My friend can't be arsed to vote. Am I irrational to be irked with her?

And here’s the back story:

Though I haven’t written much about it here, I am an Obama supporter and volunteer, and fairly passionate about it. I follow the campaign closely, I’ve given a little money, and I’ve headed up to Missouri a few times to assist in the get-out-the-vote efforts; I’ll be doing that again the week of the election, as I feel my effort is better spent there than in Memphis. (Missouri is a battleground state; Tennessee is not.)

Now I don’t expect everyone in my life to agree with me on politics; my best friend, for instance, is pulling for McCain, though not as strongly as I am for Obama, and we had a great time watching the VP debate together mocking one another’s candidate. She jokes that she has to match every dollar I donate to Obama with a contribution to the RNC.

But that’s my best friend. I have another friend whom I’ve known just as long, who is, like me, in her late thirties. She is quite vocal about disliking the Bush administration in particular and Republicans in general, whom she thinks are actively and irredeemably racist, evil, and incompetent (a claim I wouldn’t make). Nonetheless, she is NOT registered to vote and says she can’t be bothered to; she doesn’t believe her vote makes any difference. So she’ll bitch endlessly, but not DO anything about it.

As you may gather, Friend Number Two is pissing me off. Am I being irrational or unfair? I mean, in a sense she’s right; we both live in Memphis, a city sure to go for Obama in a state that is sure not to, so her hypothetical Obama ballot won’t make any real difference; and my plans to go to Missouri are born of not dissimilar motives. Even so, her apathy really bothers me, far more than Friend Number One’s active opposition; I just got short an IM exchange with her because she is so blase about the matter.


I usually liken someone who doesn’t want to vote to somene who thinks they cannot do anything [individually] to help the environment. Basically, we need to begin to think as a society and not about our own individual microcosm of the planet. Our health as a society and as a human being is intimately tied to the health of the planet. One person acts as a single part of a whole movement. Obama winning the white house will be from one person acting as part of a larger organism, that is the only way he will get in. So what, your friend lives in Memphis, she can register and vote and be a part of something that will have a positive impact on our nation.

If that is too foofoo for her, then pay her 10 bucks to go with you when you vote…just make sure she is registered first. :smiley:

No, you have the right to be irritated.

Folks who don’t vote have no right to complain about how things are run. I don’t care who you vote for, but vote for somebody. As a character in Heinlein’s Double Star said “Choose sides, always choose sides! You may be wrong, but if you don’t choose you’ll always be wrong.”

Voting is so easy and convenient too, so I hate to hear folks complain about that.
Hell, my 103 year old grandmother is voting, with the aid of my aunt. It’s her 21st straight presidential election. If an old lady can vote, anyone should be able to.

I dunno, it kinda sounds like the problem is the endless bitching and not the not-voting. Next time she starts griping, why don’t you just cut her off, and tell her you don’t feel like listening to her bitch if she won’t even bother to go vote?


I don’t think you’re irrational.
I have a spouse who, at the start of our marriage, took actual pride in the fact that he didn’t vote. Claimed it was a waste of time, as his vote wouldn’t make enough of a difference. This irritated me. I told him that if he couldn’t take 10 minutes out of his year to cast a vote then he had no right to complain to me about anything political. So he didn’t.

Then another presidential election rolled around. It gradually surfaced that we supported opposing candidates. I voted. He did not. I returned from my local polling place and said, “Well, I don’t know if he’ll win, but I did what I could.”
His reply? “Ha. My vote would just would have cancelled yours out anyway.”
I pounced. “But you didn’t cast it! So it did NOT! That’s the whole point! You can’t cancel me out if you don’t cast your vote! That’s exactly how your one vote could make a difference.”

I’m happy to say that he’s changed his tune.

Do you get irked when people, in a fit of self-destructive apathy, don’t keep and bear arms? It’s a right, not a privilege, after all. So everybody should do it, right?

I guess I’ll be the first one to offer myself up to the hounds and declare that I don’t vote. (33 y/o lifelong American) Let me state right from the start that I do have a strong preference who wins (I won’t say whom because it’s irrelevant to this conversation). To me it’s about the statistics of a single vote making a difference. Well all know about the debunked cases of a single vote deciding anything the size of a presidential race. One article puts it on the order of winning the powerball lottery 128 times in a row. I’m not sure I agree with all the math there, but you’d have to agree it’s extraordinarily unlikely.

You can go on all you want about how “people like me are the problem…”, and how “if everyone thought like that…”, but it doesn’t change fact that one vote simply won’t matter. Note I’m not arguing that one person can’t make a difference, I make a habit of responding to email forwards that pass along false information so that my friends who will vote can make informed decisions.

To me, it is completely rational to sit it out given the stats, especially considering that by never registering to vote I’ve never been asked in for jury duty, and have never been called at home to be polled or asked for donations. (Perhaps those are coincidences unrelated to voter registration but I’m not risking anything.)

What I don’t understand is why people want others to vote in the first place. It makes sense at a rally for your favorite candidate because people there are likely to vote “your way”. But in general, things like Rock the Vote, what’s the point? If I were a voter I’d want as few other people voting as possible to increase the likelihood that my vote will make the difference.

And one more thing since I know someone will bring up Florida Gore/Bush. Even in the extraordinary event that one state comes down to one vote, there will be all kinds of recounts and court interference which will nullify the vote to begin with.

So to answer your question, yes I think you’re being irrational by getting angry at your friend. :wink:

I vote, but from an expected value point of view, yeah, it’s kind of a waste of time, especially in a non-battleground state.

Even if you were really rich, and an Obama win would cost you thousands and thousands of dollars, your hour spent voting would have a lower EV than doing whatever made you rich in the first place.

I think informed people should vote, for some reason, but I can’t argue with the logic that voting for president is a waste of time.

I also live in a non-battleground state, and it does make me feel like my vote doesn’t count, even though I know the majority will vote for my candidate. It doesn’t help that the only other two Presidential elections I’ve been eligible to vote in have not gone my way (or my state’s), despite my strong feelings on the matter. Makes the whole thing seem kind of futile. I’m voting anyway, but I can understand why your friend wouldn’t.

Part of what bothers me is that I’ve known both these women since about 1990, and Friend Number Two has never, ever, EVER bothered to vote or even register–and yet always complains about the government and wishes soemone would turn the rascals out.

[Fabulous Creature mode]

Of course not. I don’t want any of you schmucks owning any weapon with longer range than a slingshot. You’d use them against my monkeys when the revolution comes, and monkeys are expensive.

[/Fabulous Creature mode]

One thing that hasn’t been mentioned here is that while this is a presidential election, it is not only a presidential election. A quick google search shows that there will be a large number of significant local issues on the ballot in Memphis, including term limits for the mayor and Memphis City Council members, and various changes to the way voting for these offices is conducted. Here in California we have Prop. 8, which would ban gay marriage, as well as the usual incredibly large number of measures for the City and County of San Francisco.

Even if you feel that your vote is not going to make a difference in the presidential election, it can make a difference in one of the many other races or propositions that will be on the ballot.

A good point, this is the one argument that almost gets me to change my mind every year (but not quite). As for all the others saying that “if you don’t vote you don’t have the right to complain”, I find that to be a BS argument. You know darn well that it is free speech that is our right and that it is not contingent on your voter record. And in case you think I’m taking that too literally, there is the argument that it is two-party politics in the first place that is the problem in which case it is all of you who have no right to complain.

Yes I get a little defensive on this topic due to being in the extreme minority. I’m just tired of having to justify my decision to sit it out, and for some reason people on other side of this issue are often unable to have a rational discussion about it.

Oh, this is an attitude that pisses me off. You are right to be irritated.

Here in Canada, things are a little different (and somewhat simpler, in that we don’t vote for all sorts of local things as well during a federal election).

When I march into the voter’s booth (usually trying to hide a ridiculous grin on my face), I get a piece of paper with six or seven choices, and I get to put one X next to one of them. Couldn’t be easier. It’s my own personal tweak on the Levers of Power. And even if my Candidate and Party of Choice doesn’t get in, I know my vote isn’t wasted, because Canadian federal political parties are funded according to the number of votes they got in the last election, and each vote is worth about $ 1.50. So each vote not only helps to make the choice, but it translates into direct support no matter who wins.

In strained times like these, it is especially important that everyone vote. I think we should make voting mandatory, as they do in Australia.

[Bolding mine]

I think the point of the “not voting=no right to explain” statement is that the non-voter, by not exercising the franchise when it is trivially easy to do so, has surrendered any MORAL right to complain (and be taken seriously), not a legal right. With all the plethora of opportunties to make your voice heard, simply giving up makes you stupid.

I’ve grown a little more irritated with my friend in the last few minutes. She just IMed me that the owner/manager of the business where she works just called a mini-meeting of the people in the office. She asked everyone who was registered to vote to raise their hands, then reminded the persons who hadn’t registered that today is deadline and asked if any of them intended to register. To the people who said yes, the owner then said that they could have extra time on their lunch break to do so, so long as they returned with evidence of having registered today.

My friend feels this is unfair; non-voters are being discriminated against, she says.


I don’t think anyone says you don’t have the legal and constitutional right to complain, it’s that you don’t have the moral right to complain. You could have tried to do something about it, no matter how little, and chose not to.

So vote for a third party. Weak argument.

The decision to sit it out isn’t being questioned. The decision to sit it out, combined with freely choosing not to vote, is.

The two cases are different. If you vote, and your candidate didn’t win by one vote, then you have genuinely contributed absolutely nothing. Economists are puzzled why anyone bothers to vote for the reasons Joey gave. If you change your own actions to help the environment, you may have helped to a completely negligible amount, but you have unquestionably helped.

While you don’t give up your right to complain when you don’t exercise your right to vote, you do forfeit your privilege to whine to me about the outcome of said election or of any other political repercusions. You chose to be silent then, feel free to continue to be silent now.

I’ll concede the third party argument, but I stand by my point that it’s ridiculous to require a moral high-ground to be able to complain. Complaining is an annoying trait to begin with, regardless of whether it’s regarding politics or poor service in a restaurant. That’s why I don’t do it in the first place. Perhaps that is where I’m different from the subject of the OP, so the irritability is more understandable there. It still doesn’t stop my friends and colleagues from trying to make me feel like I’m evil for not voting.

I’ll make an agreement with everyone, if the election comes down to one vote in my home state AND that state has the electoral college votes to swing the election overall, *then and only then *will I concede that I lack the “moral right” to complain. (Not that I will not complain one way or another)

Skald, as a voter in Tennessee, do you believe you have any moral right to complain about officials elected in other jurisdictions? You didn’t vote in the election that brought Nancy Pelosi / Ted Stevens / Arnold Schwarzenegger / Harry Reid to office, so do you refrain from commenting about them? Or, if you do find yourself complaining about officials from other jurisdictions, what do you see as the moral basis for your doing so?

For years I lived in a state that reliably voted on one side every presidential election. Still, I voted in the minority every election. I didn’t sctively campaign, but on occasion I’d get asked if I would put up a yard sign, and i would. If asked about my vote I’d explain it to people. Most people for some reason assumed that I voted in the majority and were surprised to find out that I didn’t.

After years of huge margins of victory, things started to change - the winning margins began to shrink, and soon the minority party began to win down-ticket races. After all these years of not having my vote count, my state is a battleground this year - maybe the battleground. My vote counts more this year than all those other years put together. Hell yeah, I vote.