Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Democracy inaction... in action

Today was California's primary election, and aside from the pointlessness of voting for an already-decided presidential candidate there were a number of local races and a couple state-wide propositions on the ballot. They're expecting low turnout at the polling places, and as usual that's considered cause for despair among those who report on such things and those who pay attention to those who report on such things. If only 35% of eligible voters bother to cast a ballot that's viewed as a bad sign for democracy.

While I understand that sort of sentiment, and as hard-fought as were battles in the distant past to get everyone the right to vote, I also think in a state this large, getting roughly one out of three to do anything is phenomenal, and to be dispirited about that is probably holding the population to a standard that's unrealistic in this day.

Further, I find myself thinking that if one has done no research of actually reading the initiatives and finding out about the records of those running for positions, and one's only opinions are based around which side had the more slick commercials, then it may not be so bad that one doesn't vote. If you glance at the sample ballot and really do not care about anything in it, going to the polling place probably turns into a chore, not a privilege. And that, it seems to me, is not what anyone fought for.

If you think about it, there's something encouraging about a society where the majority of people don't have to participate in elections. We have come far enough that people express tacit confidence in others to let others exert that speech on their behalf. That sounds like utter sarcasm, I know, but if you consider voting to be one's voice, is it not incumbent on a voter to know whether he or she really has anything to say—and if one has no basis for an informed voice or one has an utterly indifferent response, should one not essentially excuse oneself from "speaking"?

Democracy conceivably should not be a contest of who does a better job of pulling one over on the masses but should be an indication of those who care about something strongly enough to want to participate. Those who want a large voter turnout tend to be those who want a given outcome—the ones who have a "horse in the race"—and believe their side would benefit thusly, but of course that only succeeds if there's a majority who'd vote as one prefers. Imagine that your side would have won except a bunch of under-informed voters came out to vote for the other side. Would you really think democracy was successful that day?

Call me cynical. That doesn't mean I'm wrong.

1 comment:

  1. I think people who don't vote should be fined, just like if they don't show up for jury duty. But then, I think voting should be limited to male landowners, especially on issues regarding property taxes.


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