Why Do People Vote?

Why do people people go through the trouble of voting when there is absolutely no chance that their vote will make any difference?

Some people read up on all of the issues, carefully make their decisions, fill out the sample ballot, then go stand in line to vote when they know that their ONE vote will not determine the election. Why do they even bother? What’s in it for them??

Because people know that 1+1 equals 2, not 0.

Well I don’t know why people bother to vote in presidentil elections. Because if you take the time to research the candidates you’ll just be cancelled out by some moron. But given that about 40% of voters only vote in presidential elections, local and state seats are still up for grabs if you care to research what your last county clerk has done for you.

Voting is a puzzle, especially for utilitarian philosophy. There are some answers, but they aren’t completely satisfactory.

some basically utilitarian answers:

  1. There is a teeny tiny probability that your single vote will actually make a difference

  2. It’s better for the country to have a high voter turnout, because it makes the country seem more democratic, it makes it seem like the leaders actually represent the people, etc.

  3. People feel responsible, informed, and involved in political life if they vote intelligently. Voting can take on a symbolic significance.

  4. Voting sets a good example - even though it’s a secret ballot and no one needs to know who you voted for, people still see that you voted

and a more Kantian answer

  1. It would be better if everyone voted, so people vote so they can feel like they’re doing their part.

And one vote can (or, could have) determined an election.

Well, okay your vote CAN make difference if you’re talking about a position in the city council, but it is essentially impossible for your vote to matter in a presidential election. Yet that is where we see the highest turnout!

Maybe all of the smart people realize that their vote doesn’t matter at all, so they stay home and have a beer. Then all of the not-so-smart people go out and vote and elect our officials!

I vote so I have a right to complain. :slight_smile:

“Don’t look at me, I voted for the legitimate candidate. You know, the one who got the majority of the votes.”

Well, if everyone took your advice and didn’t vote, you’d have one moron who walked in off the street decide an entire election, with the only vote. It’s not whether your individual vote matters, it’s that the community of voters decided on the candidate.

This past presidential election should be evidence! Hell, if a very, VERY small percentage of voters had not shown up that day in Florida, there could have been a complete reversal of the election. Sure, a single vote didn’t decide the outcome, but a few thousand votes is where counting each one becomes important, because as Munch stated, 1+1=2…the cumulative effects of our votes are very important, whether it’s a landslide or a nailbiter.

And like rjung said, it gives you complaint rights. IMO, if you didn’t vote you have no right to complain about the outcome of an election. If a bunch of people who didn’t feel like voting and who liked the other guy had gotten off thier asses, the other guy would’ve won. Everyone who has an interest in the outcome of an election and the policies that follow should vote.

The problem with complaint rights is that you really have them if you vote for the loser, you sorta have them if you don’t vote, but you don’t have them at all if you vote for the winner.

As far as your decision goes, it is your individual vote that matters. Sure, it’s better if all of the community votes, but you have no impact on the community. You’re just making a decision for one man/woman. (unless you have an argument for why you do have an impact on the rest of the community voting)

It’s not reasonable to say “well, if everyone thought like this and just one guy voted…” because you know with very high certainty that not everyone thinks like you. Before the election, you can predict that say, about 40% of the eligible population will vote, whether or not you personally vote. If all you look at is the direct effects of your individual vote, you can’t jump to these “well what if everyone…” arguments.

Well of course if everybody except one moron decided not to vote it would be a bad thing, but we all know that’s not going to happen.

I’ll use myself as an example. In the past few elections, I could have gone out in the cold on a Tuesday night in November to vote. But I reasoned that it’s not worth it, so I stayed home. NOTHING was determined by a single vote, so if I would have voted it wouldn’t have mattered anyway.

And I still have EVERY right to complain, under the First Amendment, regardless of whether I vote or not.


knock knock beat me to it! Very good points.

Because we’ve all been trained that it’s the right thing to do, it’s your duty, many men died to give you that right, and if you don’t, you have no right to complain.

All of that is hogwash, of course, but I don’t recommend bringing it up. Just smile and nod and move along.

Most people who vote, drive white cars, and thus are boring and dull.

So are the people they elect.

hmmm, white cars=boring and dull. . . .
what does driving an olive-green with glod flecks car mean??:smiley:

Well, how many people did think like you did? And by how many votes was the closest race in your last local election decided? I’d bet dollars to donuts the former number exceeds the latter.

It’s (IMO) an idiotic position to take that one vote doesn’t matter because elections aren’t decided by one vote margins. Every potential vote counts, because every potential vote (obviously) has the potential to change the outcome of the election by one vote. Munch actually already answered the OP entirely in the very first response to this thread, but I guess no one was paying attention.

Actually, I would kind of prefer it if none of the rest of you vote. No, really. You all just sit back and relax, and WillGolf will take care of all that nasty voting business…

That’s why it’s imperative for voters to do actual research and make sure the guy they’re voting for is worthy of their vote.

The reason why lousy candidates get elected is because people don’t vote. The fewer people voting, the lousier the candidate. So if you’re not voting, you’re part of the problem.

As for counting, my town supervisor was elected this year by two votes. If one person had changed his mind, there would have been a tie. If two people had changed their minds, he would have lost.


I didn’t understand it either, Legomancer.

Is their evidence to suggest that non-voters vote differently than voters? If not, then it really doesn’t matter how many people vote-the same candidate will win regardless. The smart thing to do is to stay home and let others worry about it. Have a beer instead!