Why I don’t believe in Not Voting, or voting “Down Ballot”


This blog post is one that is hard to write. If I had a single reason for what I believed, for my opinion, I could state it forth straight and simple. But, as G.K. Chesterton noted, when you have a lot of reasons, a whole lifestyle of support, it is hard to trot that out the same way.

So here is my attempt to marshal a whole lifetime/lifestyle of impressions into a single, short, coherent (Be Swift, Be Precise) post.

Let me start with an exchange I had with a friend. To paraphrase, he put up a post about how he rarely posted politican comments, but wanted everyone to see the interview of Donald Trump by Billy Bush from a few years ago. From this interview he wanted everyone to realize what a “disgusting pig” Trump is. Don’t tell me about Hilary’s flaws either, he said, I don’t want to hear it, and I am not voting for either of them. I just want everyone to know what a creep Trump is.

Seeing that, I decided to comment, amiably, to encourage him to vote for someone (my belief per title of post). I said if we opt out they win, if we vote for someone else they know we cared. I then mentioned my intention to vote for the Libertarian ticket of Johnson/Weld.

This got the response that “as a fully grown adult, I don’t really need encouragement on who to vote for, thanks.” He declared that he voted his conscience, and that none of the candidates were “worthy” of his vote. He would vote down ballot.

I replied that I was encouraged that he was voting, sorry to hear he couldn’t find someone he could vote for as president. I said “I’m still convinced  that voting for no one is voting for them both”, and I didn’t intend to give Trump or Clinton that satisfaction.

The reply to that was: “Please don’t start with that line of bull about not voting is a vote for someone else … not voting is NOT voting. However, I will vote down the rest of the ballot.”

I replied: “I guess we can agree to disagree about that — amicably.”

Wanting to have the last word (I guess), he said: “Actually, I will not allow someone to tell me that my not voting is a vote for someone else. I do not comment on your choice of vote, although I could. You vote your conscience and I’ll vote mine.”

Now, me, my way of learning what I need to decide my conscience is to listen to people I disagree with, hoping to learn from them. So I asked if he would comment on my candidate of interest so I could learn and grow. But he refused to share is perspective.

The response: “No, I expect anyone who actually casts a ballot to weigh carefully their decision and it isn’t anyone else’s business. It is also no one’s business if I decide there isn’t a viable candidate to vote for. I just feel everyone should have all the info about the candidates before making a decision. I have looked at your candidate of choice. Again, there isn’t a candidate WORTHY of my vote.”

I didn’t follow up asking how he thought people were to get the information to weigh their decision carefully if people didn’t share their perspectives with them to help them get the full picture.

But what this does illustrate (as I work my way around in an indirect way to my point) is that we have an issue with being able to discuss politics in polite conversation. In fact, we have a problem, almost a rule, that one does not discuss religion or politics in polite conversation. Yet that is exactly what our society needs to be able to do if we are to find consensus and move forward.

It also shows the prevailing attitude that politics (as well as religion) are private, and what people do is no one else’s business.

Now, as one drifting into libertarian-ism, I believe in the right of people to choose to talk or not. But that does not mean I believe that these topics are private. They are both critical public subjects. Politics is obviously public, and religion, in its impact, is also the same. Besides its eternal significance, religion serves as the “conscience of the nation” (paraphrased “quote” from a sermon series by Adam Hamilton, pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection).

Religion not being solo can be resolved,  for Christians, with Hebrews 10:25 about not forsaking the assembling of yourselves with fellow believers.

How do these fit into the question about not voting and not voting down ballot? Since your decision, personal though it is, has an impact on others, what you choose isn’t merely your decision, affecting only you, but a decision affecting others. So, ethically, you need to consider the impact of your decision on everyone who it might affect. You don’t know them all, but you can do your best to consider them based on what you know.

So, the question is, what impact on others will not voting, or voting down ballot have on others?

If just one person does it, the impact may be none or negligible, but in the aggregate it could be significant. And one should consider one’s impact as part of the group, and not just individually.

If one person doesn’t vote, the question is always where would that vote have gone? In a two-person race, it would have helped one person and hurt another. Its absence thus would help the person its presence would have hurt.

How does that work in a three-person race? If you don’t vote, the same sort of impact occurs. If you do vote, and you vote for the third party (one of the third parties), you actually hurt both of the other two — the one that would have received, and the one that wouldn’t — because both of them now have a challenger with a different perspective and option.

Sure one person alone won’t tip the scale, but if everyone who thinks their one vote doesn’t count does vote, and votes their conscience for the person they think best able to run (even if they think no one is WORTHY of their vote), they might actually upset everything.

Our country has gotten more and more non-party. The two major parties are practically a minority to the independents and third party people in the country.Yet all these independents vote for only two horses, or not at all, because they never considered the other options. Practically we are being governed by an oligarchy. Yet if they had considered the other options, en masse, we might actually get real change for once.

Which is why each individual is important, and important to vote.

It is also important, even if no one wins, to show that these people voting do care, just not for the major party candidates. If you don’t vote, they dismiss your opinion and go ahead and do what they please. They do that even when I vote, but if there are enough of me (meaning people like me) who vote eventually they won’t be able to ignore us.

Now, voting “down ballot” meets that last objective I mentioned, but it doesn’t do the former objective.

As I look at the above, I see that there are doubtless weaknesses in my analysis — which comes from trying to explain a lifetime/lifestyle impression. Please look it over, see if there is anything new (or old) you can learn from it, and please politely express what you see are the weaknesses or errors of my perspective. I want to grow and become better able to make decisions as I “vote my conscience”, and hope you are able to help me, and maybe, just maybe, I can help you too.


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