From a PBS article Are bad voters like drunk drivers? New book says they are, and that they should stay home on Election Day.
The topic of this article (and book, since it’s a book review) is something that has bothered me for a long time. The stigma for not voting is so strong it’s mindless. Someone who doesn’t vote because they haven’t taken the time to evaluate the all the facts is considered more irresponsible (perhaps not by all, but largely) than a voter without a clue. While I suspect the fact that it isn’t easily provable whether or not someone has evaluated the facts (it’s easy to form an opinion about, but it’s not easily provable in a fairer sense)- but whether or not one voted is a pretty cut and dry ‘yes or no’ answer- almost lends to the action a presumption that whoever has voted has necessarily gathered an appropriate modicum of information. Or maybe the mindlessness of the EVERYONE SHOULD VOTE mentality doesn’t even go that far, I really don’t know. I just know that ‘not voting’ is considered irresponsible, even though the act itself is relatively quick and easy to do. Saying one voted somehow seems to lift the irresponsible stigma (again, perhaps not by all, but by enough people to make it *seem* real). I’ve often thought it would do a tremendous service if that stigma were brought to light- then people wouldn’t get to feel like they’ve done their civic duty simply because they showed up and cast a ballot.“If most voters decide, ‘We don’t know anything, we’re just going to kind of choose whatever we find emotionally appealing,’ then they’re imposing that upon other people,” said Brennan, a professor of political philosophy at Brown University. “And not only are they imposing it upon other people, they’re imposing it literally at gunpoint.”
Brennan is the author of “The Ethics of Voting,” a new book that questions the conventional belief that voting is a civic duty, and that a person’s vote is sacrosanct. Brennan argues that voting is more than just a decision about personal preferences (Do I support reproductive rights? Do I oppose gay marriage?). Voting, according to Brennan, is actually a decision about how other people should live. And that, he says, makes it a “pretty hardcore ethical situation.”
“When I’m at a restaurant deciding what to eat, I’m deciding for myself. I choose to have a hamburger, I’m the person who lives with the consequences. If it’s overly fatty, I get fat, you don’t get fat. If it causes heart disease, I get it, not you,” Brennan said. “When we’re voting, we are imposing costs upon one another. We’re not just deciding for ourselves.”
And because of that, Brennan argues, there is no moral obligation to vote — in fact, not everyone should vote. “I don’t think people have a duty to vote. I argue that voting is just one of many ways you can exercise civic virtue,” Brennan said. “I think it’s sort of morally optional. If you do it well, it’s praiseworthy, but it’s not anything special.”
The point isn’t merely that you should feel free to stop reading newspapers or paying attention to elections when they roll around. As Brennan put it, misinformed choices at the ballot box have harmful consequences for society, and we’re all forced to live with those consequences. So we need to reconsider what voting is, and who should do it.
Of course, deciding whether you are qualified to vote is a tricky thing. Because we tend to view facts and evidence through the prism of our political ideology, we’re unlikely to be swayed by the argument that we shouldn’t vote because our beliefs are “unfounded,” or that they’re “contradicted by the evidence.” We view the evidence however we want to view it. Some voters even seem to pride themselves on their ignorance.
That, Brennan says, is “irrational.” In a way, it’s like driving drunk.
This^ part I disagree with. For the obvious reason that such a thing could never be ethically officiated. Also I, for one, am rubbish at regurgitating the details that lead me to the convictions I arrive at- but I know when something I believe has been well thought out or not. So I'd be screwed if I had to 'prove' I was informed enough to vote. And the author admits it would never really work out anyway.Brennan restricts his book specifically to a discussion of the moral permissibility of voting — whether you’re acting unethically if you vote based not on a rational assessment of the facts but for emotional or ideological reasons. But Brennan confessed that, since writing the book, he has become more sympathetic to the idea that we should simply forbid some people from voting if they are “unqualified” to do so.
If we were stick with the drunk driving analogy, for example, we should view the right to vote in the same way we view the right to drive. If you’re unqualified to drive — if you haven’t proven that you can do it safely and responsibly, with low risk to other drivers — you don’t get a license. And if you’re unqualified to go to the polls — if you’re misinformed and incurious, if you dismiss all evidence that contradicts your partisan ideology — you don’t get the right to vote.
Of course, there are obvious dangers implicit in this view, as Brennan admits. Special interests, for example, might co-opt the voting process to exclude those who won’t support their agenda. Incumbents might bar voters who are likely to oust them from office. And literacy and comprehension tests have an ugly history dating back to the Jim Crow era, when they were used to disenfranchise African-Americans. That led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
So what do you all think of this article/this writer’s views?