It’s about time I addressed a number of commonplace beliefs held in the United States which, while they often sound great in sound bites, are almost always based on flawed reasoning. I call these beliefs “American myths.”
Since 2010 is an election year, the news media will almost certainly begin to run more and more articles about the importance of voting and how everyone should vote. While I agree that voting is important, I disagree with the idea that everyone should vote. This is a common American myth.
Let’s think about it. First and foremost, anyone who isn’t an American citizen cannot and should not vote. It’s considered an act of fraud in every state, territory and dominion of the United States. Voting is a responsibility and a privilege associated with citizenship, but this idea isn’t universally understood. In San Francisco, certain people want everyone, citizen or not, to vote on local city issues. While non-citizens living in San Francisco will certainly be affected by local votes, they still remain non-citizens. Membership can and should have its privileges.
Are you aware that in the United States, convicted felons cannot vote? Since a felon has already demonstrated that he or she is not a good citizen, society has determined that a convicted felon loses the right to vote. Yes, this right may be restored after the felon has served his or her sentence, but until then, a felon cannot vote. I can’t help thinking this is a wise rule, especially when I try to imagine Charles Manson casting a ballot.
No one should vote more than once. Even if an individual finds some clever way to circumvent the many laws designed to stop people from registering and voting multiple times, he or she is still committing voter fraud. I include in this category those who damage or spoil ballots, those who browbeat or threaten other voters, and those who coach the mentally incompetent into voting for their chosen candidate or issue. In the American democratic process, no one should be allowed to get away with the thoroughly non-egalitarian idea that some votes are more equal than others.
Apathetic citizens who are otherwise eligible to vote, but who haven’t bothered to register by a certain deadline, cannot vote in the next election. Even if you’re a fully eligible U.S. citizen, you must register in your local voting district if you want to cast a legal vote. If you haven’t taken the paltry amount of time and effort required to register to vote, you won’t have much cause for complaint when the day comes around and you can’t participate because you’re not on the voter rolls.
Finally, while it isn’t illegal, no one ought to vote in ignorance. If you don’t care or can’t be bothered to find out about the issues brought before the public, why participate? There’s not much point in voicing your opinion if you don’t have one. Granted, Joe and Jane Citizen certainly have the right to walk haplessly into the voting booth and vote for candidates and initiatives based on the results of a coin toss. But every citizen who votes in ignorance is failing in his or her civic duties. During the Democrat run-off leading up to the 2008 elections, I heard someone at work say she couldn’t decide whether to vote for Barack Obama because of his race, or for Hillary Clinton because of her gender. Neither of these reasons had anything to do with the issues at hand. One of my wife’s relatives once stated that she voted for JFK because he was such a good-looking man. But neither the candidate’s nor the voter’s race, gender, or pulchritude should have any bearing on a vote. Instead, we need to take the time to do the research–read the voter guides, study the pros and cons of the initiatives on the ballot, find out what we can about the history and political beliefs of the candidates, then vote for the people and ideas that best fit our own political philosophy.
So should everyone vote? No. Only eligible citizens who have taken the time to carefully study the issues and candidates should vote, and vote once. Anything else is either illegal or ignorant. And we’ve had enough of that.