Jeff Jacoby again argues that you don’t need to vote

At the beginning of August Jeff Jacoby wrote an article saying that it shouldn’t be made easier to vote. Today he has another  article about voting:

If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times: It’s your civic duty to vote. Between now and Election Day — unless you’re planning an extended session in a sensory-deprivation tank — you’ll no doubt hear it again. And again.

Don’t believe it. It’s not your duty to vote.

Even in so-called battleground states, the likelihood that any given voter’s participation will affect the outcome is infinitesimal — and most of us don’t live in battleground states. Americans who decide they have more important things to do with their time than cast a vote that won’t make a difference anyway are probably right.

“I leave you with the words of my mom,” said Bob Schieffer, wrapping up the final presidential debate in Boca Raton last week. “Go vote. It makes you feel big and strong.” That’s great advice — for those who feel that way. But there’s nothing wrong with staying home for those who don’t.

There are two very large problems with this argument:

  • It may be that any individual has little influence on the result, but millions of people don’t vote. Obviously they collectively matter.
  • A democracy depends on its citizens to participate in government. If the percent of people who participate is too small then the democracy will collapse. The minimum of participation is voting.

And this is an amazingly bad analogy:

Like buying stocks or undergoing surgery, the election of government officials can have serious consequences. We don’t hector Americans to make uninformed decisions about investments or medical treatment. What advantage is there in badgering people with no interest in candidates or elections to vote anyway?

Hey, I know, why don’t we make it so that you have to pass some kind of test before you are allowed to vote. Or even better, make it so only people who own a certain amount of property can vote–the rich know better than the rest of us anyway.

As an aside to the main point, Jacoby doesn’t seem to know what ‘civic duty’ means:

“But it’s your civic duty to vote!”

No, it isn’t. You have the right to vote, not a duty to do so. In much the same way, you have the right to worship freely, the right to express your views, the right to run for public office — but no obligation to do any of them. Just as freedom of religion encompasses the freedom to practice no religion, your freedom to vote for the candidate of your choice includes the freedom to vote for no candidate at all.

A civic duty is something that you should do, it’s not something you have to do.

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. drmikeh
    Oct 29, 2012 @ 20:36:10

    Hilarious isn’t it? Last week he wanted to seem sympathetic with liberals because they were so terribly disappointed in Obama. The strategy, of course, is to keep Democrat voters away from the polls in MA so GOP candidates can win. What will hopefully happen is that the people who will be effected by his voter suppression will be the Tea Partiers that read his column.


  2. fredtopeka
    Oct 29, 2012 @ 21:40:05

    Concern troll-columnist was concerned.


  3. Trackback: Mandatory voting | Petunias

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