I have never exercised my right to vote, and probably never will. Here's what people say when they learn this:
"People fought to defend your right - be grateful for that!"
"You're irresponsible if you forgo this civic duty"
"You lose your right to complain and criticise if you don't cast your vote"
"Voting is how you voice your concerns"
Let's quickly disassemble these clichéd responses:
Firstly, I don't doubt that people have fought for the many liberties we enjoy today. However, the automaticity of people's willingness to embrace anything that was fought for without considering the modern day implications is preposterous. Voting out of guilt, remembrance or sentimentality is not only ignorant but dangerous.
Secondly, I am not avoiding my civic duty. Consciously deciding to exercise my right NOT to vote is a valid statement of intent and far more responsible than voting out of a false sense of loyalty, entrenched ideology or peer pressure.
Thirdly, by voting, you lend credibility to the current democratic system which forces us to only either support or criticise through a vote. There are many more productive ways of being politically and socially active aside a once in a five-year vote. If over the last 10 years, no party has represented your interests, then it would follow that abstaining is the only viable course.
Fourthly, voting as a means of voicing your concern is a sure-fire way of getting your voice lost in the humdrum of misinformation. It's a shouting contest, where you may even inadvertently lend your voice to a cause or idea you disagree with.
Here's how it generally goes: - Every electoral cycle, whilst getting cornered into siding with a particular party, your interest in politics, peaks. You reinforce your position by propagating your party's rhetoric over Facebook and thereby feel closer to 'the tribe'. If your party wins, you join in the celebration and embrace positive policies whilst stating that negative ones are passed as better than what the other party could have ever done. If your party loses, you criticise all the positives of the ruling party or claim they stole your ideas and destroy them for any failings to justify why they never should've come to power.
This may be a crass caricature, but it serves a valid point. How long will we keep repeating the same cycle without examining its trend? By voting, what are we actually doing?
Well for one, we maintain the facade that our individual vote makes a difference to the outcome. In actual fact, the value of a single vote is so small that you're more like to win the lottery than change the course of an election. But it comforts us to think we are making a difference; that we've paid our dues to society; that this simple act absolves our responsibility to partake in actual activism.
A study by Alexander Todorov also revealed that we can comfortably predict the outcome over 70% of the time by simply showing the face of a politician to a sample of people and ask them whom they trust more. In addition, of the last three elections, the party that spent the most, won the most seats.
So outcomes are determined more by a trustworthy face and campaign spending. Money gives you a voice, voting does not. Why else would organisations sponsor parties?
Secondly, by partaking in elections we're only furthering the political interests of those who thirst for power. Why else would a Prime Minister call a general election half way through the election cycle? Would she call it if there was a chance of losing? By partaking, we become complicit in their ascent to power.
Thirdly, by voting we provide validity to the lesser evil. For instance, in the recent US elections, neither billionaire-rich candidates were particularly desirable to the electorate as people - it was akin to choosing between a beating and a lashing.
If voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal - I'm not saying its pointless, just that it doesn't do what you think it does. It only serves you as a comfort pill, a badge of participation and feeling like one is being represented. We're taught in classrooms that democracy brings freedom and progress; but as long as democracy is limited just to voting, it will remain a means of wielding power and keeping control, scarily akin to Orwell's 1984.
If you're smart, don't vote.