USF student Nick White has a very nuanced set of opinions that he has shared with the Foghorn. He is able to articulate himself in a breadth of important topics and should be commended for his ability to do so. However, his latest article on why he would not vote in the 2012 election proved to be deeply disappointing, not just because it showed a cavalier attitude toward a tradition that many would and have killed for, but also because it lacked the consistency and effort in thought that I have grown to admire in White’s columns.
To unilaterally abstain from voting because the only viable candidates in a presidential race are for whatever reason objectionable undermines the importance of causes we profess to care so much about. Candidates may be of little interest to White, but clearly the issues are not. This year, every ballot in the state of California is equipped with several localized elections and ten propositions. One proposition in particular, Proposition 34, repeals the death penalty, which White has been an outspoken critic of. It is difficult to not question the importance of certain issues to White if he is unwilling to engage in this most basic of form of civic engagement. In fairness to White, he may not be a registered voter in California. However, his home state of Georgia does propose two amendments to the state constitution, one of which deals with the functionality of the public school system which he may have benefitted from.
Perhaps White is unfamiliar with the concept of compulsory voting, whereupon citizens in a democracy such as Brazil or Australia are compelled to vote in order to avoid paying a fine. In these types of environments, it is still possible to abstain from voting for a viable candidate through ballot spoiling. Ballot spoiling is also prevalent in the U.S. The 2008 Minnesota Senate race infamously had a ballot voting for “Lizardmen” in the write-in category of some races while simultaneously casting a viable vote for Al Franken for U.S. Senate.
What does it mean for a vote to matter? This is not defined clearly. It does however appeal to a populist viewpoint that voting does not matter. The Minnesota Senate race along with the 2010 congressional race of my home district showed a difference of less than 1% of voters between the two candidates. Surely such votes matter enormously in close elections like these. I would argue that they also matter in races with wider differences.
The benefit of such circumstances is avoiding ballot-by-ballot legal challenges and creating smoother transitions of power. An unabashed willingness to abstain from voting on these grounds undermines the necessity of candidates to hear the opinions of the college-aged demographic as a potential constituency. It also perpetuates an absurd and self-involved notion that the only worthwhile races to vote in are the presidential ones. It is certainly acceptable, albeit begrudgingly, for a person to abstain from voting. However, these ill-conceived rationalizations are insulting to the reader.