Tuesday, November 06, 2012

How not to encourage people to vote

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Note: This post was written out of acute irritation with so much election-related nonsense and is in no way directed towards those who did cast their vote. May the candidate of your choice win. Especially if he’s not Mitt Romney.


There’s a variety of reasons why some people who are eligible to vote choose to forgo this particular democratic right during certain or all elections. But whatever one may think of these complaints or those who present them, the right way to address them is to at least attempt to understand why some refuse to cast their ballots. While it may boil down to laziness or apathy for others, there are plenty who have perfectly reasonable reservations about being forced to choose from a given set of candidates, and it’s simply arrogant and unfair to dismiss them as unpatriotic couch-potatoes for refusing to take part in the process.

On the other hand, imagine a website that only offered childishly idiotic retorts and mindless emotional appeals to try and badger reluctant voters around rather than actually engage any of their arguments. Well, somebody created that website, and filled it with all the condescending bilge that perfectly represents why so many of those who try to motivate others to vote are terrible at it. Presenting Your Excuse Sucks:

Excuse No. 1
My Vote Doesn't Matter In My State

There's a word for someone who only participates if they know they can win: asshole.

Oh. Well, that’s compelling. Casually dismissing the mathematical futility of voting against the overwhelming tide by bringing up a combination strawman/non-sequitur and ending with ad-hominem name-calling. Yeah, that argument was well and truly countered, there.

So let's get this straight: You’re saying your vote doesn’t count. And not voting at all definitely doesn’t count. So that means…

You're probably right. You and the 80 million other Americans who use the same line of logic surely aren't affecting anything at all.

Because if one person decides to get out and vote, then logically, so will the 80 million others who otherwise wouldn’t, just like that.

I’ve always hated this particular line of unreasoning. Yes, it’s true that if all these non-voters just magically changed their minds all at once, perhaps after being collectively dowsed with some sort of pro-voting fairy powder, then that might provide some significant sway in the polls. But on the other hand, the reality is that short of coming into possession of said fairy powder, the random individual changing their mind is not going to affect the slightest particulate of anything, much less symbiotically inspire all those millions of other undecided citizens to just go out and do their “democratic duty”. And using these cheap, manipulative tactics is not going to help anyone, either.

Excuse No. 2
Not Voting Is My Way Of Voting Against The System

Hey, just like the people of North Korea. They vote by not voting every day!

Once every four years you decide to take a political stand? You’re like the Olympics of self-righteousness.

That’s the spirit. You staying home on Tuesday will surely force the powers that be to RETHINK THE CONCEPT OF DEMOCRACY.

Great, and the future tyrant that will one day enslave your grandchildren thanks you for your vote.

Yeah, those who object to taking part in what they see as a corrupt system are really just inviting the next dictator to slap a punishment collar around their necks. IS THAT WHAT YOU WANT?!!

… Really, is there any point in responding to crap like this? Any at all? Frankly, I fear ever meeting the kind of person who would genuinely be swayed by that kind of rhetoric.

Excuse No. 3
I Don't Have Time To Vote

Do you know what pour-over coffee is? If so, you definitely have time to vote.

Tell that to these people. Or these. Or any of the thousands or millions of others that pop up on Google within seconds. Really, try harder.

There are people in countries around the world who wait in line under threat of physical violence for 12 hours in order to vote. But please, tell me more about your time constraints.

How ’bout I tell you about the self-defeating idiocy of resorting to the very line of argument that makes it so irritating when your parents or other elders chide you about how they had to walk through miles of sleet to get to school back in their day every time you complain about missing the bus. This particular guilt-trip doesn’t even work on children, so why expect it to work on adults? Those who use that old “other people around the world have it harder than you!” tack immediately forfeit their right to be taken seriously.

Excuse No. 4
Voting Is Too Complicated


Try to think of it as operating a microwave that reheats the day-old burrito that is our national government. Maybe that will help you figure it out.

Implying non-voters are lazy, unintelligent slobs. That’ll get ’em on your side in a hurry.

Ever done your taxes? You can handle voting. Haven't done your taxes? Congratulations, you're a member of the one percent and can just buy the politician you want.

Unless you’re either too young to have had to deal with taxes yet (how many 18-year-olds file their own IRS forms, I wonder?) or are otherwise unable to fill them out properly, such as for intellectually handicapped people. But it’s okay, nameless writer behind this dreck, it’s obvious how no-one expects you to have the cognitive wherewithal to notice how your ham-handed swipes may be baselessly insulting to any number of decent, well-intentioned folk.

(Full disclosure: My father kindly does everyone’s taxes using some nifty program on his PC, ’cause he’s just rad like that, so I’ve never had to deal with a single tax form in three years. But then, surely I’m just a greedy one-percenter, myself. Who’s very good at hiding his money. From himself.)

But if you thought the previous counter-arguments were bad, get a load of this one:

Excuse No. 5
I'm Not Well Enough Informed

Don't worry silly, you can still vote. We have the electoral college to protect us from dummies like you.

So … my vote doesn’t count? After all that nagging about how it supposedly does? Really, consistency – not these folks’ strong suit.

Since when has democracy ever been about knowing what you're doing?

I wish I’d made that up. I wish that wasn’t an actual counter-argument intended against citizens who don’t feel comfortable casting a vote without knowing enough about the issues. Because there’s nothing quite like simultaneously calling them stupid and denigrating the merits of the very democratic system you’re trying to defend to make your point.

Do you understand how airplanes fly? No, but you don't mind participating in that process, do you?

Except that passengers who don’t know the workings of aerodynamics aren’t the ones deciding whether airplanes should have wings or not.

And really, what’s with all this encouragement to get self-admitted ignorami to the voting booths? The U.S. already suffers from a critically dumb and gullible electorate (how else to explain how all those anti-reality Republicans keep getting sworn in?), the least you could do is be understanding when people who recognize their inability to vote wisely decide not to muck things up any worse.

Excuse No. 7
Nobody Aligns With My Views


Yeah, well sometimes a restaurant doesn’t have whatever weird thing it is you like to eat, but you order something anyway because that’s what your body needs to keep functioning.

Except that my “weird thing” is this silly, apparently antiquated ideal that it’s wrong to indiscriminately massacre thousands of innocent men, women and children just because they have brown skin and have funny-sounding names – and then boast about it every chance one gets. (Just to name one.) Actually, it’s really kind of a deal-breaker, in a “I will not put my name behind anyone who indiscriminately massacres thousands of innocent men, women and children” sort of way. But don’t worry, some politician or another will take the reins regardless of what I would’ve voted, so I doubt I’ll be starving. (Or something. That really was a weird metaphor for this context.)

If anything, a cathartic (if not necessarily good) reason not to vote would be purely to spite the kinds of sanctimonious assholes who use arguments like these. I’m just thankful I’m immune to the whole ordeal today by virtue of not being a U.S. citizen.

Edit: 11/06/12 10:20 PM ET – Fixed a typo. (via Skwiver)