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.