Thursday, July 28, 2016

Some Thoughts On Voting

From guest blogger, Tim.

In class we discussed two arguments related to voting. One was that voting should be mandatory, perhaps even with punishments in place for failing to vote. The other was that it is immoral to make an “uninformed” or “bad” vote.

I personally do not believe that voting should be mandatory. It is certainly possible that there is some sort of “market failure” situation where elections do not actually reflect the beliefs and desires of the public. However, I think this is more likely a result of the inherent nature of the current political system rather than a result of apathy towards voting. When citizens only have at most two viable candidates to choose from, many people’s wishes will not be adequately represented by either choice.  Additionally, a lot of votes are not cast for a candidate – they are cast against the one that is worse. As a result, I don’t see how the election structure as it is will ever not be a failure – even if participation increases, the election results won’t capture public opinion accurately. While I don’t believe mandatory voting would solve any problems, I also don’t support it because fining or imprisoning someone for failing to do something so trivial (to them at least, since they’re not voting) would be wrong.

The argument that it would be wrong to make an uninformed or bad vote wasn’t very appealing to me. I suppose that it might be possible to be doing something wrong by supporting a candidate who will do bad things, but I don’t think there is any sort of way for objectively determining what constitutes a bad candidate. The claim that it would be wrong to make an uninformed vote is stronger, though I’m still unsure what level of information a voter should have before making a decision. Some people are single-issue voters, and if they are extremely informed on that issue but not others, are they making an uninformed vote by voting? Perhaps with respect to the candidates in general, but with respect to what they care about, they are quite informed. It is also often difficult to get information. Candidates talk more about end results than particular plans. For example, we hear that Trump is going to deliver the biggest tax cut in history, create millions more jobs, fix all the bad schools, build a border wall, destroy ISIS everywhere, deport 11 million people, magically make manufacturing jobs reappear and wages increase, increase the size of the “depleted” military, and “help” students with their educational debts. These are essentially all talking points. Anyone interested in the specific policies (the “how” rather than the “what”) or how they will be funded is left hanging. I suppose proponents of this theory that uninformed voting is immoral could just tell us to “do the best we can”, but at this point in the election season, I don’t know with certainty what either of the candidates would do. Ultimately, I find the question “is it immoral to vote badly or with little information?” to be a rather useless one. If no one is going to be prohibited from voting, we should spend our energy on talking to others and informing them, rather than deciding if they are doing something wrong that we’re not willing to stop.


Bethany Vanderhoof said...

I definitely agree with your stance that voting should not be mandatory. While voting is an essential part of our democracy, forced voting could easily backfire. For instance, people may vote for certain candidates out of spite for the system.

The founders of our country fought for the right to vote. After that, minorities and women fought for the right to cast their ballot. If voting became mandatory, then it would be seen as much more of a burden than a right, which could potentially devastate the political system. People tend to negatively view the things that are required of them (i.e. signing up for the draft, paying taxes, attending jury duty, etc.). However, regarding voting, people always seem proud to give their input. On the other hand, the draft, taxes, and jury duty all do help the country run smoothly, but they have an added layer of stress.

Rachel Cherney said...

One thought on the margin of who votes is that perhaps instead of making voting mandatory, voting were a national holiday, more people might vote. If the country were to make voting mandatory I think they would have to re-vamp the system, maybe keeping 4-6 candidates to vote from instead of only two. I also agree with your last point at the end of the third paragraph about voting badly and mandatory/prohibitory voting. The problem with being informed for voting is finding a factual unbiased resource to gather information.

Aria said...

I completely agree with the objections you brought up regarding compulsory voting and I think that it would not really make a difference given the current state of our political system. The problem, as yo put it, lies within our political system that restricts us to choosing between two candidates who might not necessarily represent the political ideology and policies that majority of people would agree with. However, I don't agree with your objections regarding the wrongness of making an uninformed vote. I actually think that it is often easy to determine what constitutes a bad candidate given the long process of primaries and all the debates between the candidates in our country's political process. A bad candidate is one whose policies are arbitrary and random and not supported by any evidence ( Trump is a great example of this).
Additionally, the problems you mentioned regarding the difficulties associated with getting information about the policies is not sufficient to explain why people should not be morally obligated to not vote badly. In fact, the fact that a candidate does not specify why they are supporting a policy and how they are going to implement such policies is a good hint that they are actually not a good candidate and don't deserve your vote.
Finally, given the fact that each bad vote cancels out a good vote, it is really important to consider that our uninformed votes for bad policies that we do not really know much about can have lasting effects on our fellow citizens and future generations. Thus,given the dangerous consequences that bad votes can have, I think that everyone who desires to practice their right too vote has the moral obligation to inform themselves to the best of their ability about the policies they are voting for.