Tech, policy, liberty, voice

You matter; Your vote doesn't

08 Nov 2016

You matter.

You show love to other people, validating and comforting them.

You work and create value for yourself and others, making you both better off.

You learn new things and teach others new things, growing in skills and knowledge.

This is one of the reasons I appreciate social media. It’s wonderful to see people showing love, working, learning and teaching new things. When people are passionate about how they are improving themselves or helping others improve it’s a wonderful thing to see and I’m glad they’ve shared that moment with me.

I may not know you personally, but I’m nearly certain that if you weren’t around that other people’s lives would be diminished. Less love shared, less value created in society, less knowledge available. You matter, and I’m glad you share some part of your existence with me.

However, the fact that you exist and that you likely make the world a better place doesn’t mean that others are improved by or interested in sharing all of your experiences, actions, or opinions.

There are innumerable actions you’ve taken - and will take - which aren’t useful for others to know about. What you choose for breakfast tomorrow almost certainly won’t impact my life, and the knowledge of your choice won’t either. You know this already, and for the most part you don’t bother mentioning the most mundane parts of your life to other people.

Except for one area. In this one area, even though our actions have no impact on anyone else, we all feel empowered to shout our actions from the rooftops to anyone who will listen.

Your vote doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter, and you need to stop pretending like it does.

If you believe that your vote matters, I encourage you to do a brief mental exercise with me. Imagine that you lived the same life you do now, except you (and only you) were unable to ever cast a vote in any major election. Now consider how different the world would be without your participation in those elections, without your vote being cast.

It wouldn’t be different at all. Your participation in the voting process has no effect on the world, at all. Ever. It never will.

This is just simple math. Elections are too large to be decided by a single vote. Whether or not you vote is completely irrelevant.

[An aside: This doesn’t mean voting in aggregate doesn’t matter. This is about any individual voter.]

Your vote impacts me just as much as what you ate for breakfast on election day. You likely know that I’m not interested in your breakfast, but why do you think I care about your equally unimportant vote?

I don’t know the answer. It’s possible that you believe your vote does matter. Maybe not mathematically, maybe it won’t change the outcome, but there’s still something important about being involved in the political process, right?

Not through voting there isn’t. The current 2016 US election is a prime example of that. The two major candidates are widely considered to be unpopular choices. Why take pride in participating in a system which produces such poor results? If you were offered to be punched in the gut or have your kneecaps shattered the simple fact that you made a decision between them isn’t valuable to me.

Maybe you voted third party and want to signal your ideological beliefs to your friends. That’s fine, but if spreading your ideology matters to you then I hope you don’t wait every two or four years to make others aware of this by telling them you engaged in the utterly futile practice of making a third party candidate gain 3.700001% of the vote instead of 3.700000%.

Perhaps you know that your vote doesn’t matter to me, but you choose to share it anyway.

If that’s true, then you need to re-examine what voting means to you. Are you doing this as a way to signal something to your peers? Maybe you felt peer-pressure or wanted acceptance into a group that is likely to have voted for X candidate?

You matter, but your vote doesn’t. Go make the world a better place by actually doing something that makes the world a better place. I want to hear about that, not your meaningless vote.