Why I don’t vote

Your vote counts for something. Just not what you think.

If your vote — not “voting in the aggregate”, not “voting blocs”, but your vote — has no chance of deciding the election or producing a meaningful difference in margins, then reasons against voting don’t have to be terribly strong to outweigh reasons for it.

This isn’t a controversial point, not really. If I’m wondering if I should take an action and the action’s effects will be trivial at best, then if there’s even a small reason not to do it, that’s probably good enough to say “don’t.”


On Tuesday, that’s exactly the situation millions of Americans will find themselves in. Not a single one will decide the election, whether at the national, state, or local level. That’s just math. Which means every American, if presented with just a minimal reason to consider not voting ought to abstain.


Okay, but what’s that reason?

Government is so powerful, big, and inept because we let it be that way. One of the ways we let it is by reducing civic participation to voting. Vote once a year, or every two years, or even just every four years, and you’ve done your part to make government accountable to the people. Which is, of course, crazy. We all know that. But voting enables a narrative of control where there’s little to none. And because so many Americans buy into this narrative, the “Get out and vote” message creates a false sense of legitimacy about the state’s actions. Simply put, the fact that we vote — that we’ve been granted the “right” to vote — does not justify the government’s claimed authority over us. Not even close.


The world would be better if we took the state less seriously and so gave it less power. This is true whether you’re a progressive upset about surveillance and police brutality or a conservative upset about gun control and regulatory intrusion.

By voting, you might move things in the right direction. But probably not. The overwhelming odds are that the world with your vote looks identical to the one without. Yet what you are doing by voting is signing your name to a system that says all those things you despise seeing the government do — hacking emails, bombing kids, crippling small businesses, trampling religious beliefs, driving up the cost of health care, imprisoning the non-violent — are made “okay” and perfectly legitimate because “We” voted on them. They’ll be done in your name.

Why be a part of that? Especially when symbolically signing on to those injustices does just about nothing to make the world a better place.