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Dyed All Hues

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What is your argument for or against "Voter Apathy"?

What is "voter apathy"?

People should always vote, right?

If you do vote, can you affect a system of government, or if you don't vote, can that have a greater impact on a system of government?

Ye or Ne?

Topics: voter apathy
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  • Oct 12 2012: I used to sometimes vote. I was a libertarian. But I stopped voting.

    Several years ago I learned about computer hacking, the hard way, when I was being harassed by someone over the internet. I learned that all computers are vulnerable to hacking, no matter which operating system they use. If someone wants to get into your computer badly enough, and if they have plenty of time, then they will get in, even if you try to protect yourself.

    There is a very strong motivation to hack into the computers that process our votes. It turns out that these computers are not very well protected at all - they are just ordinary computers like the ones everybody else is using. I read this article: (I'm not sure if this URL will be formatted properly): http://www.commondreams.org/headlines04/1106-30.htm. The title of the article was 'Evidence mounts that the vote may have been hacked.' I think this is the same election where David Siegel said he might have done something illegal to help get George Bush elected. (This was something he mentioned in the movie 'The Queen of Versailles.') This article talks about how the people's responses in the exit polls were different from the official vote counts. The people walked out after voting and answered a poll asking them 'Who did you vote for?' The results of this poll suggested that the other person won the vote, not Bush.

    I have enough experience with hacking, from a victim/target's point of view, to know that hacking is extremely commonplace and easy for people to do, and very hard to protect against. If it's true that our vote computers are just ordinary computers with no special protection, then of course, someone will hack them. Even if they were very 'secure' and well protected, there would still be a huge motivation and payoff for someone to hack them, so they would try harder and spend more time and money trying to get in. I am sure they would succeed.

    I advocate for civil disobedience and individual action nowadays.
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      Oct 12 2012: Hi Nicole, so I take it that you are in favor of "voter apathy"?
      • Oct 13 2012: Hmm, true, I didn't directly say what I was in favor of. Well, if everyone stopped voting, what would happen? I find that hard to imagine. I imagine that only a few people would stop voting if someone told them that the voting system is so corrupt in so many ways that it isn't effective anymore. Many people would still keep voting. So... I'm in favor of voter apathy for anybody who feels frustrated and helpless and wants the system to change drastically from the way it is now. I would tell people to do something like join, or start, an intentional community, if they want to feel like they have some control over the way things are done in their community. It's not just voter apathy that I'm in favor of. It's more like, I would tell people to invest their energy into something they have direct control over. That's not apathy, really. But yes, I would tell people, 'Don't bother voting.'
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          Oct 19 2012: The term "voter apathy" itself has a different ring to it than when it is actually examined and the term meaning so much more than "I don't care about voting" is precisely what some individuals don't understand. Thank you Nicole! =)
  • Oct 10 2012: Well the choice of candidates is usually depressing, especially here in America where the two-party system is maintained to shut out 3rd parties. I cannot believe that Mit Romney is the best candidate the Republican party can find, or if not talent even the most electable. The same goes for Obama.

    I propose we allow people to vote "none of the above" and if "none of the above" collects more votes than the above combined, we take the person with the most write-in votes. That would get people out to vote. Micky Mouse is generally the most written-in name, though I think Neil Degrass Tyson has a chance to beat it this year.

    Also, this whole electoral college thing keeps people apathetic. My state always votes democratic. I have no reason to vote for the presidency. However, mix that up with a popular count, and no one can rest easy that their state will go one way or the other.

    There are some efforts underway t get Instant Runoff Voting methods in my state, which should also make it more exciting as well.
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    Oct 10 2012: I agree with those who write below that "apathy" suggests not having an interest in civic engagement or public policy.

    Not voting does not necessarily suggest civic apathy. Here are some cases in which I think apathy is the wrong word..

    Some people do not vote because they don't expect their votes to make a difference among the large numbers of them cast. They believe that the election is already decided for or against their prefered candidate regardless of their actions. It is a practical calculation.

    Some care greatly about pubilc policies but don't think either candidate is better than the other from that standpoint. They would vote if there were a difference in their minds in the merit of one of the candidates.

    Some people take pride in not voting because it is a political statement to them of not wanting to pursue change within the system. There is no indifference suggested by their action of not voting.

    Of course there are those who like to sit and criticize others without getting their own hands dirty trying to work toward solutions. That isn't necessarily apathy either, though it is a lack of commitment of a sort.
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      Oct 10 2012: "Some care greatly about pubilc policies but don't think either candidate is better than the other from that standpoint. They would vote if there were a difference in their minds in the merit of one of the candidates"

      I think I fall into that category... but I still care a great deal about voting. So, while I understand the sentiment, I disagree, and would suggest than in most of the above cases, not voting is still a matter of apathy. If you don't vote, that vote doesn't show up...

      I think it is very important to show up, especially in states with ballot initiatives, that often pass by a fraction of a percent. Your vote always matters much more in local policy than national. On national issues, no third party will emerge, if everyone who hates the first two keep staying home. In America, if there is a market, there is a product. I try to learn the names of all third party candidates who aren't crazy, and vote for them. Often times, I have have done inadequate research, and even voted for some really dark candidate, but still my voice was registered in the small percentage who chose neither democrats or republicans.
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        Oct 10 2012: According to my father, my grandfather not only felt voting was an imperative but that it should be illegal not to vote. He blamed voter apathy for the rise of Hitler.
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    Oct 16 2012: Voter apathy is what it is. But, for folks to sit and judge those who don't vote as apathetic, without conversing with them to gain an understanding, well that's just ignorant and silly.

    No, people should not always vote. Why? Because they don't. There are no 'shoulds/coulds/etc.' If I sit here and think that people who don't vote are neglecting their 'duty' to society and/or forfeiting their rights to have a voice/opinion regarding the welfare of society, than I perpetuate my own insecurities.

    If I don't vote it may be because I am prepared to accept the outcome regardless of which candidate wins. It may mean that I accept reality in however it chooses to manifest. I may be busy working on my own personal development and the current political climate is not in line with my pursuits and fails to engage my interest.

    One could argue that if people are not well informed then they shouldn't vote. One could also make the case that science shows that most of us make decisions emotionally even though we think we are being 'rational'; so, we don't even know what we're doing.
  • Oct 13 2012: I'm sorry but this whole thing is a farce!!! we the people elect the officials to govern our land that are only provided to us from the only 2 party's and who they think are the right people for there agenda !! because as far as I'm concerned they are not the officials for the people because if they were when financial times get tight they would not cut the budget on schooling and homeless and the aid to we the people they would cut there own pay because they do there job because they want to make a difference for our country. if any laws should be changed it should banning lobbiest "legal bribers" .
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      Oct 13 2012: Hi Daniel, that's a great point! What are people doing about it? It seems as though many people are spontaneously consenting to a system of government they do not even like. I believe in civil disobedience for the dissenters of any nation, though that never makes it onto most news stations, I think.
    • Oct 14 2012: Daniel, Derek you ask what people are doing to change things? I ask you what are you doing.? Are you with Pastor Fred Phelps of "god hate4s fags fame". I doubt it, but by not voting you are telling our masters that you are satisfied.and they can keep up with business as usual. To quote a hero of mine:"If you're not part of the solution you're part of the problem".
  • Oct 12 2012: Jason Hihn has a really good idea, I think it came by way of Jesse Ventura: Let there be a category of "None of the Above", which , if it gets more votes than the others, wins, with the office going to the largest write-in vote-getter. Excellent! That might just solve the "apathy" problem.
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    p s

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    Oct 10 2012: Ah, last word must surely go to the late great George Carlin, RIP: http://youtu.be/xIraCchPDhk
    • Oct 10 2012: I agree almost entirely with George Carlin. But besides that, if one wants something done, one has to learn to deal with governments in a manner independent of which idiots are in power. Raising awareness by discussions and public protests is one way to do it. For example, that's how SOPA and PIPA were blocked. Apart from that, one has the power to sue departments for passing unfair or unconstitutional policies. These are the only ways that I know of that stopped power-hungry politicians.

      What if not enough people participate in a protest or there isn't a large enough number of people who sympathize with your ideals? Too bad! Things will remain where they are -- in the hands of politicians.

      Voting is exactly what Carlin says it is.
  • Oct 19 2012: Want to end voter apathy?
    Get rid of appointees at any and all levels. Why?
    So that you can vote for them. You don't even get to vote for your Supreme Court. You morons.

    Candidates must reveal everything about themselves and sexual affairs don't hurt.
    Then they can't be used against a candidate just because he or she is human.

    There are no superhuman candidates in existence. There are no pure politicians walking around.
    There are only liars and truth-tellers and Americans never vote for the truth!! Idiots, they.
  • Oct 16 2012: I believe that voter apathy is the result of marginalization. It is the result of a people believing their voice doesn't matter. And who's to blame them? If you think about it, the voice of the average person really doesn't matter. I have always believed that a representational republic doesn't really work... especially for a country the size of the US. Can a small fistful of people really believe that they are representing millions in Congress or the Senate? Ordinary people can't influence a system we have by merely voting. Money does.

    The most effective government should be one that includes all citizens. There is more wisdom in ten individuals than one. There is more strength in collaboration than individualism. If people are given a chance in influencing government policy directly, their apathy would no longer be rationalized. They would see that in the process of debating and creating policy, everyone should be heard and included in the democratic process.

    Therefore, voter apathy can be eliminated if we create a system of government that is participatory, collaborative and inclusive. People think they're votes don't matter right now, and with good reason. Take that reason away, and I guarantee that there could be massive change in the way we do our politics and voting.
  • Oct 12 2012: So many people on here are promoting apathy because "there are no good candidates". You do not need to ever vote for a candidate to vote. There are always multiple ballot issues and referendums that have nothing to do with electing any particular person to any particular office.
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      Oct 12 2012: Very true, but we can't always pick between the lesser of two evils, so why not put a kind and caring leader into power. For example, by the right-in votes.
  • Oct 12 2012: I have no issue with voter apathy. Most people do not spend any amount of time researching what is on the ballot. People that put in the time to understand what is on the ballot will usually vote one way or the other. People that do not care shouldn't vote, and those that will self-educate will and should. I think the bigger issue than apathy is ignorance.
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    Oct 12 2012: IF you don't care enough to educate yourself about the issues, and to take a stand you can be passionate about, please leave the voting to those who do.
    • Oct 17 2012: Lawren: Sounds good, but just how does the overworked and underpaid ordinary person"educate " themselves about the issues, exactly ? Media are not much help, its mostly paid propaganda. How do you even locate a congenial thinking group? Thanks to "Diversity", it is pretty hard. And it seems clear that many of the really devoted "voters" are fanatics..
  • Oct 11 2012: I found the following article to be very interesting:

    http://hlpronline.com/2011/10/the-learned-helplessness-of-the-rational-voter
  • Oct 10 2012: I have a great deal to say on this subject, too much for a forum of this nature. But, let me try to summarize a radical idea. I am puzzled by people who don't vote and those who complain they have no voice. For starters there is much wrong with most political systems. Truly almost all of them are flawed. But, in reality it is because they reflect deeply flawed humans who construct those systems and then fail to keep improving them. The system becomes flawed and they throw up their hands in dismay. Learned helplessness abounds. Ignorance and calculatedly encouraged apathy does its damage as well.

    But, here, among the highly intelligent active and interested TED participants I am astonished to not hear people feeling any sense of agency in their own political processes. Are there huge problems? Of course! But, we have quite literally at our fingertips a means and methodology for effecting great change. No great social change has come about as rapidly as this technological change has. And this technological change has changed the societies in which it exists. They are changed forever.

    The United States has seen terrible degradation of its electoral system due to only a small handful of laws. Those laws can be changed. Other countries have seen revolutionary changes in large part because of this technology. But the people involved in bringing about this change are inpatient and discouraged. (They should have paid closer attention to their history teachers.)

    Changing your society and your government is not the work of one election. It is the work of many. And it does not stop after you vote now. Every day both local and federal officials have staff that go through incoming messages to get the pulse of the people. Despite the enormous pressures of the monied and the connected these messages do get counted. So don't just vote, vote every day. Use your keyboard, change the world.
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      Oct 12 2012: Yes is true but think like this, also as Tv political debates, who is going to listen one that watch tv and has something to say or if we write here, is there anyone that can read all our ideas and has the "power" to change something. Think about.... all our willings here can be to distract us from say to the right persons and also to relax our anger of not beeing listened and ........ after, nothing..... just imagine :) .... What a wonderful life this could be ...... and is not ..... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E2VCwBzGdPM
  • Oct 10 2012: Voter apathy could come from the belief that the myth of a benevolent ruling class should be punctured considering past years of failures and unfulfilled expectation. And so far, politicians have been disappointing.

    The argument in support of exercising voting rights is that there is no need to stop hoping and resign. There are no perfect human systems, let alone perfect human beings, so there will always be a candidate/party that is better than the others.The right to vote should not be taken for granted because the alternatives to democratic governance are not in any way attractive.
  • Oct 10 2012: This isn't apathy - it's disillusionment. We are not part of the process. When our choice is to vote for people who do not represent our views, or people we despise or not to cast a vote for any of them, we are blamed for being apathetic if we choose the later. It's not apathy. I'm passionate about ensuring that the vulnerable have a voice, that the weak are protected and the sick are cared for. There is no-one in power whom I can trust to protect those who need protection I have no voice because there is no-one to vote for.

    Worse than having no-one to vote for was having my vote stolen. I voted for Nick Clegg because he promised not to form a coalition with the conservatives. Now my vote has been used to put a government as bad as the Thatcher government in power. As someone who grew up in a pit town in the Thatcher years, the betrayal sickens me.

    So what impact do I have on the system of government when I have no voice, no power and the one meaningless attempt to speak that I have is stolen from me and used to smash everything I believe in?
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    Oct 10 2012: This year, for the first time since I've had the right to vote, I decided not to vote.

    I've always thought that "People should always vote". I'm from Romania. A few month ago, the Opposition parties tried to suspend the president. Though they followed the procedure for doing so, they arguably broke a few rules on the way. I'm not a supporter of the current president, but I did not agree with the way the Opposition did things. After one and a half mandates (7 years), the current president (Traian Basescu) is far from popular. So chances that he would be suspended were high. Unless the turnaround for the referendum was less than 50%+1 of the electorate, situation in which the whole process would be invalidated and the president would be able to finish his mandate.

    Okay, I don't know if you had the patience to follow my story, but, for the first time, I didn't go to vote because I wanted to invalidate a procedure that was, in my opinion, barely legal. Was I right to sabotage the voting process? Arguments can be made either way. (By the way, the referendum was invalidated in the end for lack of quorum)

    But my decision to not vote was not apathy, it was a form of protest.

    I've also invalidated my votes before when I simply did not want to support any of the candidates.

    So should people always vote? I say "Ye" if apathy is the only thing holding them back. Many people died for our freedom to put a stamp on a piece of paper every few years.

    And I feel that somewhere in the future people will regret not taking more advantage of their freedom to vote.
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      Oct 11 2012: I am also from there (or I should write here :) I do not know) but I voted against apathy and selfish thinking of groups of people (politicians :) ) (in America is a lack of diversity in thinking and a two party system is not so good). I chosed to vote against apathy but not mine :) and they respected themself and their apathy that can be solved only with money and no creativity and imagination in solving people needs for adapting to an entire society willing to change.
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    Oct 10 2012: It is at the bare minimum of being willing to fight for their liberty. If you are free, the question is free to do what? There first has to be a perfunctory education as to what you are free to do. And that is what is missing.
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      Oct 24 2012: What I see in your statement is the essence of both history and government classes that are currently concerned in testing for dates not cause and effect.

      It would be great if we had a class like Public Choice that would include History, Politics, Government, and Economics. It could be a two year class with four credits for successful completion. Say the first year up to 1870 ..... the second year 1871 to present.

      Perhaps I am naive but I do not see apathy ... I see loss of faith in our leadership and a corruption of the system. To me this begin with the acceptance of Politics as a career instead of a service.

      Bob.
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        Oct 24 2012: What causes the apathy? Truthfully it is a lack education that causes the apathy. The reason you and I and Krisztian and Edward and a few others are not apathetic is we have an understanding of this stuff.

        I like your idea of an class. Maybe all the retired guys should get together like SCORE or similar. My idea on this is to emulate Paul Martin in Canada as his program was so successful. Something I think Paul Ryan could do an awesome job of.
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          Oct 25 2012: Paul Martin a selection for the World Economic Forum Dream Team is not a bad choice if you want to pattern anyone. Just a invitation to Davos is a high honor but to the "Dream Team" is the apex. I notice that the US has two members on the Foundation Board at Davos. Ernesto Zedillo Ponce De Leon, Yale Center of the study of Globalization, and Susan Hockfield President Emerita and Professor of Neuroscience at MIT. Costs of course vary but even the least expensive ticket with minimum travel and lodging would be at $200, 000 (US).

          I agree that Ryan would be great in this area. In comparison the US is in about the same boat as when Martin took over as the head of Finance in Canada. Maybe a little worse but comparative.

          I do some lecturing in the local area and plan on putting a talk together on the lines we discussed and regulate it to various grade levels and see if I can sell it to the local schools as a gratis presentation. I shall explore if an intrerest exists. Succeed or fail I will have given it a shot. Can't make change with my butt on the couch.

          Thanks for the reply.

          Bob.
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        Oct 25 2012: Thank you for your effort Sir,

        Regarding the interest, may I recommend that you pay particular attention to what the students say their interest is, in other words ask them what interests them.
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          Oct 25 2012: Point well taken and appreciated. After all it is about them ... not me. The purpose should be to excite them into taking an interest.
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    Oct 24 2012: This is only pertinent if you believe that we live within real democracies. I believe history will show that we do not. To remedy this underlying problem we need radical change within the way we govern ourselves. I am not suggesting anything less democratic, but thought through changes. Unless we do this fairly soon, as automation takes more and more people out of the work loop and continues to highlight major flaws in our current economic and political processes, we could end up being disenfranchised from democracy altogether.

    see: Ideas for better Political systems:
    http://www.commonsensethinking.co.uk/philos.html

    jp
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    Oct 24 2012: The smaller the size of the voting pool, the less apathy. Translation: Federal (apathy), State (engagement), Local (enthusiasm).
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    Oct 16 2012: Voter apathy is scary because not voting allows people to make decisions for you that do vote and you may or may not agree with those.
    I think people should vote and vote often.
    Although I won't namecall anyone "apathetic" for not voting.
    That's your right too.
    I realize often it comes down to "which candidate has to potential to do less damage.." and the solution is that we need to be more vocal about what we expect and stop accepting these bottom of the barrel crooks we get gifted with especially at the state and local level.
  • Oct 14 2012: You pay a dollar, d'you expect to win the lottery. You get together a bunch of like minded people, combine your reources and you'll improve your chances. That's what an election is. But the really important question is why are so many of us convinced that there's no point in voting. Simple enough really: the fewer voters the easiier the ruling elite can control the outcome. (A master of the obvious I am..) Don't think that I'm trying to sell you on the paranoid fantasy that the ruling elite is a cabal of wrinkled old men sitting in a mansion somewhere gloating about how easily the herd can be manipulated. Nothing like that. The vast majority of the people on the other side of any election are good, sincere and serious people who are doing what they think is right. I think they're wrong but I honor their committment. Next time you hear someone complaining about the system ask them if they voted. If they say no tell them that their democracy asked for their opinion and they refused it. Therefore, since I haven't asked for their opinion and they think so little of it that they're even unwilling to share it with the people who run their government, I feel no interest in what they have to say. Lincoln said of our democracy that no foreign enemy could ever destroy us. That if we died it would be by suicide.
  • Oct 12 2012: Who cares.
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      Oct 12 2012: LOL...the irony of the statement in correlation to my topic is too perfect. =)

      Though my point isn't just about voters who don't care about voting, but voters who have insight into their government and they don't vote because of their views.
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    Oct 12 2012: It has to do with efficacy. Whether or not your vote matters. Take Illinois for instance. Most of the state claims republican, but because of the democratic stronghold in Chicago, my republican friends who live elsewhere in the state say they are not going to vote because it won't matter anyway. The Chicagoland area simply has more people than the rest of the state.

    Then there is the whole Electoral College issue...
  • Oct 12 2012: I'm afraid we are running into the Jeffersonian anticipation of the "Right of Revolution", together with the Right to Bear Arms. Quite a lot of voter apathy is not laziness, but the perception, rightly or wrongly, that our political system has become so corrupted by money, that "voting" no longer represents the will of the "voters".
    Especially now, when thanks to the obliviousness of the Supreme Court, a lot of the "voters" are redefined as for Profit Corporations., in effect.
    Personally, I think our problems are deeper than that. Our political system does seem to be deadocked and impotent at the moment, but is that not representative of the voters themsellves? I mean, we have, thanks partly to "Diversity", become so divided that it is hardly possible to get a consensus on anything important. And even when we do , say the pledges to end the so-called "Wars" we are mired in: the voters obvious wish to end them, is not at all reflected by the actions of the political system at any level, except the Rhetorical. So many would be voters just give up on it; they've been lied to too often. The powers that be seem to think the voters are ignorant saps, who can be , not ignored, but manipulated successfully. That's what the Tzarist Russians thought too. I'm just afraid that "Voter Apathy" , both the apathetic and the antipathetic, is not going to be easily turned around. A rescue by a "Strong Leader", like Putin , or Stalin, or some pseudo Hitler, is more likely. Maybe it would be better if the country divided itself peacefully, like Czechoslovakia did recently , and form up some more coherent groups, like Yanks and Rebels, or perhaps some more modern equivalents. That would after all be more congenial than some Dictator.
  • Oct 11 2012: Hmmmm ... the idea of apathy, being applied to voting, is indeed, an interesting one, but, I have to agree with some of the views that have been posted on this thread, political corruption & deviation from that which is promised prior to election, upon election, would define, in my view, more than enough reason to be disillusioned & therefore unwilling to put a mark in a box, that has little effect on policy, once elections are over.

    It is a very shady arena, where money & influence, far outweigh the voting process, or, the apparent apathy of those, who can't write million dollar cheques to get policy amended to benefit themselves, their loved ones & their communities.

    The people are the only ones who can truly affect change for themselves, putting ticks in boxes just ain't the ticket !!!!!

    The other issue is the inevitable internet voting, that, would seem to be what the politicians now want. So, that will be the end of any kind of voting transparency, which, we now know to be minimal at best anyway .......

    I think it's simple, the masses are getting sick & tired of buying into systems that have proven to be corrupt & not in their best interests, who can blame people for not voting ... REALLY ... ???
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    Oct 11 2012: Choosing not to vote is effectively letting others decide how you want to be treated and letting others decide who you are. It does not equate to "No candidate is good, therefore I pick none of the above by not participating in voting"
  • Oct 10 2012: One more radical idea: those who run for office have got to be pathological egomaniacs to take on the task both of running and then of thinking they can govern. Consider stopping the campaigning process altogether. Don't just change campaign finance, end the entire process. Make it so that no one can put themselves forward, some one else has to nominate them, then lots of people second the motion and finally when you get down to a few good candidates you get a very short series of debates between them, they get to issue some statements and the people choose. Done.

    (Neil deGrasse Tyson was floated earlier - I'd second his nomination!)
    • Oct 12 2012: S:Isn't that pretty much the way it works now?!
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        Oct 12 2012: No. Now it's about $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$.
  • Oct 10 2012: You vote either way ... one way, by "not voting" you give others the power to vote for you. Most likely, these people will not have your interests at heart.
    • Oct 12 2012: I am reminded of what Boss Tweed once said: I don't care WHO runs in the election, as long as I get to count the ballots.
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    Oct 10 2012: When I vote there might be no change but when we vote then there must be huge change because nation is more important than an individual.

    Here in our country a lot of voter apathy exists. Voters in our country depends on the 'Choudhries, Waderras, Nawabs and Sardars' (All are landlords of their areas) you may be astonished to read that if any landlord costs his vote to his relative or someone else all the villagers do the same even in cities people costs their vote to the that person who have given employment or bailed them in a police case etc. They do not care how the corrupt and bad the person whom they are costing their precious vote the example of our president is before you.