With apologies to supervisors of elections and civics teachers everywhere, it is blasphemously suggested here that not everybody vote. I know; I know. That’s un-American, probably subversive and certainly elitist. And Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Pam Iorio is already launching a heat-seeking epistle my way.
But hear out this heresy.
America’s love affair with democracy has always had its incongruous side. Our Declaration of Independence accommodated both the essence of equality and the nature of slavery. The franchise to vote had quirky exceptions regarding land ownership, race and gender. And elections, as it turns out, aren’t necessarily won by the candidate with the most votes.
Relatively speaking, this is not nearly so iconoclastic.
In the idealistic interest of a more meaningful, participatory democracy, let’s encourage — because we can’t actually mandate — the truly clueless to either find out what’s going on or just pass on the polls come election day. Let’s stop wringing our societal hands about all those who don’t bother to vote. Not voting is as American as not taking the stand in your own criminal defense. Let’s just recognize it for what it is; such non-voters have, in effect, disenfranchised themselves out of ignorance, born of laziness and apathy.
The only viable choices should be these: a reasonably informed vote or no vote. Wooing, cajoling, pleading, humiliating, browbeating and bribing need no longer be part of our pre-election ritual.
Simply showing up because some “Get Out The Vote” campaign exhorted and shamed you is not a good enough reason to vote. How about because you care? Because it’s important. Because a viable democracy requires an informed citizenry. And because there are those still risking their lives to defend rights that include this one.
And simply showing up because of some political party’s “knock-and-drag” vote trolling shouldn’t even pass muster with a Jimmy Carter election monitor. Such scenarios, of course, always come with party line marching orders — lock step democracy at its finest.
Why do you think there were some 10,000 “overvotes” in Duval County in 2000? Because the Democratic Party’s “Get Out The Vote” campaign targeted a lot of first-time minority voters and sent them to the polls with nothing more than directions and directives to vote Democratic and punch every page. The presidential ballot, alas, had two pages. Those literally following orders literally “overvoted.” If you believe this ballot parody was better than not voting, then you might also believe that courageous civil rights activists sacrificed and died for the right of future generations to overvote.
Put it this way: If it takes a shame campaign, a personal entreaty by Barbra Streisand or Charlton Heston or a special interest’s dragnet to get you to the polls, try sitting it out. Exercise, if nothing else, some restraint and consider it a duty not to make a sham out of the sacrosanct right to vote. Not casting that manipulated or ill-informed vote is arguably a patriotic act.
One man, one vote sounds unassailably good, especially to the Supreme Court that decreed it in the 1960s. One man, one informed vote, however, still sounds infinitely better.