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Half of Americans Don’t Vote. What Are They Thinking? (politico.com)
45 points by ablekh 34 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 113 comments

Discussion on the fact that over half of the population doesn't vote is always built upon a number of assumptions. To name a few:

- a democratic system in which everyone is "required" to participate in the political process is desirable state of affairs

- the voting process is the best way of choosing these democratic representatives, as opposed to a civil servant exam, selection by lot (randomness, like jury duty), or some other type of system. Personally I like the idea of combining the two: pass an exam to be placed into a "potentials" pool, from which representatives are selected randomly. Then have a background check after that, etc.

- That the best solution is to figure out why people aren't voting and change their mind, and not to develop a different method of selecting government officials

It would be much more interesting (to me, at least) to explore other forms of government that maintain the benefits of civil liberties, open society, etc. without relying on the flawed media popularity contest that is voting. There is plenty of political and philosophical writing on this - we simply need to be willing to try it out.

Are you aware of the historical abuse of “literacy requirements”[1] for voting? It’s hard to understand how your proposed system would not have similar problems; whoever has control of the test effectively has complete power over who can become an elected official.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Literacy_test

This is not the same thing as I am proposing. These were restrictions on voters, not on elected officials. There have always been some restrictions on elected officials (age, for example) and I think it’s obvious that you’d want competent literate people in positions.

As to your second point - there could certainly be ways to address that. But the exam is a minor filter - the real selection would be via randomness, as I mentioned. If anything, the test makers would have less control over the officials than our current lobbyist system.

You're not proposing the same system, but the system you're proposing has same problem.

Step 1: Make the test extremely difficult so essentially nobody passes.

Step 2: Allow a de facto exemption for some group based on an arbitrary qualification you can control (e.g. automatic pass to those deemed to have "good community standing.")

Step 3: One of your pre-chosen candidates wins the random selection since they make up the entire candidate pool.

Of course if you just arbitrarily add rules, the idea will collapse. I don’t see how that is relevant. The basic concept I am proposing is that representatives are not selected via voting (which is deeply flawed and ineffective) but via a more fair and effective system. Ideally this would be both random and meritocratic.

You’d simply design the system in a way in which the test is chosen by the population and/or by an entity separate from the representatives. At worst, you’d get the current three-part division of power system which most democratic countries are based on.

Your problem is you can't define meritocratic in a way that everyone will agree with (if they don't agree and you try to impose this outside the democratic process anyway, they will attack you and imprison you).

Indeed the very first objection you got was "literacy tests are racist". If you read the wiki page for it you'll see that the argument is not about whether they actually tested literacy or not (after the initial phase when "good moral character" exemptions disappeared), but rather whether it was legitimate to exclude new waves of immigrants who didn't speak good English at all (Italians, Russians ...).

Whether to even check the ID of voters in a rigorous way is opposed on similar grounds. If you can't check the ID of voters you certainly can't check their ID when they apply to become bureaucrats, and if you can't even answer "who is this applicant" then how can you answer more sophisticated questions about them?

> Your problem is you can't define meritocratic in a way that everyone will agree with

Of course you can't. One man's merit is another man's vice. The very notion of a meritocracy is literally a sarcastic joke [1].

But the problem is even worse than that. EVEN IF if you could define a universally agreeable "meritocratic" system, you would still have the problem that people with power would abuse the system to lock out others.

Suppose 100% "meritocratic" people were selected at random. They then immediately change the rules. Now 99.99% of people disagree with the legal definition of "meritocratic". But tough shit, cause this ain't a democracy, and the other 00.01% of people have all the power.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meritocracy#Etymology

It's not a joke, but it is relative (like most conceptual words). A vote decides on the definition of merit in the least relative way possible: by letting everyone contribute to the definition. A definition of merit decided by the heads of a bureaucracy is extremely relative - to whatever those few people think they want.

What is considered “merit-worthy” is defined by the society implementing it. There is no such thing as objective universal merit across time and culture.

I don’t see why this is controversial. It’s no different than “fair” or “justified” or innumerable other values that a society has to work out a definition for.

> What is considered “merit-worthy” is defined by the society implementing it. There is no such thing as objective universal merit across time and culture.

I think the point of the comment you're responding to is that it's not defined by the society implementing it, but by those in power. So whether the idea of 'merit' changes across time and culture might be true, but is beside the point.

> There have always been some restrictions on elected officials (age, for example) and I think it’s obvious that you’d want competent literate people in positions.

Things like this happen sometimes:


It depends on who it's desirable to. You can see this electoral system manipulation quite a bit in Singapore. They introduced mandatory voting to help the PAP win an election. Their system of group constituencies was introduced to stop competing parties from focusing on one race, or to make it harder for them to get their foot in the door, depending on who you ask. The system of presidential elections, and the requirements to be a presidential candidate (which includes things like having been in charge of a big organization), was designed to limit the damage if some opposition party wins an election. Not to mention all the restrictions on speech...

“a democratic system in which everyone is "required" to participate in the political process is desirable state of affairs”

Citizens of a democratic nation have one job to do.

If they’re not doing it, the question must be Why?

Apathy, or they find more value in spending their attention and time doing something else, a feeling like their vote won't change a thing, or straight up laziness.

I don't actually think it's important why someone doesn't vote, so long as their right to vote isn't impeded. I have a theory that society, like many other systems, tends to take on more stable forms over time. Part of the reason democracy has been so stable is that it allows people, who would otherwise be unhappy and want to change things, a chance to have a say. Non-voters are already a "stable" part of society, since they apparently don't have strong enough feelings to go vote for something different. I don't see a problem with that.

I expect that a substantial number of nonvoters suffer from learned helplessness.

> Citizens of a democratic nation have one job to do.

And they are doing their job. Voting was never a job.

Because expecting everyone to vote without incentive is stupid. Voting is NOT a job, by definition. You aren't paid for it. The common argument here is that the incentive to vote is to "take control of your future", or some similar marketing schlock. There must be a reason so many people feel that voting does not give them control of their future! I submit that the electoral process has become so flawed and gamed, that the average person has NO control.

>Citizens of a democratic nation have one job to do.

This seems circular, and makes it sound like citizens exist to serve the government rather than the other way around.

Optimally it should be a mutually beneficial relationship.

The idea that a government could benefit sounds weird to me. I think of benefiting as requiring a subjective personal experience.

When you fix your car, does your car benefit? When you remodel your house, does your house benefit?

In my mind, government functions, and ideally it functions in service of the people.

There is absolutely no way to prepare such an exam without (justified) accusations of bias.

In theory, different parties could put forward different proposed exams before an election, and then citizens could vote on which exam would be used to filter the candidates. (There would probably have to be a "null exam" option on the ballot, to allow people to oppose the use of this filter, and perhaps all non-voters should be counted as having voted for that option).

Arguably, though, this process would just move the problem of voter apathy back a step, unless there is some reason to expect that voting for exams is more motivating (or more reasonable to make mandatory) than voting for candidates. Also, it's not clear that the exam would be testing anything other than candidates' memory, as presumably the correct answers would have to be published in advance for the citizens to check.

Possibly true, but we also haven’t really attempted it on a society-wide scale. Clearly some government agencies are capable of creating fair tests (NASA, for example.)

In any case, the question isn’t whether an exam would be perfect, but whether it would be better than voting. There are certainly plenty of biases involved in the voting process: appearance, public speaking ability, etc. These biases might already be greater than any which arise from an exam.

What you propose would require a constitutional congress and a rewriting of the constitution. That's why we're not trying out things like this. In the current political atmosphere, calling a constitutional congress would be suicide for our nation. I cannot see anything positive coming out of it or any type of government that isn't authoritarian and dictatorial. The reality is that we don't have a choice and fantasizing about alternative power structures instead of voting does no one any good. Of course, if you feel strongly about this, we're only a couple of states away from calling a constitutional congress and the national suicide and likely civil war that would usher in. But you have the right to work towards that and legally bring about the demise of the US. I will certainly not stick around for that shitshow.

This is silly. Suggesting a change to the way democratic representatives are selected is not tantamount to wishing for civil war.

I remind you that “democratic system” is not the same thing as “voting system.”

Maybe so but what the parent comment is suggesting is that we do not have a democratic process. Maybe it's possible to do this as just a constitutional amendment instead of a constitutional convention. I think that's even less likely to succeed.

I think it would have to start as a smaller movement on the local level, which (assuming it had positive outcomes) would eventually grow into a nationwide idea.

My wife, who recently became an American, asked me what she should fill for her voter registration forms. My response was, "Living in the SF bay area, Your opinion would count only if you vote for the Democratic party primaries. The general elections don't matter".

I am happy to be proven wrong but sadly I think this is the state of affairs now.

For the presidential election in California? Yeah, really only the primary matters, and only for the two major parties, and only one of them has a real field of candidates this year.

For other offices, many of these are highly contested, and the top two primary system makes primary voting more important than it used to be; especially since there are fewer voters, your vote has more weight.

For all of measures and propositions, many of those are highly contested, and you should vote on those. Especially in California, where anything enacted by voters cannot be changed except by voters, unless its found unconstitutional by the courts. (Washington state legislators are apparentlty sometimes able to modify or repeal voter passed measures; other states may vary)

You're getting downvoted, but I think it'd be quite interesting to know how many people don't bother just because they are registered where (in a federal election) it's basically a foregone conclusion.

I live abroad but as my last residence was Texas, that's where my vote winds up counting (federal elections only) and it's a serious pain:

- my ballot has to mailed back

- I'm actually given multiple mailing addresses (it's unclear which I should actually use)

- I live in a country without a traditional postal service and thus have to hand deliver my ballot to the the embassy or use an expensive private courier service (UPS, FedEx, etc.)

- I have no way to know if my ballot was actually counted (did I fill some field out wrong, not print the "security envelope" right, use the wrong number of envelopes, etc. - the instructions are very unclear)

And in the end ... well, Texas is pretty much a foregone conclusion anyway. It's discouraging, to say the least.

That could very well change if enough states enter the https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Popular_Vote_Intersta...

There's a CGP Grey video about it too.


Why do you think your vote doesnt matter?

There is barely any attention paid in this article to things like the fact that if you are in certain demographic segments you are very likely to be juggling several part-time jobs that schedule at the last minute, and have to deal with getting to the polls on a day that is not a mandatory holiday. Or with the way these demographics tend to be underserved by polling locations, and targeted by “vote fraud prevention” measures deliberately designed to disenfranchise them. There are a couple sentences that vaguely glance in this direction when it discusses that there can be a lot of bureaucracy around registering.

Also not mentioned: prisoners and ex-cons are largely denied the right to vote. Florida lifting that on ex-cons should be interesting.

Prisoners, yes, but ex-cons largely do get back their right to vote. A lot of states have changed these laws in the past couple decades.

41 states do not permanently disenfranchise people for convictions. 6 states permanently disenfranchise some convicts (only for certain crimes or repeat offenders), and only 3 states disenfranchise all felony convicts.


Oh thanks, I am glad to be wrong about that one!

Also not mentioned: prisoners and ex-cons are largely denied the right to vote. Florida lifting that on ex-cons should be interesting.

Actually in most states they can vote. Florida is an important exception, but an exception still.

To be clear: I am only stating this so anyone curious can know why people like me don't vote. I am not pushing any agenda.

I don't vote on purpose, I see that as a vote against the typical choices given,none of which I can reconcile with my views in any of the important topics. Not stating a political opinion,just telling you what I am thinking when I don't vote. I have no plan on being in politics. I know better than to think a dual party system is significantly different than a single party system. I also believe the freedom and liberties of the west are mostly a result of a strong military and abundance of resources. Right now there are so many messed up things, I cannot vote for one thing and accept a lesser evil,not only because I believe you should never accept evil of any magnitude but also because the evils of either side are too extreme for me to be involved with. I don't mind paying taxes, contributing to society and trying to be come a better social person but the duopoly of US politics is a system I must vote against by not voting at all. I don't care which bad guy wins.

I do think that the big parties should be broken up so that people actually have a voice. I like how parliamentary systems form a coalition of different parties to form a government. No confidence votes against the PM and it's never some guy running for office to rescue the country like in the US. It shouldn't be about any single person. I have no hope of any of this happening. I see the US swinginf from one extreme to the other tearing itself apart to the delight of its foes, why should I help destroy the one country keeping the balance of power in the world , so that wars break out and millions die? Will no one listen to history's plea?

That's my perspective at least, I am sure others have their reason. But to a lesser degree at least, I think many just don't agree with the choices so they choose "none of the above". Look at any site with political leanings, centrists are mocked and hated by everyone. It's not so much the government system but the people themselves that can't grapple with magnitudes of the extreme sides they are taking.

This is a fine opinion, but I don't think it should prevent you from returning a ballot. If more people with your opinion return ballots with no selections made (or maybe some downballot selections made, but none for the top offices), the difference between turnout and votes for the top office will become noticable, and your dissatisfaction will be noticed.

Otherwise, it looks the same as 'everyone else is doing a fine job voting, my input isn't needed'

Voting 3rd party has vastly more impact than obtaining. A great deal of effort by both parties is spent to get poeple to stay home on Election Day, and not voting just tells them it’s working.

In an ideal world you're right. In reality, unless you are in a swing state and very active in politics 3rd party vote means nothing, I would vote just for the sake of it but there needs to be a moderate 3rd party to start with.

I have noticed a division of two means us vs them. A division of more than two is us vs us (we need to work together not apart since no one can have a super majority)

Modern Whigs are very centrist, though it’s really more extreme parties that pull the Republicans and Democrats apart. Without that pull the parties then to adopt the vast majority of viewpoints excluding a few token issues.

A friend of my mine often votes 3rd party as an effort of trying to drive the major parties towards his preferred viewpoint. He might be able to get a candidate he likes if the party sees there are votes to be courted that aren't too far off the mainline

Voting none of the above encourages alternatives. Not voting is seen as apathy. We need to break this broken two party system on a state by state basis. I hope californias future 10% tax ubi includes a voting component. Also tbe ability to vote for two candidates but not a third would also be useful.

Most jurisdictions count spoiled ballots. Doing this is a much clearer signal of your opinion than not voting.

I respect your opinion but I highly dislike the "not voting for the lesser evil" logic. Every candidate no matter what is a "lesser evil" because no candidate can be perfect.

It's not about an expectation of perfection. I (and I assume the original commenter) think that many politicians aren't merely imperfect but actively bad. They stand for principles I don't agree with, or intend to enact their principles with strategies I find intolerable. I'd like to vote for a perfect person, but a merely good person is fine too; what I won't do is endorse a bad person to help them win a political race against another bad person.

One simple change would be to vote on Sundays or make election Tuesday a mandatory holiday. Especially if you are low income and on a fixed schedule voting is very inconvenient.

Drop-off and mail-in ballots where there is ample time to fill out a ballot are also a great option. This exists where I live in (all cities), King County, WA; and probably other parts of the state too.

We do mail in ballots in Oregon, and I see no reason it shouldn't be implemented in all states and jurisdictions. It solves so many issues with voting.

On Twitter I saw a suggestion that the state with the highest voter turnout should have the first primary in the next election. This might create some incentive for people to turn out and vote (will post link if I can find the tweet)

I saw that too. It would be interesting to see what different states do to try and increase voter turnout. Maybe some even give cash incentives to voters assuming that the economic benefit from being first/early in the primary outweighs the cost of the program.

Primary scheduling isn't set at the federal level. It's a state decision. New Hampshire has a law that says no other state's primary can occur before their own.

Homo Economicus does not vote. That is, on an individual level, voting is not a rational activity.

Look at it this way - let's say it takes you 15 minutes to drive to your polling place, 30 minutes to vote, and Lord knows how many hours to figure out which candidates you should even vote for. And what is the value of a single vote? Specifically, what is the chance that a single vote will change an election? Almost zero.

Ergo, at the individual level, the effort of participating in the electoral process does not appear to be a rational choice.

And yet, it is only the folks that irrationally do vote that make the individual contributions that ultimately add up to something larger.

I think this is a failure of the philosophy of individualism and the atomization of the individual from society, instead of an understanding where people take part and do things in society that primarily benefit society instead of themselves

Voting is the easy part. If I'm to vote conscientiously, obviously I want to be informed on the issues, the candidates, the likelihood of the candidates to even pursue the fulfillment of their campaign promises and so on. This takes time and careful consideration. Under conditions of near certainty that my vote won't change anything, it's almost ridiculous for me to vote.

I think this is rather a simplification. It assumed the only value people obtain from voting is the actually election of the candidate.

But humans get other value from voting. Social benefits, for example, by showing that you care about something. It has been shown that when you tell someone that you'll send a list of who didn't vote to their neighbors... Then it increases turn out.

Australia fines citizens $20 if they don't vote....I wonder what impact that would have on voting in the US?

This would just be a fine on poor people. In many US states there are active efforts to disenfranchise and suppress voting such as moving voting places, not providing enough booths so there are big queues and delays, automatically removing people from rolls, etc.

The US first needs to establish an independent electoral commission to set district boundaries and run the elections fairly like in other countries.

A great idea, but I think the problem is convincing politicians to appoint independent commissioners that may remove their electoral advantage. Perhaps a necessary step is to come up with a rule that can objectively determine how gerrymandered a given set of boundaries are, and then convince enough people in both parties to agree to the same limit:


The UK has such a commission. It hasn't worked out well. The commissioners turned out to be very publicly stating strong political opinions (which were mostly homogenous). If you want to run elections that's the sort of behaviour it should go without saying you don't engage in. Their decisions are regularly criticised for being extremely biased and they've been slapped down by judges in some high profile cases, where the judges basically said the commission didn't understand electoral law and/or appeared to be deliberately engaging in political harassment.

The UK commission doesn't set electoral boundaries though, Parliament does that. They just run other aspects of elections.

> Their decisions are regularly criticised for being extremely biased

Regularly criticised by whom? I'm guessing the side that is found to be breaking electoral rules.

> they've been slapped down by judges in some high profile cases, where the judges basically said the commission didn't understand electoral law and/or appeared to be deliberately engaging in political harassment.

Maybe the law was vague, or maybe, get this, the judges were biased and the commissioners were actually correct.

Unfortunately we're now living in a world where politicians and institutions and court cases are evaluated not based on any objective truth, but on whether "my side" beats "the other side". Perhaps it's always been like that, as the history of gerrymandering shows, but it does seem that the polarisation and tribalism is more extreme or more blatant now.

You seem to be doing exactly that, no? You're assuming without having researched the details that the Commission must be correct and everyone else must be wrong. At least that's how your reply reads.

Politicians have criticised it. Journalists have criticised it. The Metropolitan Police have criticised it. High court judges have criticised it. Exonerated members of the public have criticised it. The archives here detail various setbacks and screwups the EC has had, along with evidence for the prior sentences:


The EC is the kind of thing you find in a banana republic. It's indefensible. You can't claim to be a neutral arbiter of fairness in elections when investigations you refer to the police are repeatedly thrown out because they were so shoddily done, when multiple judges say you don't understand electoral law, when it's been found you issued incorrect advice to campaigners, when politicans from both major parties are calling for you to be disbanded and - most critically - when the people running it repeatedly proclaim their hatred for political causes and parties in public. The idea these people are unbiased is absurd. The director of regulation at the EC posted this to Facebook:

"[Louise Edwards] cannot believe she lives under a Tory PM again! What is wrong with people? Do they not remember the last time? Words fail me, grrr."


"Just can't understand what people were thinking. Do they not remember the Tories before?"


"[Louise Edwards] doesn't want to live under a Tory government"

How can anyone believe British elections are run fairly when the people trusted to run them literally post on the internet that they don't want one side to win? Unsurprisingly, people don't.

The entire thing is a textbook example of how completely corrupted government bureaucracies can get the moment they're not directly run by people who might lose their job at the next election. The EC should have been shut down years ago.

NB: Voting is mandatory (in Oz) only if you're registered. However the government pesters you to register to vote when a) you turn 18 and b) you move. (It does this by monitoring driving licence registrations). You may also be called upon for jury duty at the same time.

The only way to deregister is to move overseas (I checked: conscientious objection and religious reasons do not qualify)

> "I checked: conscientious objection and religious reasons do not qualify”

That’s not entirely accurate, though in practice it has been the case so far.

Subsection 245(14) of the Electoral Act, and section 13A of the Referendum Act, provides that “the fact that an elector believes it to be part of his or her religious duty to abstain from voting constitutes a valid and sufficient reason for failing to vote.” [1]

That said, you’re right that concientious objection to voting (or a personal moral objection) is insufficient reason, and there is yet to be a religious duty that has been held by a court to be sufficient reason to avoid the obligation to vote. Indeed, I think it would be tough to think of a religion where a central tenet is “don’t vote”. Perhaps there is one, but it doesn’t come easily to mind.

[1]: https://www.aec.gov.au/About_AEC/Publications/backgrounders/...

I believe Jehovah's Witnesses have an official, explicit religious teaching against voting and that their rejection of secular government authority is pretty core to their religion.


Indeed, it seems you are right. I am a little smarter than I was before - thank you. :)

I called the Electoral Commission about this. My wording is correct wrt to de-registration.

The alternative is to not vote, wait for the 'fine' to come in and then declare reasons on why your 'fine' should be lifted. This was also explained to me on the same call. The whole phone call was highly skewed towards: you may as well vote (even informally), as it's easier.

You could reverse that. Pay people $20 for voting.

So how many percent is voting before and after the fine was put in place? Did it help any?


> One of the strongest factors affecting voter turnout is whether voting is compulsory. In Australia, voter registration and attendance at a polling booth have been mandatory since the 1920s, with the most recent federal election in 2016 having turnout figures of 91% for the House of Representatives and 91.9% for the Senate.[77]

Who has the time to spend a few hours making sure they can vote, where to vote, and how to get there on a single weekday that isn't a holiday?

Not people struggling to keep their lives together or anyone without some leverage in their life.

Add in that the majority of the population in the US presidential have votes that are statistically irrelevant and I think parts of the problem become clear.

Add to that the two party system that encourages the largest extremes from each side and most people probably don't actively want to vote for anyone.

My simplistic refinement would be lots of candadites with points that could be put towards or against anyone in any amount. Maybe even more than one round of voting to eliminate someone mostly just taking votes away from someone else.

Many people forget there are almost always a lot of other things in the ballot that can affect your life much more directly, and if you happen to live in a city of say, 30K people, your vote has a lot more impact than anything happening at the national level.

Even if you choose not to vote for a national-level issue/candidate/party, at least do participate in things that affect your community.

Voting takes hours, and you are not guaranteed time off to vote.

Then there are the various state voter suppression acts that deliberately make it harder to vote (and IMO constitute an unconstitutional poll tax).

Those all make voting expensive.

Here’s what I’d want: states must be required to provide enough voting booths and facilities to keep voting lines to less than (say) 30 minutes. They must ensure that 90% (say) of the voting populace is with 30 minutes of a polling facility, and 80% within 30 minutes walking distance of such.

States with voter suppression laws must provide IDs for free, and have similar to the above facilities for applying for those free IDs. Their turn around for those IDs must be timely, and delivery of the IDs should also be free.

Note: any step that requires a citizen to pay money to get an voting ID is a poll tax, and therefore unconstitutional.

I don't vote: it is a contest of choosing the most convincing liar IMO. If we could vote every year, and vote them out when they do not fulfill their campaign promises, I'd be more inclined to vote.

I'd much rather have a lottery system, because I trust the general population to be honest much more than I trust politicians to be honest.

Imagine you succeed in persuading a large number of nonvoters to vote. Do you have some reason to suspect they would make better decisions, i.e. choose better candidates, than people who currently vote? I could never understand why voting per se was held to be a virtue. If you don't care or don't know what you're doing, why should I want you to vote?

Not voting is a people's right. It's just you can't complain about the government when things don't work out.

Complaining about the government is my right and it is not dependant on whether I voted or not.

Except when you complain and say you didn’t vote will lead to head shakes in your direction then you being ignored from that point on.

Does that actually happen? I've never seen it, and there's been plenty of times I've been potentially susceptible to such a practice. Maybe my arguments tend to be evaluated on a different metric.

You are special then!

I am 42 and was going to vote for the first time, but my candidate (Andrew Yang) had to drop out. So I'm not voting.

Obligatory Carlin on the topic of voting:



American Dream chaser:


I live in a single party state. My vote doesn't matter.

Interesting article on extremely important topic.

TL;DR: VOTE! Make your voice heard!

I often have thought that if we did switch to a popular vote over the electoral college, there would be an unpredictable turnout on both sides. My feeling is the Republican turnout in states like CA, NY and IL would increase. It’s hard for me to make judgements on small, republican dominated states having never lived in one, but I’m sure there would be a similar effect.

Totally agree. There should be at least some level of proportional representation, maybe a certain percentage of seats in the House.

It's still hard to believe that in the 90s Ross Perot got 20% of the votes but this resulted in zero representation. No wonder people think that their votes don't matter. If you vote Republican in California it's pretty much a waste too.

Personally I vote third party out of principle because I don't want to be forced to pick between two more or less corrupt choices. But in the current system it's almost hopeless to ever have a viable third party. I am pretty sure if a third party became more powerful the two established parties would gang up on them quickly to make sure their nice, comfortable duopoly keeps all the power.

> I am pretty sure if a third party became more powerful the two established parties would gang up on them quickly to make sure their nice, comfortable duopoly keeps all the power.

It's also possible that that might happen without the intentionality or explicit coordination part.


For example, the successful third party might supplant the role of one of the existing major parties, marginalizing it.


I don’t understand your example. Ross Perot was running for president without a party. How were house seats supposed to be awarded to him? It’s a totally different election, and multiple seats can’t be held by one person.

You are right. However the point I tried to make is that the current system kills third parties. Let’s say you get 30% in every district but win none you will have no representation. That’s just unhealthy.

PR at first sounds like a great idea. I used to support it.

Watching how it plays out in Europe is instructive. What you see in PR systems is many parties, all of whom enter Parliament and none of whom have a majority. This leads to:

- Long delays whilst they try to form alliances with each other, often unsuccessfully. Belgium went without a government for 541 days. Having no government for three-six months is quite common.

- Alliances that make no sense at all and make a mockery of the parties political manifestos, e.g. right wing and left wing parties forming an alliance then not being able to actually do anything because they fundamentally don't agree on much. Germany used to have one of these. Then they attempted to form an alliance between the Greens (hard left socialists) and their libertarian party! As you can imagine, that didn't last long.

- A very similar issue is that parties can win a lot of votes and still get no influence, because the other parties hate them so much they refuse to ever form an alliance with them. This happens to conservative parties a lot. For instance in the Netherlands the PVV is the second biggest party by vote share, but every other party refused to enter an alliance with them so their voters have no influence on the government. The alliance required to achieve this took 208 days to put together and 225 to formally start work in the cabinet, so the Dutch people were without representation for more than half a year because their politicians refused to contemplate compromising with the second largest party.

[Modified] first past the post as used by the USA and the UK isn't perfect, but it results in elections having a clear winner who can then (mostly) implement what they said they would implement. In PR countries end up being ruled by what are effectively new political parties which didn't actually exist when voters went to the ballot boxes, may have policies that were never discussed during the election and which may still exclude the preferences of large chunks of the voters, including even the largest chunk.

Popular vote is fine as long as there is strict voter id enforced.

>TL;DR: VOTE! Make your voice heard!

What if none of the candidate represent your voice?

I've been a US citizen for over 40 years. And there has never been a presidential candidate that I could enthusiastically support. Except maybe Sanders.

But more and more, I've just become sick and tired of voting for people who support wars. Ranging from foreign intervention to the drug war aka the war on personal freedom. I mean, why should I vote for people who would put my friends and me in jail?

I often think about that when I'm waiting for my meal in a plane, seating in row 33 or higher. Odds are my choice won't be available when they finally get to me. I can choose not to eat, but it's more likely I will end up choosing from what's available.

In essence: educate yourself, and choose what you believe would would be the least worst for the country as a whole.

> I often think about that when I'm waiting for my meal in a plane, seating in row 33 or higher. Odds are my choice won't be available when they finally get to me. I can choose not to eat, but it's more likely I will end up choosing from what's available.

Considering what we've come to understand about the benefits of fasting and the mediocrity of airplane food, you're probably better off skipping the meal.

What if you were allergic to peanuts, and only stuff fried in peanut oil was available?

As a fun fact, peanut oil is so highly processed that most people with peanut allergy can eat it.


I watched someone almost die from eating Chinese food fried in peanut oil. Maybe some peanut oil is pure enough, but there's no guarantee. The link is pretty clear about that, but your paraphrase is dangerous misinformation.

Both my comment and the website linked literally say “most people can eat peanut oil”. That’s hardly dangerous misinformation.

I’m willing to bet the restaurant had peanut cross contamination in the kitchen.

The linked website says that some peanut oil is OK for most people to eat. But not cold-pressed etc oil. That's a crucial distinction. And for commercially prepared food, even if you're lucky enough to know that it contains peanut oil, you likely won't know what type it is.

If one political party is promising to kill you on their first day in power, and the only other party is promising to kill you on their second day in power, you should vote for the latter.

If the stakes aren't quite as high as that, you could try voting for a third party or a write-in candidate.

Been there, done that, for over 40 years.

And like I said, I'm tired of it.

In some elections (at least, in the United States), there is write-in option (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Write-in_candidate). If one feels that it makes no sense or difference, then, I guess, not voting is a feasible option. They also might consider running for a public office themselves.

I was thinking, "Between Clinton and Trump, pass"


Perhaps they are thinking along correct mathematical lines. Their one vote will do nothing, but the time lost is very real.

Because a single vote doesn't matter. It's irrational to vote

If all of the people who thought that way voted, it would matter.

But they don't. One vote doesn't influence others - that would be magical thinking.

Your vote don't matter --- in half the cases. Half the states are already decided with near certainty. California is voting for the Democratice candidate, South Carolina is voting for the Republican.

If you vote for or against the pre-determined candidates in these "one party" states --- your vote don't matter. The only case where your vote might matter is in a swing state.

The really amazing (and illogical) thing would be if more than 50% voted.

House seats make a huge difference not just directly, but also how these lines are redrawn.

Local elections are also vastly more important than most assume. Roads, schools, local policing, etc are the services that most affect people in their day to day lives and that’s mostly decided in local elections.

I'm not arguing against all voting. Just pointing why it doesn't matter in a lot of cases. In the cases where it does matter, vote.

Voting is pointless. People are just brainwashed into believing it's so important (I don't know how else to call it: they are repeatedly told over and over again how important democracy is, and voting is like the biggest symbol of your democratic rights). Even just saying it is going to trigger a strong emotional reaction, similar to saying that God does not exists to devoted religious person. Down-votes ensured. :D

In reality in the USA, it's much more effective to just donate $100 to some political interest group of yours, and be done with it.

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