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Why Not To Vote

By Taylor Marvin

From a friend’s Facebook status, a common sentiment:

“If you choose not to vote, then shut the fuck up.”

This gets said often, but isn’t actually a solid recommendation. 129,300,000 votes were cast in the 2008 Presidential election, meaning that my vote had a roughly 0.000000007% effect on the outcome of the election. Of course, this is a huge simplification of the electoral college system — as a Californian who voted Democratic in 2008, my vote has no marginal effect on the Presidential election’s outcome. Similarly, if I choose to support the Republican presidential nominee in 2012 and remain in California my vote will again have no impact on California’s electoral votes. However, I can still influence the outcome of the election. Say Tim Pawlenty wins the Republican nomination and I decide to support him. I then write a masterfully well-reasoned and articulate blog post supporting Pawlenty that influences 10 voters in swing states to vote Republican, voters whose opinions have an enormously greater impact on the election than mine. In doing so I’ve had a far greater national impact than I could by voting, and could reasonably decide that voting is pointless while still remaining engaged in American democracy. The same logic applies to other non-voting political activities, like volunteering or donating. Voting is certainly admirable, but because of the electoral college system it isn’t the most effective way of influencing national politics for most Americans.

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