Would you get on an airplane without first deciding which carrier you trust to get you there conveniently? Would you buy the proverbial pig in a poke? Why would you trust your future to someone chosen only by strangers?
“If you choose not to decide you still have made a choice,” Rush, 1980.
By not voting your absent vote is support for whomever you did not choose, even if that candidate represents ideas and policies you despise. Although one vote differences are rare, they do happen, especially here with so few voting. Sometimes it’s not just who wins or loses, but by how much or how they did in certain districts; one can win a battle but still lose the war. Most honest elections are won with less than a serious margin; 55 percent is called a landslide, and 60 percent a mandate, a free license to do almost anything. 49.999 percent of the votes plus the Electoral College peculiarity leads to “not my president” dissatisfaction. A candidate with a mandate often believes and acts as if he has been told he can get away with anything. A victor with 50 ½ percent knows he must be careful. If he annoys the wrong person or small group he could get 49 percent next time.
There may be a candidate who you truly respect, but according to local demographics has no chance. Vote for him or her anyway, because that shows preference for her or his values: support for those values that may influence behavior of all those elected. I always vote against hate; hate never ends well. Your vote may not select the candidate, but it does show your support for a similar point of view.
“You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone,” Joni Mitchell, 1970.
Suppose you don’t care so you don’t vote, but something that is really important to you comes up on the next ballot, something that might be life or death, freedom or incarceration, business or bankruptcy for you. So you read it carefully and make sure you understand it. When you get to the poll they say: sorry, there is no record that you registered or voted for the last six years, therefore, pursuant to law we concluded you moved away or died. Sorry you can’t vote today.
Voting is my kuleana. Kuleana is a powerful Hawaiian word with no exact equivalent in English. The best definition I can find is responsibility that derives from privilege. As in: my driver’s license is a privilege that requires me to accept responsibility to obey the appropriate laws. The privilege of living freely in a democratic republic that respects your rights depends on the responsibility of choosing the leaders. If you don’t do it who will?
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing,” Edmund Burke, et al 1867.
Lokahi is another powerful Hawaiian word. As I understand it, lokahi means starting out by finding what we agree on. Voting is a way that we find out what we agree on without confronting one another. What wins the election should represent what most of us believe. That gives us a starting point for further discussion. “I second the motion” is the parliamentary equivalent.
Vote to keep your name on the good citizens list that might in turn an affect your life in seemingly unrelated ways. You meet the nicest people at the poll. “I did not register to vote so they don’t pick me for jury duty” is not that far from “I did not register to vote so they took away my welfare.” Once you decide not to vote you have voted to allow whoever wins to be dictator and do whatever they want to. Next time they can design tricky ballots where a blank is added to the noes, or worse, no ballot is a yes! Stranger things have happened.