At election time we inevitably hear earnest pleas for everyone to vote. Voter participation is a data point often cited in political studies, along with an assumption that the higher the percentage, the better: 100 percent participation is the goal. But we rarely question this belief, or objectively consider whether everyone who can vote ought to vote. Pleas for everyone to vote ignore the fact that not voting can itself be a way of voting. The trumpery of the current Republican primary campaign has led some of us to decide that they want no part of it and so will not vote. Not voting, then, can be a protest against all the available candidates. It’s hard, however, to distinguish such protest from mere apathy or forgetfulness, and we ought to provide a way of registering it in the polling booth. We might, for example, add as a ballot choice “No Acceptable Candidate.”
There are, of course, those who challenge the idea that everyone should vote. According to an often heard argument, there’s no point voting because, in most elections, the chance that one vote will make a difference is close to zero. In the 2008 presidential election, for example, the average voter had just one chance in 60 million of deciding the race. This argument is based on a highly questionable assumption: that there’s no reason for me to vote if doing so won’t decide the election.
But in a democracy voting is communal, not individual. Sovereign power is in the citizens as a whole, and my vote has weight as part of this political community. Even though it’s utterly unlikely that an individual vote will decide a large-scale election, the group of all voters will do so. Therefore, I have reason to vote insofar as I have a good reason to join this community. And there are many good reasons for getting in the voting line with my fellow citizens. I may want to express my solidarity with everyone who favors my candidates, to support the democratic process in general, to set an example that will encourage others to vote, or even just to feel the personal satisfaction of having voted.
Full Article: Should Everybody Vote? – The New York Times.