Ellie McFarland | @El_FarAwayLand
Earlier this month, a UK government minister called for the institution of compulsory voting. According to Mirror.UK, it is a ploy to increase voter turnout, but it also seems to be politically motivated. The politicians pushing this policy (nearly all of who belong to the labor party) are highly concerned with low Brexit vote turnout. They speculate that if only voting numbers were up, they would have come out of the decision as victors. But with the seemingly endless Brexit debacle, a conversation about voting has been opening up in the UK. Should a civics exam be mandatory to vote? Is it okay to let felons vote? And famously, should voting be compulsory?
Whenever a conversation arises about whether U.S citizens should vote, the catchphrase “If you don’t vote you can’t complain” will inevitably be tossed in. Although somewhat hyperbolic, this boils down to a very popular argument. Essentially, it is that a citizen who chooses to abstain from participating in the political system is not justified in complaining about that system when it’s rulings doesn’t go their way. It is that a complaint from a person who didn’t vote would be unwarranted or unjustified and should be disregarded. Because compulsory voting would be thrown out immediately in America, this form of political participation is generally seen as a civic duty.
To many Americans, paying taxes, jury duty, and voting all fall under the same umbrella of maintaining our democracy. Voting, in particular, is pushed as a practical “revolution”. When communists or anarchists call for a real revolution, they are often met with the question “Why not go and vote?”. The argument hidden in this statement is that if people want radical change, voting alone can accomplish it. There are two main issues with this argument. The first being that voting in itself is an incredibly ineffective way to make change as an individual. Second, it ignores that both communists and anarchists are opposed to the concept of a state in general, let alone voting.
Voting Doesn’t Work
It turns out, voting is not as effective as many people claim it to be. Voting is not only (coming from the viewpoint of anti-statism) politically and morally questionable, but it’s impractical and unrepresentative. To begin with, your vote hardly counts from a mathematical perspective. Adding in the electoral college, gerrymandering, and inside lobbying, voting is not a reliable method of political action. The truth is, if you aren’t in the majority, or your opinions aren’t popular, your participation will likely change nothing.
Second, any system that could be voted in would not be what anti-statists would want or think is right or moral. Yelling at people to vote is only effective when it comes to individuals with relatively little interest in politics. Voting, although still not perfectly effective, is more effective when voters don’t want to overhaul the entire system. But politically apathetic voters aren’t the only people this “vote to revolt” argument is geared toward. Anarchists and communists all hear this when they abstain from voting or encourage others to abstain. But the thing is, no election of any person in any government could ever achieve an anti-statists’ goals. Elections for elected officials still preserves the existence of a state and political system, the very thing anti-statist want to abolish.
Those plugged into the MSM are laser-focused on what is, by and large, somewhat the center of the political spectrum. Republicans, Democrats, and party Libertarians aren’t really that far away from each other. Importantly, they are all statists to one extent or another. Some are socialists and others are laissez-faire capitalists, but they’re all national politicians maintaining the American political system. Why would someone opposed to this on nearly every level vote? With the exception of collapsitarians, who believe that putting the government into overdrive and exhausting it will lead to its collapse, voting does absolutely nothing to disestablish the state. It serves no purpose in the goals any flavor of anti-statists want to achieve. Voting may be effective to the average citizen, but it will never be for us.
The claim that political complaints from “non-voters” are unreasonable or unmerited is in itself unreasonable. It doesn’t address the real reason anti-statist don’t vote and chalks it up to laziness or political apathy. It is like saying if you don’t enlist in the military, you can’t complain about Middle Eastern dictators. But this argument isn’t going to die any time soon, no matter how reach-around or illogical it is. So let’s tout out a different argument; actually, if you vote, you can’t complain.
Supporting the System
If you vote, shouldn’t you be bereft of complaining about the corruption of a political system you support? You voted in the majority. You can’t complain when the majority is wrong, or when “the majority” turns out to be not actually the majority. Come to think of it, because voting is participatory government, it looks like voters can’t complain about any political wrongdoing. Sounding absolutely ridiculous? This argument has essentially all the same faults as the “no vote no complain” argument, so it should sound ridiculous. But the thing is, unlike ballot abstinence, which is neutral inaction, voting does actively uphold the current governmental system. Participating in the system actually does legitimize violence, terror, and corruption.
Ballot abstinence is one of the only ways to protest the existence of the government short of using cryptocurrency and tax evasion. This does not mean voters can’t complain when the government steps out of line. History proves it always will. Anyone can see that there is corruption, shady dealings, and evil in the state. A way to, at least on singular instances, fix a problem is to make a stink about it. The social removal of non-voters capacity to call out the state’s flaws is just a way to implement socially compulsory voting. It’s a way for everyone, regardless of practical effect, to be blamed when the state royally flops. It is a way to blame even those who had nothing to do with it– those who stayed home on election day.
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