Every time we get close to an election, people are encouraged to vote by one individual or group after another. “Make sure you vote!” you will hear repeated ad nauseam. Even Google’s doodle is promoting voting in the election to its users. The message seems to be from so many outlets: “It doesn’t matter who or what you vote for; just get out there and vote.” It’s as if more voters is a good thing simply in and of itself. I disagree, and want to explain why.
Voters don’t care enough to bother voting. In most cases it’s as simple as that. Sure, there are some people who take a principled stance against voting, but that’s not the case for most non-voters. Most non-voters, I believe, just don’t understand how much their lives are affected by decisions made at the ballot box. They don’t realize that other voters are directly making or helping to make decisions that can do real damage in regards to their individual liberty.
But people should care, because elections do indeed have consequences. Think about all the different types of items that are on ballots. Take taxes for example. Bond issues and other types of taxes are on the ballot all the time. Voters can decide how much of your property will be confiscated by government, yet, still some people are apathetic to voting when tax hikes are decided at the polls. Despite the overwhelming evidence that much of the money is wasted and redistributed to special interests, apathy abounds.
Other ballot issues – legalization of vices, referendums, state constitutional amendments, etc. – all have an effect on an individual’s liberty. And of course, we can’t forget the election of presidents, legislators, judges, mayors, sheriffs, and a slew of other individuals who have considerable authority over people’s lives once they get elected.
And still, people can’t be bothered to vote. Voter turnout remains low. And as long as ignorance and as long as ignorance and apathy rule the day, I’m just fine with that. Let’s stop blindly encouraging people to vote just for voting’s sake and to get voter participation numbers up. Instead, let’s strive to make people aware of all the ways their liberties can be stifled via the ballot box. Teach this to voters, and you won’t have to encourage them to vote – they’ll want to show up to the polls of their own accord.