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Ask HN: Do you vote?
20 points by chishaku on Oct 9, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 52 comments
Why or why not?

Yes. If I didn't vote, what incentive whatsoever would my representatives have to act in my interest? I may not have a statistically significant impact on the outcome, but neither do any of the other tens of millions of people who vote. Even if an individual vote isn't statistically significant, the aggregate of them is, and because non-voters are self-selecting we can't count on those who vote enthusiastically to be a representative sample of the opinions of the populace. Each person who makes the decision that their vote doesn't matter helps our country slide away from government by the people and towards government by corporations.

Living in a part of the US that skews VERY heavily towards one party, I especially vote in primary elections, which are where it's actually determined which congresscritter or senator we'll be sending to Washington or the state capital. And yes, I will absolutely vote my heart rather than strategically in a primary. "Electable" too often isn't.

And I make sure to vote in off-year state and local elections too because those actually have more impact on my daily quality of life in the short-term than national ones do. (Whereas national elections have more impact on the long-term direction of the country, especially when there are Supreme Court vacancies likely).

My state allows a candidate to run for office on multiple parties' slates, and will aggregate those votes for the candidate. I dislike one party much more than the other, but there are third-parties far closer to my actual positions. I'll often vote for a major-party candidate on a third-party slate, which both helps ensure that the third party remains on the ballot for the next election cycle and hopefully helps send a message to the major party in question.

(Edited for typos.)

"Living in a part of the US that skews VERY heavily towards one party, I especially vote in primary elections, which are where it's actually determined which congresscritter or senator we'll be sending to Washington or the state capital."

This is exactly the case in NYC, which is heavily Democratic: the winner of the Democratic primary is the most likely winner of the general election (where they sometimes even run unopposed). In the recent primary in my district, the vote for City Council member was won by a margin of a few hundred votes, since the voter turnouts for primaries are pretty sparse compared with the general election. One person's vote really makes a difference in this situation.

You mean, a few hundred people's votes really make a difference in this situation.

Voting has a bit of a free-rider problem. To a first approximation, one vote never makes a difference; but an attitude that voting doesn't make a difference (especially when unevenly distributed) definitely makes a difference.

Yes, I usually vote and I've even run for public office before ( Lieutenant Governor of North Carolina, 2008, as the Libertarian candidate. I wasn't elected).

That said, I am somewhat ambivalent about voting and democracy. I think democracy is basically just a euphemism for "mob rule" and find that whatever systems you put in to try and prevent the "tyranny of the majority" never really work. And if you're on the losing end in a "democratic" system, are you really "represented"? I argue that the answer is "no". I don't hold Richard Burr, David Price, or Thom Tillis as representing me in any way. I certainly didn't vote for any of them, and would't if you paid me to.

Basically I'm a voluntaryist / anarcho-capitalist / market anarchist / whatever-term-you-prefer, who wants to eliminate most of "government" as we know it today. Note that does not mean I'm in favor of chaos or opposed to communal action (this is something critics of libertarian thought often get wrong.. seemingly intentionally at times). I just want voluntary exchange and self-government to be the fundamental basis for society, with use of force/violence reserved for self-defense.

I agree. I'm libertarian with a lower case "l" and not too big on democracy. I don't want my town voting on the best way to do heart surgery for me. Why do I want the masses voting on other issues that are equally important. The U.S. is so divided right now, it seems like we could stop it all by returning to more local, or at least, state governments being in charge of most things. No need to enforce rules on a gigantic number of people who are all so different.

No. Looks like only people who do feel like commenting here. I guess people who don't, like me, might just not care about it. Kinda like asking people who don't believe in God why they don't.

Yes, I might not think I'd make a difference, I don't have anybody to vote for, I don't think parliament members make much of a difference, I'm not crazy about democracy etc etc. But in the end I guess I just don't care.

If there was a special party or person that I'd really believe to be a game changer, I might. If I was American I would perhaps vote next year depending on who gets the Republican nomination.


I used to be an organizer for the Green Party so I am capable of very cynical views of the electoral system but also going door to door to get signatures, running candidates, etc.

In local races, even up to the state legislature level, I often know the people involved personally. I've had friends and acquaintances run for local offices as Greens, Democrats and Republicans. I even meet a congressional candidate from time to time.

For the presidential election next year the immediate thing on my mind is that I don't want to see a Hillary Clinton - Jeb Bush matchup because as much as the "Anderson-Horowitz politics" people on HN would find that easy to swallow, it would set a very bad precedent for our country.

> I used to be an organizer for the Green Party so I am capable of very cynical views of the electoral system


I always vote 3rd party when available, because I know they won't win. It's a "none of the above" vote, where "above" means dems and reps.

For me it really depends.

If I actually like a mainstream candidate I will vote for them. Personally if I was in a "swing state" I might be more inclined to vote for a mainstream candidate but I am in the kind of state Hillary Clinton would go to get herself a solidly democratic constituency so most of the time I vote for whoever I want.

> I always vote 3rd party when available, because I know they won't win. It's a "none of the above" vote, where "above" means dems and reps.

This quote must feel like a punch in the gut to anyone who believes in that 3'rd party you voted for. They thought "look, we didn't win, but at least X number of people agree with us, we'll do better next time". They don't realize you haven't even looked at what they stood for, and it wasn't even a pity vote, it was a throwaway because you didn't feel like writing in Micky Mouse.

Yes. If I don't vote, I have no right to bitch about whatever scumbag takes over a given office for the next term.

Also, I might be naive enough to think that if I vote despite my cynicism and outspokenness against the shit politicians pull, maybe - just maybe - I might inspire just one other person to vote. And if I manage to do that, maybe they'll inspire someone else and eventually people will start engaging with politics again, instead of just handing the reins over to the people that stand to gain the most from voter disenfranchisement.

> Yes. If I don't vote, I have no right to bitch about whatever scumbag takes over a given office for the next term.

Please. When our choices are a turd sandwich and a douchebag, we absolutely have the right to complain.

“Whether it is exerted by ten men or ten billion, political authority is force … the power of the Rods and the Ax” - Robert Heinlein, Starship Troopers

Wow, somebody on HN is taking Heinlein very seriously :) .

OP - really good words! Tempted to print the whole passage and hang in the office :) .

> Yes. If I don't vote, I have no right to bitch about whatever scumbag takes over a given office for the next term.

That's actually the opposite.

By voting, you agree to the rules of the system. If you truly believe in democracy, then you should be more than happy to see the one getting the most votes win the elections. That's pretty much how the thing works.

Any person who votes and then complains about the results is an hypocrite.

"Bitching about whatever scumbag takes over a given office for the next term" is pretty much like complaining about losing the lottery. It's not very reasonable.

It's not as if by not voting you're somehow going against they system, as "the system" (assuming we're talking about the US) does not require voting. It is not an act of rebellion or protest. It's simply inaction. It is quite literally the least you can do.

If you vote you are accepting and endorsing the system.

If you don't vote, and it's an active choice you've made, you're rejecting the system. That's a valid choice.

(Having said that I vote in English local and national elections).

No. I've never voted, not once.

I do not believe I live in a democracy, even though that's what we're calling it. I believe that by voting I'm validating a broken system.

Who are all these people making calls about everything and setting rules, while knowing relatively little on the subject matter? I personally think a democracy would be every eligable person being able to contribute to the decision of (ie. voting on) these calls, rather than simply picking the 'guy' who makes them. Let the experts in their fields have a say. I don't know what such a system would look like - but only if something like that were in place would I call it a democracy. What we have right now is the illusion of a democracy. I'm not interested in voting, but I am interested in fixing this mess.

Back down to earth.. I think the barrier to entry for understanding current politics is unrealistically high: in order for me to make a call on a party I need to know quite a lot of things about each. There is no 'official source', which forces me to google, which forces me to read some third party source, whether it's a news site or some blog. Either way it's more often than not a very biased opinion that does not weigh all sides equally, and I can never form a complete picture. Too much time is required to contribute for what I would gain from it, and I have better things to do. Is anybody aware of an aggregator or a summary site of all political parties views? Can I look up a party's stance on something and cross reference what the other parties stances are on the same subject?

Honestly, if you don't have time to form an opinion for what each party (or at least main parties) stand for, then how will you have time to vote on each individual issue? According to this website: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/statistics there have been over 10 thousands things those people have input one per year. (sounds insane to me as well)

You don't want to micromanage each little decision, and you can certainly make phone calls and show up in person to talk to some people in government to discuss things you do care about.

You're right of course, I definitely do not want to do that. But I know I would vote individually on the issues that I care about.

For example, if everybody had a say, SOPA wouldn't have gotten as far as it did. I would have voted it out, as would everybody else. But instead we had to sign a petition once it was nearly through. We could all be pro-active about... well, everything! But instead, we're kept on our toes being reactive to it all. (opt in not out, people!!! This ideal should exist everywhere but instead it's nowhere to be found).

If everybody did that, I believe that each of us would have more of an effect on the country than electing somebody who is never going to agree 100% with my beliefs, but is the best fit. That's insane! There will always be compromise. In England, a party can promise to change x and y if you vote for them, but once they finally come to power they might go back on their promise. Okay, so what did I vote for then? Nothing. And there's no accountability. This system is thoroughly broken and I refuse to acknowledge it by 'playing along'. And the worst thing about this is that nobody seems to notice, or care that picking the best out of a bad bunch is how we should make our country work.

Vote Waldo.


I refuse to support a system that legitimates the voice of the majority. There is little to no correlation between what the majority has been led to believe is right, and what is actually right.

That said, I could see myself voting for a party that (intentionally or not) would reveal the ridicule of democracy, a party that undisputedly wouldn't be fit to rule the country.

I have voted in most elections I have been eligible for. Many people say they don't think their vote matters, but we were just a few votes away from avoiding the whole Iraq war mess[0].

The times I feel I have had much more impact though is when I wrote letters to my elected officials. If you have an issue you really care about then write to your representatives in the weeks leading up to a vote. I have always gotten a reasonable response when I sent a personalized (not form letter) note, and in at least one case I think I really helped make a difference in how they voted.


Really? I have sent a number of letters to elected officials - I've only ever gotten what appears to a form letter back. Glad you've had a different experience.

I always pray for a blizzard on election day. When there's bad weather, a lot of the low-information types who are only voting because they want the "I voted!" sticker, will stay home. At least that's my theory.

Last presidential election, I voted Ron Paul in the Republican primary, then didn't vote in the general. If there's someone I like, I'll make the effort to get registered and mail in my vote. Otherwise, it's not worth the effort of figuring out what paperwork I have to send, and to whom. Having said that, after my state elected the governor I didn't like by a narrow margin, I felt a little guilty not voting. But, the truth is the democrats' strategy of funding a libertarian candidate to hurt the Republican would've worked on me too, so it wouldn't have made a difference.

I also don't think I should have the right to vote, as a pretty young person with minimal skin in the game. The risk is too great that I'd seek just to support the candidate who offers me the policies most beneficial to me, rather than acting as a steward, so it seems like I should be left out.

My non-vote is noticed just as little as my vote for any candidate in a presidential election, so I don't care too much, nor do I feel a need to make a principled stand that will go unnoticed. I'd vote in lesser elections like US Rep, but my congressman is pretty well set for every election. He's been the Rep for my district longer than I've been alive, and I think he mostly does a good job. He's the house sponsor for the bill that required carriers to unlock phones, which I think has been fantastic for me, but in a freedom-increasing, rather than pandering, sort of way.

No. My political views are extreme enough to not be represented by any candidate. My non-participation decreases the legitimacy of the current system, which I want to fail.

Why do you want the current system to fail? What do you prefer in its place? How likely do you think it is that, if the current system fails, it will be replaced by something you view as better?

Concentration of power in the hands of a single social class. Decentralized, direct democracy. Not very likely, but I see myself benefiting from the disruption.

Yes, though in the past 10-15 years I've become increasingly jaded to the point where I really wonder if it's worth it, at least at the state and national level.

Yes. I believe it to be a civic privilege and duty. My mother comes from a country where (for her gender and religion) her civil freedoms were severely restricted and I think it is important to engage in the process even if you don't like the options. I believe a void vote is better than no vote at all and I think real engagement to change the system is the best (although a difficult) solution to the "no one represents me" argument.

Yes, because I believe the economy can be a more "fair" place, and that everyone should have a minimum quality of life (voting for Bernie Sanders in 2016).

I have only voted twice.

Why: I have a serious medical condition which limits how much I can take on. I spent a lot of years as a military wife and devoted mother, raising two special needs sons. This was just a helluva lot of work, more than most people seem to appreciate. Trying to stay up on The Issues was just not something I could manage. My plate was overly full as is. I saw no reason to vote if my choices were not based on some kind of meaningful information or opinion.

From what I gather, you see higher rates of voting and political activity in older people, precisely because their plate is less full (with launching a career, finding romance, raising kids, etc). It is possible that as I get older and my life works better, I may someday feel able to effectively participate in the process. I haven't made any decisions one way or the other. It wasn't a Stance. It was happenstance.

Yes. Because I think it's my responsibility. But I am against legally mandated voting.

Nope. Not legally allowed to vote in my birth country, since I've been away too long, and not legally allowed to vote in the country I currently live in, since I'm not a citizen.

I have to admit I don't see much point voting on a state, congressional, or federal level when living in areas that are completely skewed in favor of a single political party. Were I able to vote, perhaps I'd vote in the primaries.

It doesn't bother me too much - when I really care about an issue, which isn't that often, I call a politician's office or two and donate something to an appropriate PAC. That's probably more effective than voting directly.

Yes, Ivote. Usually for the candidate of the party which, in general, believes as I do. If I don't vote, I am conceeding control to persons that believe the opposite of what I believe. All candidates have weak points, but some are deffently opposed to my main positions and toughts. If the current polls prove to be correct, the up coming election for President will have two poor major candidates, but the party platforms will be very different. I can support the one.

Yes, but I rarely get any pleasure from it. If I want to feel like an active participant in a democracy it typically takes a bit more than that.

Going to city council meetings, canvassing for candidates, collecting signatures for propositions, etc...those all feel a bit more impactful than voting...but I feel like a hypocrite doing any of those things if I myself don't actually vote...so I vote too.


I devote about 5 or so percent of my free time to civics. This means learning about my local options, who actually can impact my life in notable and significant ways, as well as just being active. Being active means doing advocacy actions, the occasional trip to the State capitol, phone banking, GOTV efforts of various kinds, etc...

I sure wish I knew how to convince more 20 somethings to vote.

I believe that democracy does not scale beyond roughly several hundred voters of roughly equal expertise and ability. I decide whether or not to vote accordingly, which means saying no to local and national elections.

That said, I vote on Hacker News stories. Could HN be an example of a moderated democracy (constitutional monarchy?) working well on a larger scale?

Long time ago, when I was young and stupid I've mastered in politcal sciense. So, now (when I'm only stupid), let me tell you this - question do you vote or not is pointless. Only when you ask for motives right after makes any sense. Because those two questions can show who you are and what your politicals class is.

There is quite pleasant theory about what political systems are. It state that you can represent all political systems as segment, on which both ends are dictatorship and democracy. But, this theory also states that those two systems are unachievable in our world, they are like asymptotes - all political systems tends towards them, but never actually get there. If you take a look at democracy - even Greek democracy weren't this perfect one - yeah, everybody could vote. Except for a women, those who hasn't finished their army service, those who haven't got status of a citizen and those who were slaves.

Having this in mind, I personaly always go to elections and always vote. Sometimes - in local elections - I know who had done something for my district or city, and this gives me clear options. This man did this and that, he seems fair and honest, he claims he can do few things better - yup, I'll give him my vote so he can try his best. Other times - especially when it comes to parliment or presiden elections I go to election but I don't have clear options. I don't know those people and to be truly honest - most of them has been on political scene for far to long - so I don't vote for them who have the biggest election budgets. And it happened twice to this day - I made invalid votes on purpose. Here, in Poland, we can't add our option to the vote card. There were two cases where none of candidates on my voting card weren't good enough to have my voice, so I write my types down which made my voice invalid.

What does the first paragraph have to do with the second? I choose people who will drag our political system towards this version of political system which is nearest my opinions and preference.

And to all people who say that qoing to election won't change antyhing - yes, it will. But it require some maturity and effort. It require to make a choice and quite possibly to regret given voice. And then it require consideration - "who I'll vote for if my previous choice was bad?". In some sense it's quite biblical - be hot or be cold, not lukewarm. But... this would mean handling the consequences of our choice, and we humans don't like to do that...

No, because I see no parties any more. Because there are no philosophies, no ideologies any more. There are only group of people who put up an appearance of separate parties to engage in the farce called election. After it is over, they go back to the ruling/opposing party drama, while collaborating and robbing people at the back.

I used to but after waking up I made a principled decision to abstain from what is just another tax on my time. (Best case: trading time for the illusion of voice.) I would consider voting for a moral statement candidate like Ron Paul but sadly guys like that seem to be a once-in-200-years phenomenon.

Yes. Local, state, federal...may not always like my choices, but they are all I have until I actually run.

Subquestion, for those in the US who show up at the polling place on election day: Do you educate yourself about local positions and vote there as well (or only?)? Or do you limit yourself to voting for those on the national stage (who, of course, get more press)?

I think voting should be obvious and a much better question would be: do you vote the candidate you really want or the least bad of the candidates that could actually be elected? (In parliamentary democracies with many parties).

I do, it's a very small expenditure of time and effort even if the probability of my vote making a difference is very small considering we live in a two party system with... conveniently... set electoral boundaries.

No. There is no difference between voting/not, bush/obama, this/that in my day to day life. If I thought a politician would make meaningful changes, I'd vote for him or her.

Voted: 'None of the above'

This was an option that was successfully won for many years over (sometimes concurrently, sometimes not) for the Student Union at my first university, Imperial College London.

Yes. But if the choice is Trump vs. Hillary, I'm going to sit that particular race out, because I could not in good conscience vote for either candidate.

There will always be at least one third-party candidate on the ballot, even if they've got zero chance of winning. By voting for that candidate you signal that you're a voter who WILL go to the polls and whom candidates should put in some effort to court, while still indicating with your fringe candidate vote that you are unwilling to support either major party candidate.

No. Not registered here. That's probably partly why I am now represented by a separatist party both locally, "stately", and federally.

Oh. You meant in real elections. I thought on here.

No - too lazy.

yes i do vote

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