for, and make a more informed decision. The first step was to find out who was on the ballot. To its credit, Hamilton County, Indiana allows registered voters to see a copy of the ballot they will be voting on in advance, online. (Not obvious from the linked site that that's so, but after you look yourself up there's a link to a sample ballot.)

Great! Now off to research the candidates on the web...and it's here that I ran into the problem. Out of about 35 candidates for various offices on my ballot, ranging from U.S. House of Representatives and Secretary of State, down to Township Board, at most 10 of them had websites, or even pages about the candidate on the party site.

Yes, in the year 2002, when any idiot can and does have a website, less than 1/3 of the candidates for office which I can vote for have a website. I don't know about you, but to me the lack of a website gives me absolutely zero confidence in that candidate. Elected officials are supposed to communicate with their constituents, right?? If they can't even be bothered to put up a website, how am I supposed to trust them to be willing to communicate with me?

I decided that I would not vote for any candidate without a website, even though that means I will not be casting a vote in several of the races.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:23 AM on November 4, 2002


For example, here in Seattle there is a proposal on the ballot to construct a monorail. I think this is a great idea. I would be happy to help pay for it. But by voting for the monorail, I'd be saying not only "I think we should build a monorail and I'm happy to help pay for it", but "Everyone should help pay for it whether they want a monorail or not". Payment is enforced by police via the usual tax collection mechanisms. So, am I willing to force people to pay for a monorail they don't want? No. Therefore I cannot vote for the monorail. It's a rare initiative that can pass this test.

Mars, I think you are the best Metafilterer of them all. I like you tons and bunches.
posted by thirteen at 10:30 AM on November 4, 2002


I voted last thursday. They had this 'satilite voting' for people in the dorms (although, it turns out regular voting is here in this dorm anyway, huh)



Anyway, the democrats had been annoying the hell out of me recently. The sent a guy around to get my new registration info, which was nice, but then they offered to mail me an absentee ballot. I think I declined, but they seemed to believe they sent me one and kept calling asking me to send it in. They eventually sent someone over to pick it up even though I'd told 'em on the phone several times that I'd never got it and would fill out an affidavit at the polling station.



When I finally got to the polls they didn't even have a record of me having an absentee ballot!



Anyway, I voted dem for house and senate and split my vote between the greens and the libertarians for the rest.



Also you people who think that voting is the greatest thing, etc. Whatever. I think all this 'go out and vote' stuff is retarded and totally counterproductive. The world would be a better place if only people who were informed and knowledgeable voted, rather then the MTV watching masses.
posted by delmoi at 10:33 AM on November 4, 2002


quam: After researching candidates, I create a personal 'voting cheat-sheet.' On the first column, I have the 'Office' (i.e.: Governor) and on the second column, I have the name of the person I plan to vote for. Then, when I vote, I bring the cheat-sheet with me and vote appropriately.
For at least 10 years I have used a cheat-sheet and it is interesting I have yet to see another person (during a primary, general, or run-off election) use a cheat-sheet...
In my district, as a registered voter, I got a sample ballot in the mail. I just bring that with me, to refer to. (Last year I wound up donating mine to the guy standing behind me in line.) Mine, in fact says, "This ballot is prepared pursuant to the Federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 as amended. You may bring this sample ballot with you into the voting booth." It also, quite conveniently, gives me the address of my Polling Place.

I just tried a few of the voting information sites. DemocracyNet gives me my ballot down to the County level (nothing about my hometown's Mayoral or Council races though.) Yahoo only gave me the Congressional race.
posted by Karmakaze at 10:35 AM on November 4, 2002


(BTW, Who said voting in primaries is for losers! I resemble that remark.)

That was me! Maybe not for losers, but I will be damned before I am willing to register for a single party. That sort of thing is for those willing to swallow the Tylenol. The primary system is ugly.
posted by thirteen at 10:37 AM on November 4, 2002


it takes like 15 fucking minutes of your time (if you do your homework).... I mean... come on!

vote... if everyone my age (18-24) voted... even if that vote "didn't count" in 4 years you would see polititans catering to our needs..... instead of the needs of the people who do vote... (middle class and elderly)

right now... the people who do vote... the people who do get the polititian's attention... don't run this place...

we (anyone not middle class and elderly.. sorry if I have offended anyone... ) do all the fucking work around here...

it is our voice that should be heard too.... but its not.. because we don't vote....

Why should a polititian care about the people that have nothing to do with whether he keeps his job or not?
posted by LoopSouth at 10:37 AM on November 4, 2002


Besides the men of your community and any laws on the ballots,I miss my liberal status as a Californian in Texas because we vote little on the state laws here. I feel this is were my vote is the most worthy.


You Yanks can vote all you like, but is it really worth it, considering that the party with the most votes doesn't seem to win anyhow? :)

Does anyone vote for just their party candidates? I hope not, if you do, a nice party hang over to you.

I have met some old-timers in the south who do. They vote straight up by the letter marked next to the name. Is this a southern or old thing? They may rather be called a Reb, not a Yank voter in my area.

If I know both candidates are equally worthy, I go against my party. My thinking is this, the only way I will have a true, bias vote. I'd rather be undeclared, but am registered to a party.. It's not a party if everyone is like minded, to me. As a voter I'm called a yankee for more than one reason in these parts.

If on the ballot your to vote Yes or No , I look at a No Vote equaling two votes against Yes. Then not voting equals as one vote against Yes. If I don't like or know any of the candidates, I leave it blank too.

Anyone else with some odd thinking voting habits.
posted by thomcatspike at 10:40 AM on November 4, 2002


Re Oregon vote-by-mail-system: voters are still welcome to go down to their local election office and drop off their ballots by hand. Replacement ballots are also available. Realistically, the system helps with out-of-state absentee ballots, because the system that deals with them is already in place. Oregon has one of the highest voter turnout rates in the nation, and this is why.

Out of about 35 candidates for various offices on my ballot... at most 10 of them had websites.

Ouch. Most local campaigns are run by a few people on an extremely low budget. And while I agree with you on principle, DA, often none of the six people running a local campaign has web skills.

Read your voters' pamphlet. It has contact info. Read the newspaper, and not just the major one that's in the coffee shop. Read all the little weeklies that write coherent endorsements for local offices. And stop whining about how you can't do everything from in front of your computer.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 10:41 AM on November 4, 2002


themikeb, so apparently that freedom that those brave men fought and died for does not include the right NOT to vote and NOT to think that sappy sentimentality is better left alone

I thought voting was one of your civic duties. Not necessarily a right, but a responsibility.

Tell you what, if you don't vote, you certainly cannot complain about the outcome.
posted by a3matrix at 10:47 AM on November 4, 2002


BTW, Who said voting in primaries is for losers! I resemble that remark.)
That was me! Maybe not for losers, but I will be damned before I am willing to register for a single party.


I have heard but unable to find it as fact, that in Texas a democrat can vote in both the democrat & republican primaries. But the republican can only participate in the republican primaries. Anyone know, I'm not from here bear in mind.
posted by thomcatspike at 10:47 AM on November 4, 2002


chandy72 - That website seems like a great idea but it didn't recognize my name or my address, despite my holding my voter registration card in my hot little hand.

Your state's board of elections website might have similar info. This is the site for North Carolina, but I assume the URL for other states would follow the same format.
posted by jennyb at 10:49 AM on November 4, 2002


Oregon VBM rawks the house. I've already voted. I did it in the privacy of my home with voter's guides, various newspaper endorsement columns, and the web to hand. Of course, that's how I'd do it anyway, but it saves me the trip to the polls and the time away from work. (On second thought...)

What I don't like is our curious measure that forces 50% voter turnout for any measure that increases property taxes to pass. I hate the idea that people who don't even realize that it's election day are getting a say in important local budget decisions by simply not voting.
posted by dragstroke at 11:03 AM on November 4, 2002


chandy72's link appears to be Michigan only.
posted by Karmakaze at 11:06 AM on November 4, 2002


I like to think that I have spent enough time reading history and following political news to know a few things about "the Establishment", and yet I will not be voting tomorrow. Here's why:

Mars, your reasons not to vote sound like reasons to vote. If you think the monorail proposal is bad policy, vote against it. While I can certainly understand not voting for any candidate in a race where you don't like any of them, surely there are some candidates for some races that you would be willing to support?

Do any states or municipalities have "None of the Above" choices on their ballots?
posted by daveadams at 11:10 AM on November 4, 2002


Tell you what, if you don't vote, you certainly cannot complain about the outcome.

You certainly can if your preferred outcome was not available on the ballot.
posted by daveadams at 11:13 AM on November 4, 2002


Lots of links for voting there oussubke!
Timely subject too!
Anyone got links to voter suppression efforts here in the day before election 2002? The political weblogs are picking up links here and there but an assimilation would be great if anyone can point to such a resource.
They're important too, just ask Jeb Crow.

Any predictions for a 5-4 win in any elections this time?
posted by nofundy at 11:27 AM on November 4, 2002


You certainly can if your preferred outcome was not available on the ballot.

Then it's your own fault for not running for office, or encouraging someone you support to run for office. You know you don't just have to take what they give you, right?
posted by oissubke at 11:30 AM on November 4, 2002


Great! Now off to research the candidates on the web...and it's here that I ran into the problem. Out of about 35 candidates for various offices on my ballot, ranging from U.S. House of Representatives and Secretary of State, down to Township Board, at most 10 of them had websites, or even pages about the candidate on the party site.

A friendly recommendation: Under no circumstances should vote for candidates based on what you see on their websites.

A website is no more than a PR brochure. You need to go shake their hands and talk with them. Ask them questions about things you're concerned about, and see what happens when you catch them off guard. Learn who they really are. Learn their mannerisms. Many a whacko has been elected based on a great PR campaign and then sucked in office because he or she was awkward, slow, and a weak leader.
posted by oissubke at 11:34 AM on November 4, 2002


We really need a no confidence option here.
posted by adampsyche at 11:37 AM on November 4, 2002


You know you don't just have to take what they give you, right?

Oiss--

You're right, but in an uninteresting way. Formally, there is the ability do much in terms of getting non-major stances represented; however, substantially, there are many, many barriers to entry. (See Ballot Access News, or the first story here for an example.)

For what it's worth, I haven't seen any response to my own declaration of non-voting: To broaden the point: you don't know why people don't vote. I have no problem with exhortations that voting is good; just don't presume that you know what's going on when people decide not to.
posted by claxton6 at 11:38 AM on November 4, 2002


Apparently themikeb and a3matrix missed my several previous entries about how I would be voting and how important I feel that people do vote, somehow I think you missed what I was saying. I am free NOT to vote if I choose NOT to, I personally choose to vote and I wish that more informed people did, however I do that as a conscious choice and not because I am forced to do it. I can also own a gun, run for office, drink a beer, all three at once if I choose to, these I am free to do of my own volition, if I do or not is not up to anyone else. Those soldiers that actually did fight for ideals, did so in defense of freedom, freedom to vote or freedom to stay home. I choose to vote and I will continue to complain.

Now as for representative government, pure referendum is simply mob rule. I grew up in the deep south, I really doubt that the school I went to would have had black and white students in the same building had it not been for representatives of outside states forcing people to do what they would never do on their own. The people of Alabama, Mississippi, etc. would never have voted for self integration, it was an uncomfortable forced action that brought segregation to an end by the actions of representatives from outside of those districts. So what are you going to build the monorail only where it is voted for and not allow those who didn't vote for it to ride on it? Let's go to war and only send the amount of troops in that the people vote for in a referendum! Let's do away with welfare or medicare, because a majority of voters don't use those services anyway! I know, let's cut taxes by denying immigrants healthcare!

Finally, apparently most voters (98%) who voted for the Republican or Democratic party are all members of "The Executive Committee Against Uppity Citizens" Seems like they would want more people to vote and the Anti-globalization crew would want them to stay home so that they could get even the 5% needed to get on the ballot.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:41 AM on November 4, 2002


Many a whacko has been elected based on a great PR campaign and then sucked in office because he or she was awkward, slow, and a weak leader.

*bites tongue, walks away*

posted by stinglessbee at 11:46 AM on November 4, 2002


The only party i will vote with is The People Who Hate People Party... but on the other hand, screw them too.
posted by oninochuck at 11:51 AM on November 4, 2002


"I'm a right-wing religious conservative, and I promise you I'm going to promote and vote for every conservative issue and candidate I can get my hands on."

My only agenda is to vote against every incumbent.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 11:51 AM on November 4, 2002


For what it's worth, I haven't seen any response to my own declaration of non-voting: To broaden the point: you don't know why people don't vote. I have no problem with exhortations that voting is good; just don't presume that you know what's going on when people decide not to.

If you have some thoroughly evaluated, well considered reason for voting, more power to you. This post, and my comments herein, aren't directed toward you. That's why I didn't respond to your "declaration".
posted by oissubke at 11:54 AM on November 4, 2002


awww, crap. sorry for the Michigan-only link. ugh, when will i realize that there's life outside my little corner of the world ;-)
posted by chandy72 at 11:59 AM on November 4, 2002


Recently I've noticed voter abstinence being referred to as "voting with your feet."
I'd consider voting with my feet, but I'm just not that flexible.
posted by putzface_dickman at 12:00 PM on November 4, 2002


[oissubke] Then it's your own fault for not running for office, or encouraging someone you support to run for office. You know you don't just have to take what they give you, right?

Yeah, but what if you or your supported couldnt' get enough support to get your name on the ballot. Or what if you are already running for one office?

[claxton6] I currently live in Nevada. I've been here for a year; I'll only be here for another year. With a rare and extreme exception or two, I don't think it's my place to decide how the state will be governed after I leave.

Of course it is. You've been paying Nevada taxes, subject to Nevada laws, and you still will be. This argument would only sway me if you were leaving the state on Wednesday.
posted by daveadams at 12:01 PM on November 4, 2002


When I live somewhere with universal franchise, I'll vote. In the meantime, I refuse to implicity condone through participation a form of 'democracy' which includes taxation without representation for a large percentage of the populace.

Also, I'm stubborn. If my vote wasn't good enough for the system two years ago [self-link], then the system isn't good enough to take part in now.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 12:01 PM on November 4, 2002


"I think this is a great idea. I would be happy to help pay for it. But by voting for the monorail, I'd be saying not only "I think we should build a monorail and I'm happy to help pay for it", but "Everyone should help pay for it whether they want a monorail or not".

Mars, what a lame excuse for voting against something you want (the monorail). Nobody agrees with all the things their tax dollars support. People without kids are forced to support local schools through the tax system, just like people who don't drive are forced to support road construction. In a democracy we don't get to pick and choose where we want our tax dollars to go, that's why we vote, to make those decisions. If you're for it vote yes, if you're against it vote no.
posted by humbe at 12:35 PM on November 4, 2002


Yeah, but what if you or your supported couldnt' get enough support to get your name on the ballot.

Then maybe you're not the one who should be representing the people. :-)

Or what if you are already running for one office?

Then maybe you're running for the wrong office.
posted by oissubke at 12:35 PM on November 4, 2002


Thanks for thinking about us IshmaelGraves, but please, from those without representation, or at least one of us, our REPUBLIC (notice I did not say democracy, since this has NEVER BEEN a democracy) cannot pass laws changing how it functions without people electing representatives. That is unless you are advocating violent overthrow, but you seem to be in a small minority there so I'd advise against that!
posted by Pollomacho at 12:37 PM on November 4, 2002


The presidency was decided by 500 votes for cryin' out loud! 500 votes!
posted by spilon

Actually, Gore won the popular vote by several thousand. 500 was the margin that won Florida for Bush and thus the presidency, although some people still feel the presidency was decided by one vote (5-4 Supreme Court decision).
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 12:39 PM on November 4, 2002


notice I did not say democracy, since this has NEVER BEEN a democracy

A representative democracy is still a democracy.
posted by oissubke at 12:40 PM on November 4, 2002


Metafilter: The Special Olympics of Internet Debate.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 12:44 PM on November 4, 2002


Why do some states make you register to vote by a certain date, while others accept election day registrations?

I just moved from Minnesota to Washington. In MN, if you hadn't registered, the nice folks at the polls would help you do so right there on the spot. In Washington, if you haven't registered X number of days before the election, too damn bad. You weren't allowed to vote.

Minnesota's system makes more sense to me. Since I never waited to register until election day, I don't know how much of a hassle it might be to have to handle that on election day, but it seems to work fine.
posted by GaelFC at 12:48 PM on November 4, 2002


You've been paying Nevada taxes, subject to Nevada laws, and you still will be.

Undoubtedly. However, my vote will be felt up to three years after I leave. I have no real commitment to Nevada. I dislike people coming in telling me how to handle my affairs, and then leaving without another thought; why would I want to do that to someone else?

What's more, I don't see that being taxed = ought to vote. I'm being taxed to pay for services I use. It's only if I feel that those services should change that I ought to vote.
posted by claxton6 at 12:51 PM on November 4, 2002


I have voted in every election that I've ever been eligible to vote in. However, I do it with the full knowledge that my vote matters very little when it comes to national elections.

Analysts estimate that no more than 50 of the 469 House and Senate races are actually competitive because of redistricting. Political cartographers can and do design districts that are reliably Republican or Democratic, drawing lines that cut across neighborhoods and streets to get the result they want for that district.

In a democracy, voters choose the candidates. With redistricting, the incumbents choose the voters.

This is a known cause for why voter turnout has been 40% or lower in gerrymandered states, such as Texas, Florida and the like. People feel as though their vote has been decided for them, and hence it imbues a certain sense of futility about going to the polls.


The Executive Committee Against Uppity Citizens posted by themikeb

If you're going to quote things, credit them. That bit of prose was from the gang at http://www.moveon.org. Give their writers a little credit, it's not like they get paid much.

I have heard but unable to find it as fact, that in Texas a democrat can vote in both the democrat & republican primaries. But the republican can only participate in the republican primaries. Anyone know, I'm not from here bear in mind. posted by thomcatspike

Patently, unbelievably false. Not even near the truth. A voter of any denomination can only vote in one primary. Also, you don't register by parties in Texas. Better said, you don't need to declare a party when you register to vote.
posted by dejah420 at 12:54 PM on November 4, 2002


Well all right, yes, a republic IS a representative democracy, that's true...

Speaking of Special Olympics, one of my fondest memories of an election was when I took a group of mentally retarded adults to the polls. They had a lively debate afterwards although one of the women in the group refused to participate in the discussion or say who she voted for, she told us that her family said that she didn't have to say and that she didn't want to (later she revealed to me that she had voted for Clinton and since the others were for Dole she didn't want to be ridiculed by the group, I told her to be proud of her vote no matter what the other folks said)
posted by Pollomacho at 12:57 PM on November 4, 2002


YellingAtNothing: Most local campaigns are run by a few people on an extremely low budget. And while I agree with you on principle, DA, often none of the six people running a local campaign has web skills.

Extremely low budget? You can put up a web page for free if you don't mind ads appearing with it, or about $20 if you do. Is there a campaign which can't afford the $20? And I don't expect the latest in Java/XML/Flash/whatever from candidate websites, but it only takes a few hours to teach oneself basic HTML.

YellingAtNothing: And stop whining about how you can't do everything from in front of your computer.

Sorry if I wasn't clear: it's not that I eschew non-online methods of finding information; as a librarian, I am well aware that there is much information that cannot be found on the internet. My opposition comes from what I feel the lack of a website says about a candidate.

a3matrix: Tell you what, if you don't vote, you certainly cannot complain about the outcome.

Funny, I missed that restriction on the First Amendment.

oissubke: A friendly recommendation: Under no circumstances should vote for candidates based on what you see on their websites.

As I mentioned earlier, before this year I had been voting for minor offices based solely on party affiliation or not at all. Surely this is better, no?

oissubke: A website is no more than a PR brochure. You need to go shake their hands and talk with them. Ask them questions about things you're concerned about, and see what happens when you catch them off guard. Learn who they really are. Learn their mannerisms.

I agree that would be ideal. But my time is finite. I spent a good 5 hours or so searching for candidate websites, and reading the sites of those who had them. If I had 35 hours to spare to talk to each candidate for an hour, I would. (And the first thing I would say to about 2/3 of them is, "You really should put up a website.")
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:06 PM on November 4, 2002


Extremely low budget? You can put up a web page for free if you don't mind ads appearing with it, or about $20 if you do.

Or you could just ask a guy like me, a web developer who wants to help but can't afford a contribution (I put up websites for two representatives this election).

As I mentioned earlier, before this year I had been voting for minor offices based solely on party affiliation or not at all. Surely this is better, no?

Hey, improvement is improvement. Keep up the good work. :-)
posted by oissubke at 1:28 PM on November 4, 2002


wwod? (What would oissubke do?)

Suppose I'm a conservative Republican whose primary issue is abortion. I'm totally against it, but the Republican running in my district supports a woman's right to choose. Do I vote Republican anyway, in which I give up my own voice in order to vote for a conservative and possibly send the message to the Republican party that I support this candidate's stance? Or do I vote Democrat to as a protest vote? Or do I just not vote in that instance?
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 1:48 PM on November 4, 2002


Ah, the ever-elusive Will-o'-the-People™! That great unknown that our politicians court, our pundits proclaim and our votes convey! Would that I had a clue what people mean when they talk about the people's will, or democracy 'working' or the voting system being 'good' or 'right'. What is the difference between signal and noise?

I'm amazed, that with 90+ comments, nobody has come out and proclaimed the elephant in the room—with overwhelming probability, your vote will not swing or affect the outcome of any election. No elected official will change his future voting decisions based on the addition or subtraction of your vote alone. "But if everyone thought that way...?!?" They don't. All pro-voting arguments I've heard hinge either on some claim of "civic duty" or "responsibility" or rest on some faulty conditional. Some few individuals have influence on the voting behavior of large groups of people and hence may have some actual, rational hope of affecting outcomes, but the large majority of us can reasonably entertain no such delusion, and even those people, once their influence has been exercised, have no more reason to vote than the rest of us.

Vote if you like. Encourage others to vote if you like. Good on ya. But let's call a spade when it's trumping our hand: in the vast majority of cases, there is no strategic justification for voting. There's little harm if you can spare the time, but voting doesn't secure your right to complain (you get that anyway) and voting doesn't give expression to your voice any better than your blog rants.

I say this without offering my opinion on whether one "ought" to vote, and without giving any information about my own voting behavior. Just surprised that nobody else has said it.
posted by dilettanti at 1:55 PM on November 4, 2002


Suppose I'm a conservative Republican whose primary issue is abortion. I'm totally against it, but the Republican running in my district supports a woman's right to choose.

Well, this is assuming you voted in the primaries, and somehow an abortion-supporting candidate was picked anyway....

But in general, you should never place a checkbox by someone you don't support. If abortion is your lithmus test, and all the candidates are pro-abortion, then don't vote.

One of the candidates will probably be elected anyway, but a representative democracy only works when people sincerely vote their consciences. It's not perfect, but it keeps government operating with a minimal number of whackos being elected.
posted by oissubke at 2:01 PM on November 4, 2002


dilettanti: your comments are true for elections of people, but not necessarily for initiatives. The initiative system in Oregon (not sure about other states) sometimes requires that 50% of registered voters show up at the polls in order for an initiative to take effect if it is passed by the majority of those who voted. In those cases, not voting can be as effective as voting.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 2:17 PM on November 4, 2002


dilettanti: Its that logic that will keep the Green party from having the automatic slot on the 2004 ballot because they couldn't pull their 5% and that ever golden 500 voters from turning Florida over to Gore. This is the mid-terms if you hadn't noticed, thus were talking elections on a much smaller scale, a scale where each individual is that much larger a percentage of the total. Yeah big companies can dump a ton of money on a campaign or line someone's pockets but if the voters think some guy is a jackass then tough shit, he's out of a job, just look at Gary Condit. You think the results are just made up? If you put a bunch of drops of water in a bucket what do you get? Yes, a bucket of water, but what if none of the drops fall in the bucket? So when you say that your vote doesn't count, just think that in the '92 election we had a 16% turnout, that means that the outcome was determined by 8% of the voting public! 8%! Those are numbers that can get a guy like Pat Buchanan or Adolph Hitler into power, all you have to do is pull 8% and bam, you're in, so saying that a single vote does not count is ridiculous!
posted by Pollomacho at 2:20 PM on November 4, 2002


adolf hitler wasn't just 'put' into office. people liked him, alot of people liked him. he reminds me a lot of dubya, in a lot of ways
posted by prescribed life at 2:34 PM on November 4, 2002


according to this guy i found, your vote won't matter
posted by prescribed life at 2:37 PM on November 4, 2002


I'm still young and idealistic, so I did early voting at the handy on-campus voting area here at UT-Austin. Out of the 16 students in my Government discussion section, only I had done early voting, and only one other person was even planning on voting.

I really don't care if my vote won't matter, for me it's the fact that I participated in this democratic process, that I at least tried to sway the course of the nation, no matter how insignificant my attempt turns out to be. I'll probably end up jaded and bitter in a few years, but at least this election time, I was happy and proud as I walked out of the voting stall.
posted by lychee at 2:53 PM on November 4, 2002


Political cartographers can and do design districts that are reliably Republican or Democratic ... People feel as though their vote has been decided for them, and hence it imbues a certain sense of futility about going to the polls.

I live in one of the smallish mountain towns just outside of Santa Cruz, CA. Santa Cruz is effectively our local cultural hub. Local concerts, decent restaurants, your less-seedy drinking establishments - all in Santa Cruz, maybe fifteen to twenty minutes' drive away. Clearly, a logical population center to be paired with for districting purposes.

So naturally, we're not. No, we're tossed in with the likes of Saratoga, Palo Alto, Menlo Park, and lord knows where else, presumably part of some grand scheme assuring that our checkmarks end up on the "correct" side of some ledger somewhere. Not that this deters me from voting in the slightest... but it isn't exactly the most inspirational news to draw motivation from, either.
posted by youhas at 2:55 PM on November 4, 2002


Hitler and Dubya are nothing alike. Hitler was a much better public speaker.

As for voting, I agree, it matters little if at all. Most races are predetermined. A few could go either way. In those few, the ballots are likely going to be miscounted. I know all this. But I'll still vote, but only because a) I can vote in a race that's somewhat close (Georgia Senate), b) I find Dubya and friends to be thoroughly frightening, and c) I have a job where I can take time off to vote without it impacting my career or income. Oh well.
posted by hank_14 at 2:57 PM on November 4, 2002


oissubke - You are 100% right. I've been "throwing away" my votes for years on 3rd party candidates because I can't stand what the Republicrats offer us. I'm going to "throw away" my vote again tomorrow.

Our political leadership need to know that there are those of us who are just sick of the major choices we're presented with - a protest vote is still a vote and necessary.
posted by pyramid termite at 3:05 PM on November 4, 2002


your comments are true for elections of people, but not necessarily for initiatives.

This is commonly known as the logical fallacy of division. While it is necessary for 50% of the population to show up collectively, that doesn't mean that it is necessary for each person to show up. But more importantly, you missed my point: even in elections with 50% voter turnout requirements, or 80% turnout requirements, or anything short of 100% turn-out requirements, the chances are exceedingly slim that your vote alone will determine whether the 50% (or 80%, or...) mark will be surpassed. While it might be important for large blocks of people to vote in such elections, you yourself as an individual with a negligible share of votes have an exceedingly small strategic reason to vote. Just play the numbers.

Its that logic that will keep the Green party from having the automatic slot on the 2004 ballot because they couldn't pull their 5% and that ever golden 500 voters from turning Florida over to Gore...If you put a bunch of drops of water in a bucket what do you get? Yes, a bucket of water, but what if none of the drops fall in the bucket?...Those are numbers that can get a guy like Pat Buchanan or Adolph Hitler into power

What keeps the Green party out is not having received 5%. If I had voted Green (without changing anyone else's behavior), the Green party would still not have funding. What cares the bucket for one insignificant drop, more or less? When there are turnout thresholds, it becomes imperative that a sufficient number of people be convinced to vote. The rational arguments for doing so include: (1) one has a civic duty or (ethical/moral?) responsibility to vote or it is categorically imperative that one votes; (2) the act of one's voting may induce others, either directly or indirectly, to vote, thereby affecting the outcome; (3) there is a reasonable chance that one's vote could swing the outcome; (4) one is required by law to do so, or one will be paid to do so, or there are verifiable costs to not voting, or material, reputational or other observable benefits to voting. Are there others? I've seen (1) pushed by fiat, but the only "arguments" I've seen for it here are hopelessly circular or advance the "Argument from the Loudest Voice." Option (2) is usually false, (3) is almost always false, and (4) rarely holds in the USA. So one is reduced to persuasion, flawed arguments, pleading, begging, exhortation, coercion, or various other means to convince enough people to vote. Fortunately, many times people need no convincing, and require no argument. I'm not trying to dissuade anyone from voting. I'd just like us to be clear about why we do it and why we encourage it in others. I'm also interested in how we encourage others to do it, so I'm finding this thread fascinating. Oh, and Godwin aside, I seem to recall Hitler having wide popular support, but then again, I'm not an historian. Besides, a lot of jackasses have been elected with a lot more than 8% support. Even a full bucket might reek of sewage.
posted by dilettanti at 3:21 PM on November 4, 2002


Also, you don't register by parties in Texas. Better said, you don't need to declare a party when you register to vote.posted by dejah420

Thanks, dejah, I should have e-mailed you since your a Texan with their shite together well informed. I truely mean it, must be the mother in you.
posted by thomcatspike at 3:21 PM on November 4, 2002


Uh you're a Texan.......
posted by thomcatspike at 3:27 PM on November 4, 2002


in the '92 election we had a 16% turnout

Where was that?

In the US, turnout in 1992 was 55%, ranging from 41% in HI (no shocker there) to 72% in MN and ME.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:29 PM on November 4, 2002


Whatever happened to the whigs?

Oh, and sorry for not giving credit where it is due.
posted by themikeb at 3:31 PM on November 4, 2002


So you have a democrassy in the US as well?
posted by feelinglistless at 4:45 PM on November 4, 2002


adolf hitler wasn't just 'put' into office. people liked him, alot of people liked him. he reminds me a lot of dubya, in a lot of ways

Godwin meet Slippery Slope; Slippery Slope meet Godwin.

(It was that "a lot" that lost me. )
posted by Carlos Quevedo at 5:04 PM on November 4, 2002


true true... too many "a lots," i apologize for that one.

i dunno what all the texas stuff was about, but i'll tell you this much: i was born in Houston, Texas, my dad is in the oil industry, parts of my family have worked for the Bush family, and no one in my family would vote for Bush if their life depended on it. we know enough not to.
posted by prescribed life at 5:26 PM on November 4, 2002


OK, sounds like you need some examples to show you just how close races get, so here goes, Sen. Cantwell (D-Wash)got seated in 2000 by just over 2200 votes, not good enough? How about Rep. Shaw (R-Fla) in by 600 or Rep. Kennedy (R-Minn) seated by 400, if that still doesn't sow you then how about the rookie Rep. from Michigan's 8th district Mike Rogers who beat out his opponent Dianne Byrum by a whopping 152 votes. Saying that one vote is insignificant in that case is silly, I find it rather sad if you think that one person couldn't have made any difference in a race like that. 152 votes means a few more phone calls, a few more van runs to the nursing home, one more one minute spot during the farm report on the AM radio station, a few more people feeling like their vote actually means something and the outcome is different. Narrow margins are not rare at all, they happen every election, they happen all over, watch the results tonight, especially in tiny local elections, sometimes the margins are in the SINGLE DIGITS and that is not a shocker! But its fine, if you don't vote it just means that my vote is that much more important, so I guess I shouldn't be arguing against you at all, please don't go vote then, I'll do it for you.

By the way, Hitler only got only 30% in the presidential election of March 1932, however the Nazis got 37% in the July Reichstag election setting them up for a coalition with the other right wing parties making Hitler premier. I should note also that the Nazis actually dropped votes to 33% by the November elections, but as the extreme left had pulled more votes it meant that the Centrists were now in a helpless minority and the right wing could do whatever they liked. By March, 1933 it was over and the Nazis got more than 43% and even the left couldn't hold them back.
posted by Pollomacho at 7:42 AM on November 5, 2002


how about the rookie Rep. from Michigan's 8th district Mike Rogers who beat out his opponent Dianne Byrum by a whopping 152 votes. Saying that one vote is insignificant in that case is silly

No, it's factually correct, because one vote was insignificant. No one person's vote decided the election.

If your vote isn't making or breaking a tie, it's having no effect whatsoever on the outcome of the election. Your vote doesn't have more influence on who wins and who loses if it's a closer race -- either your vote makes or breaks a tie, or it doesn't. Binary, black-and-white, yes or no. Your single solitary vote either decides the election all by its lonesome self or it has precisely zero effect on who wins.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't vote, but it does mean that if you're voting because you think that your vote is going to have a real impact on the election, you're as daft as someone funding their retirement with lottery tickets.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:19 AM on November 5, 2002


I'd love to have a lottery where a majority of ticket holders win!

So don't vote, that's fine, I'm a crotchety, bigoted, hateful, power hungry person and I will definitely be at the polls, I'm going to round up all my buddies at the Klan rally and bring them in so you're right your vote doesn't matter one bit because you'd have to get 25 of your friends just to counter balance us!

So what does it matter if the balance is tipped by one vote or two or 152 or 152,000, the balance is tipped by votes, votes that stack up, if you don't vote then your vote certainly doesn't count. So let's do some math, one plus one is two, right? You're following me thus far right? So if you keep adding in ones over and over eventually you can get to what? 3, 4, 5... 1 million even, but it takes every single one of those to keep adding on, you can't leave any out. Granted when you have 1 million voters show up in a district it takes 500,001 to win, 1 vote either way is only 1/500,001th of the total needed for either candidate (saying you've just got two for argument's sake), but the less 500,001ths there are on one side or the other the farther the balance dips, even if you can't see it dip in your grand pessimistic vision, its dipping, raw numbers (when honest) don't lie. Yes, each solitary vote, no matter how miniscule DOES count, they simply add up.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:52 AM on November 5, 2002


this is what i think
posted by prescribed life at 7:19 PM on November 5, 2002


Dateline Nebraska -- Election Results: Fat, Rich, Republican White Guys Win!

Gee ... who would have guessed?
posted by RavinDave at 10:29 PM on November 5, 2002


My brother won!
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:41 AM on November 6, 2002


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