General Question

Poser's avatar

Is voting a right or responsiblity?

Asked by Poser (7808points) July 16th, 2008

I’ve never voted before this year’s primaries. I’ve always heard people call it a responsibility, but if that were true, wouldn’t it be required of all those capable (think: taxes)? I mean, who fights for their responsibilities? Isn’t refusing to exercise our rights also a right?

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36 Answers

trumi's avatar

Having the right to vote is like having a big dick. Sure you’ve got it; but if you don’t use it, what the fuck is the point?

Poser's avatar

To carry your analogy further, I don’t use my big dick because every candidate I’ve ever seen is HIV positive, politically speaking.

trumi's avatar

Buddy, in national politics it is a two party system. It sucks, but you’ve got to deal with it. Pick the better of two evils or don’t, just don’t complain that it sucks without doing anything about it.

Three reasons people don’t vote: Ignorance, Apathy, and Disgust. Ignorance is ignorance, ‘nuff said. Apathy, when it comes to war, civil rights, health care, and so on, is just ignorance. And disgust? We all get disgusted with the way the government works. Politics sucks, politicians suck, lobbyists suck. So what do you do about it? Well, you can ignore it, you can gripe about it, or you can do your best to change it.

Vote for change. Barack Obama for president, 2008.

Or vote for Bob Barr and pray to the gods.

Poser's avatar

Perhaps this is another question, but since you brought it up, what has Obama done in his career to bring about change in the system?

Poser's avatar

And, as the late, great George Carlin said, don’t complain if you do vote—you’re merely contributing to the system.

tinyfaery's avatar

Its a right as well as a responsibility. Its a right because England gave the US no voting rights, so it was written into the constitution. Blacks and women had to fight for their right to vote.

Its a responsibility because we live in a democracy; theoretically, the people have ultimate control of the government. You vote to make the country what you want it to be. Whether that comes to fruition is another story all together.

cyrusbond's avatar

Both. Simple as that.

ebenezer's avatar

there are a lot more issues to vote for than the presidential election. Local stuff. Senators. Mayors. School officials. Some taxes, Etc. They probably add up to a difference. if you care. Words…

skfinkel's avatar

Vote. It’s your right, responsibility, and obligation. You do it not just for yourself, but for your grandchildren. And if you really don’t like who’s running, get in there and be a candidate yourself.

psyla's avatar

Voting is a crime and the punishment is Jury Duty. If you vote, your name goes on the list of Jury Duty Victims. Keep on voting and you’ll be forcibly taken from your job and your life and forced to deal with criminals. Jury Duty is just like watching the news on TV, only you’re forced to discuss the negative events and you can’t go home. But at least they pay you five dollars a day.

psyla's avatar

McCain said he will bring back the Draft.

tinyfaery's avatar

Huh. I’m in my mid 30s and I have not once been summoned for jury duty. I do however think there is a connection between receiving traffic tickets and jury duty. Several people I know were summoned about 3–6 months after receiving a ticket. Coincidence?

I do see how registering to vote could also be connected. Damn worldwide conspiracy. ;)

psyla's avatar

Factually, the roster for Jury Duty comes from 3 places; the list of registered voters, the list of homeowners, and the list of Drivers Licenses. I can see punishing drivers & homeowners with Jury Duty to make them pay for their enjoyment of their car & house, but leave voters out of it. Voters take time out of their lives to register to vote & to stand in line for a few hours to cast their ballot. They get punished enough with all the wasted time preparing to vote. Why nail them again with Jury Duty after they already put so many hours into voting?

jrpowell's avatar

Congrats psyla… I think you just out stupitted Zack.

Military tribunals would be soooooo much better.

tinyfaery's avatar

Wouldn’t it be stupidded? :)

jonno's avatar

I don’t see what the point of this question is, to be honest.

Voting is a right in countries where it is specified as such (like the United States).
Voting is a responsibility (or to use another word, duty) in countries where it is compulsory (like Australia).

People may call it a “responsibility” where it is merely a right – this just means they feel it is important for everyone to make their opinion on who should be elected. It doesn’t have to be taken literally.

dragonflyfaith's avatar

My mother has had jury duty 3 times in the past ten years and she’s not registered.

In the past I thought that if you didn’t vote, you shouldn’t be able to complain about who wins because you didn’t vote. But I’m changing my mind on that over the years.

I think it’s your right to vote but it’s a responsibility to yourself to be heard.

This brings up a question for me though. What if you don’t like either candidate? Is it better to not vote at all or vote for the one you dislike the least? Is refusing to vote like voting for the person you don’t like?

I’m sorry if I’m rambling or if this is all over the place, I was up with a migraine last night.

jonno's avatar

In some places you can vote for none of the above – this means your disapproval of all the candidates can be distinguished from a person who simply does not show up to vote, or who spoils their ballot paper accidentally.

If there isn’t a “none of the above” option, as long as there is someone on the ballot that you don’t mind as much as the others, I would say it is best to vote for that person. You might as well, seing as someone on that ballot paper has to win.

In Australia, where voting is compulsary (keep in mind, though, that in reality it is only compulsary to show up and get your name marked off), some people may spoil their ballot paper – this is called an informal vote and 3.95% of votes in the last election were of this type. There is no way to tell if it was done in protest of the candidates, or if it is because the person accidentally mucked it up/too lazy to follow the instructions (our voting system is a little bit more complicated than other countries). This is why a none of the above option would be good here.

Poser's avatar

@jonno—thanks for the info. I’d never heard of a NOTA vote before. In my opinion, that is preferable to voting for the “lesser of two evils” as that is still a vote for evil. I asked the question because I grew up in a part of society that views voting as sacred—an almost holy rite of passage. I still remember in school when I first learned about the electoral college, I felt so let down (mostly because no one could give me a reasonable explanation for its existence). Coming from that background, I hesitate to admit to people that I don’t vote, because I often get lectures on how irresponsible I’m being. But I see it a different way.

One of our most valuable political currencies is our vote. I feel like wasting my vote on a candidate I consider the lesser of two evils is as irresponsible as throwing away my hard earned money on a product that I don’t need or like simply because there are no alternatives. Similarly, since our vote is worth so little, it is hardly worth my time to do adequate research on every referendum and candidate that appears on the ballot to make myself an informed voter. That would be like spending days or weeks researching a stock investment when I only have five dollars to invest (and, more often than not, end up investing it in a stock for which I have no faith).

In short, I feel that I’m exercising my rights, and making my voice heard (my own voice—not repeating what the Parties tell me to say) by not voting. Now, however, I think a vote for NOTA might be more appropriate. Just wondering if anyone else thinks this way.

marinelife's avatar

How does not voting change the system you dislike? How does not voting improve the political picture in the U.S. in any way?

That’s sort of like saying, “I don’t believe in cars so I can walk where I want to,” stepping out in the street and getting run over.

Not only that, but you guarantee by not voting that the people you call evil will be free to do whatever they want.

Are you sure that you have carefully examined the platforms of the two candidates, and you see no difference between them? There is not a single issue such as health care, the environment, alternative energy, civil rights that impacts your life that the two candidates’ administrations would handle differently if elected? Because when you elect a President, you elect a cabinet, a chief of staff, all the people that run the huge business that is federal government trickling down through directives to the Civil Service.

In the case of government, the devil is in the details. Just as the Clinton Administration had significantly different policies at that level than the Bush Administration does, so too would an Obama Administration be significantly different than a McCain Administration.

I know that how the Justice Department, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration, just to name three of many examples, conducts their business can have a huge impact on people’s lives in the next four years. I care what that impact is.

That is why I am voting. Does either candidate represent my feelings perfectly or even to a large extent? No, but I have a clear preference when I look at the policy level.

I know that if I vote a certain way and my candidate is elected, I have contributed to the likelihood that the U.S. will not launch any new military initiatives in the next four years. That matters to me. I am happy to take that one step forward. I feel lucky that now I have that chance to change the course, even it is just the smallest bit, toward a better world.

Poser's avatar

@psyla—I think bringing back the draft is one of the best ideas I’ve heard in a long time. The boomers like to believe that in the late 60’s and early 70’s it was the awful images coming out of Vietnam that caused them to congregate and demonstrate in untold numbers, but I believe it was the thought of leaving their comfortable lives to fight a war on the other side of the world. People (especially young people) just aren’t that altruistic. We’re selfish creatures, and it took the threat of personally going to war to rally the hippies to the anti-war cause. I believe the young people of today need something like that to wake them up to the reality of how they’re being fucked by their parents’ generation.

marinelife's avatar

@Poser I disagree about the motivation of anti-war protestors during Vietnam. I think what the draft did was make the parents of those comfortable middle-class kids want to stop the war. What also turned the tide was that it was the first war that came into our living rooms.

Poser's avatar

@Marina—Yes, but it wasn’t the parents burning their kids’ draft cards in protest. Remember, their parents fought the “War to End All Wars.”

marinelife's avatar

@Poser The youth led the way. I was there. I do not think most of us at that time were chicken. We believed the war was unjust, unfocused, and being pursued for the wrong reasons.

My point was, the youth of the time did not have the power to turn the tide. Once the horrible images came into people’s living rooms, and the draft meant that other than the poor and uneducated were having to go and die, mainstream Americans (older Americans) became disenchanted with the war and had the clout to push for an ending.

Poser's avatar

@Marina—Perhaps that is what is happening today (albeit on a much smaller scale) with the disapproval of the Bush administration.

I still think it would take something like a draft to get my generation riled up enough to make any changes.

marinelife's avatar

@Poser You know I would not be opposed to a draft now, exactly because I think people who are apathetic about the men and women dying and being maimed now would begin to sit up and take more notice.

Poser's avatar

@Marina—We agree on this point. To answer your earlier post, however, I have to ask how significantly different this country was when Clinton took office. Or Bush senior. While each administration may have somewhat different policies on many issues, the effects are not that much different. We went to war under Bush Sr. We went to war under Clinton. We went to war under Reagan. And if Obama pulls us immediately out of Iraq, I’ll bet that sometime within his first term, we’ll be at war again.

I just don’t see that voting for any mainstream candidate is a contribution to a significant change in the way things are done. The economy fluctuates, and presidents have some effect on it. But regardless of who is elected, they won’t deal with the problem of social security, they won’t deal with the problem of medicare, they won’t deal with the problem of a baby boom generation approaching retirement age. They’ll simply continue to pass the buck, loading those problems onto the backs of mine and my children’s generations. The two parties are shortsighted and concerned only with the status of their power today. And I don’t want to contribute to that.

marinelife's avatar

I think you have valid points in your second paragraph. I just think not voting does not help solve those problems.

trumi's avatar

As I said man, vote third party. Its a waste of a vote and it wont change anything you are complaining about, but at least you’ll feel that you are doing your part.

jonno's avatar

@trumigoodboy, this is why preferential voting (instant-runoff voting) is better. You can give minor-party/independent candidates your first preferences while still being able to show your preference of major-party candidates – this means that voting for a minor candidate is not a wasted vote. The more people who give their first preferences to minor candidates, the better the system works.

trumi's avatar

@jonno; I would love to use that system. It sounds wonderful.

The party system keeps people from learning about their local candidates, and even the presidential candidates. People just look for a D or R, or they memorize who is a D or R. But, since this system isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, IRV or possibly a third election (battle of the titans style?) would certainly get my approval. I really don’t understand why the government pays for the primaries in the first place.

But at the moment I live in Ohio, so I can’t vote 1. Gravel 2. Obama 3. Edwards

Nice idea though.

marinelife's avatar

@trumigoodboy Who are these “people” you refer to? I don’t look at races or candidates that way, and I know many other people who do not vote straight party line either.

Poser's avatar

@Marina—Perhaps not voting doesn’t help solve the problems I mentioned, but it certainly prevents contributing to them.

trumi's avatar

@Marina; I mean the people that care only about the issues they see in the news, and vote accordingly. I don’t think it is the majority of Americans, but I think it happens more often than we want. Take a poll and see how many people you run into know their county commissioners or school board members.

It is not ignorance I’m worrying about, its lack of interest. “I would research every candidate, I just don’t have the time.” Also, I know at least a handful of people that vote only for Presidents and senators, and skip right over Issue 2.

Strauss's avatar

In the US voting is a civil right, but by the same token anyone who chooses may decline to vote. I have a neighbor who declines to vote in every election, because he thinks his vote does not matter. (Self-fulfilling prophecy?)

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