Why I Don’t Vote

I get chastised a lot for not voting. Here’s my defence.

I’m an anarchist. That means I don’t believe in hierarchical governance and giving away my power and freedom. So, naturally, I don’t think a democratic government is a good thing. Don’t get it twisted, though – it’s the latter part of the phrase “democratic government” I don’t believe in. Democracy is a valuable tool, not a magical form of government. I can use the democratic process to make efficient decisions within a group without ever putting someone in power. The part I don’t like is the “government” because it’s explicitly a form of hierarchical power. I don’t care if it got there through a true democratic vote, or violent dictaorship – it’s the same in the end.

OK, so I don’t like government. That still doesn’t necessarily exclude me from voting. I have one of two choices at this point.

  • Don’t vote
  • Vote

To be clear, the vote I’d be participating in is one for a political party to exert power over me. It’s not a vote on what to watch on TV, where I can just decline to watch TV if the outcome of the vote doesn’t suit my taste.

So, as you could probably guess from the introduction, I would choose not to vote. Seems simple enough. But is it? I get this response repeatedly, “You’re just being lazy and irresponsible, because if you really cared you’d cast a vote for none of the parties and at least show your opinion.” Fair enough. So should I just go and put a big A on the ballot to effectively say “I’m a politically active anarchist and don’t agree with this voting process”? No, because that’s hypocritical and that’s not the effect it has.

If I think voting for government is bad, why would I use voting during an election to make my point? It’s perpetuating the problem, it’s hypocritical, and there are much better ways for me to get my point across than a lost vote (like this article). If I’m being honest, though, this reason isn’t so great – because it’s dealing with fluffy ideology and not real world consequences.

So let’s look at the effects of my actions. Let’s say by some miracle, I went out and voted, but didn’t choose a party or candidate. Instead I wrote my dissertation on anarchism on the ballot to show my contempt for the system and my desire to irradicate it. Did this do my ideology justice? Did the vote- counter-guy stop counting, read my rant and renounce his faith in government while burning the rest of the votes? No. He marked it as a neutral vote, a vote for nothing. That vote I made against democratic government became a vote of dissatisfaction for the current political climate. Even if everyone did the same thing, it would still turn up in the news as, “record highs in neutral ballots indicate voters aren’t happy with the candidates.” Um, no, that’s not what we were saying.

And if I don’t vote? Well for one I save my time and can replace it with something more constructive, like Valhalla. Contrary to the former scenario, I don’t inadvertently encourage government, but I can actively and very explicitly discourage it. Finally, expanding this ideology to everyone, if nobody voted, it’d be my ideal scenario since no democratic government could form without people voting for it. And if it did, it’d be obviously corrupt, or it would simply fall apart for lack of respect by the people.

In my eyes, less voter turnout is a good thing. It doesn’t mean more and more people are being lazy, it means more and more people are taking matters into their own hands, not the hands of the invisible ballot counter.

14 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Vote”

  1. By not voting, you perpetrate the entire neo-liberal/conservative political system.

    Really, by not voting, you do nothing — you do nothing to change the system, you become invisible, whether you’re pleased or not with the way things are doesn’t matter — the entire political system in place is all about marketing, and it markets to the people who are casting votes.

    You perpetuate the status quo — governing parties are actually satisfied that the majority of the people who are dissatisfied with the way things are casting invalid votes or not voting at all (which is essentially the same – so it’s true; if you’re going to cancel your vote, no point in going to vote), because they don’t need to cater to them in any way.

    You believe in democracy, but true democracy could only be achieved if every person part of the system actually actively participates in the system. By not voting, you don’t participate, and you don’t contribute to the aspiration of ever achieving democracy.

    Reply
    • There are other ways of changing the system other than voting. What Valhalla is doing now for example.

      If you’re saying by not voting I’m perpetuating a system I don’t wan, then what’s my other option, to just vote? How do you see my vote being able to get rid of the system? The only way for that to happen is for a politician with anarchist ideologies to temporarily suspend his views in order to be elected, after which they would somehow miraculously tear down the system. Sorry, but I just don’t see that happening anytime soon. If it does, sure, maybe I’ll vote – but if that many people are willing to vote in an anarchist, the vote probably wouldn’t need to happen anyway. It just doesn’t make sense. If you can give me a scenario where it makes sense for me, an anarchist, to vote, I’ll gladly entertain it.

      In the end, I think that your assumption that I can’t change the world without participating in government is pretty ridiculous and I’m willing to prove you wrong through my actions here at Valhalla :) … or at least I’ll die trying.

      Reply
    • By just not voting, you do nothing. And, to quote Howard Zinn, “You can’t be neutral on a moving train.” But if you’re actively doing something (i.e. Valhalla), then you’re acctually making a change – but “just” not voting or even just voting do what you said – perpetrate the system.

      Reply
  2. Fair opinion. But do you really believe that a lower number of voters turning out is a good thing? Do you really think that the majority of those people are like hey, I don’t agree with the system and I’m going to replace that time with something more constructive like you are doing? I’d say you are definitely in the minority of those who do not vote.

    Reply
    • I’m definitely not so naive to think that everyone has the same view as me, I’m just extending my ideology to everyone to see if it works properly.

      I think if someone isn’t an anarchist, they should definitely take advantage of voting. And even if you are an anarchist, you may have different reasons or priorities as to why you would vote anyway. These are just my reasons. Once again, to be clear, I only extended the argument to everybody as a sort of thought experiment to see if my way of thinking wasn’t self-defeating.

      Reply
  3. I personally dont believe in voting either. For one I do more constructive things with my time like Greg but I actually never thought of that as the reason. It is a very valid one though now that I think about it. I don’t vote mainly because I dont believe in a hierarchal power system either and thats mainly because man has a tendency to be greedy and power hungry. This is a very generalized statement and doesnt apply to everyone but do understand that the majority of the power in the world is governed by very evil people. Yes I said evil because there is no other suitable word that comes close enough to describe what they decide to do with their power. The only offset is that my not voting isnt necessarily helping the situation either and Im aware of that. I still hope to raise awareness on a large enough scale in order for it to make a real impact. It would literally take everyone to stop voting altogether which is a near impossible feat. I said near impossible simply because I dont like using that word and believe it holds no validity. Nothing is impossible! PEACE

    Reply
  4. You forgot a 3rd option, scratch your voice. Then you send a clear message that you don’t believe in the system. When you don’t vote you just become someone who doesn’t care in the eyes of the system. And its the conservatives at this point, they want engaged people to be disinterested in what they are doing, then they just get to do what they want.

    Reply
  5. Hey Greg! Nice to see you’ve grown into an articulate and dare-I-say
    philosophical young man! (I hope that doesn’t sound too paternalistic…
    but I WAS your teacher once upon a time). As for your position, I would
    argue that the roles of government are multiple, and so to make your
    point more poignantly, it would help if you identified which parts of
    the “system” you find in need of destruction (or revolution). Do you
    think that all municipal service (e.g., law enforcement, public
    education, public hospitals, road construction, etc.) should be
    abolished? Would you abolish the court system and leave people to seek
    justice the old fashioned way? Would you eliminate the federal
    government and abandon the military (leaving us vulnerable to more
    militant governments)? Would you discourage government investment in
    infrastructure and business/cooperative development (including your
    project potentially?). I think it’s really important that you unpack
    this big concept of “the system” to identify what exactly you find
    repulsive, and then work concretely towards reforming those specific
    parts. Generally I agree that a participatory democracy is only as good
    as the education of its citizens. You are a good example of how educated
    a citizen should be. Our democracy needs MORE people like you, not
    less.

    I’ll be dropping by to Valhalla shortly to continue the discussion, over beers I’m told. :)

    Reply

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