Should Uninformed Voters Vote?

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Should Uninformed Voters Vote?

Annie

Annie

Annie

If you’re an FSS student or faculty member who will be eligible to vote in the next election, you may be wondering whether or not you should expend the effort to get to a polling place on November 5th. This isn’t a presidential election, so chances are, you aren’t familiar with some of the candidates. Is it morally right for you to vote, even if you’re not knowledgeable about the politicians on the ballot?

In the United States, voting is a right, and citizens have the right to choose not to vote. Because some Americans are more knowledgeable about politics than others, the question becomes whether uninformed citizens should vote or not.

Those who advocate that uninformed voters abstain from voting argue that increased voting by uneducated constituents increases the probability of electing objectively worse candidates. Some that oppose uninformed voting say that abstaining from the election process is better than making an uninformed vote because, while better government leads to higher voter turnout, the reverse is untrue. Others point out that an increase in votes from citizens who are ignorant about politics would lead to escalations in sensational and misleading advertising because uninformed voters are more likely to be influenced by this. Additionally, random voting by oblivious residents could skew elections in a way that causes government to be less representative of the will of the people.

On the other hand, the main case in favor of voting regardless of knowledge contends that a higher voter turnout would bring about a fairer government because politicians, motivated by a desire for re-election, tend to listen to the wishes of demographics that vote and ignore the requests of those that do not. There is a disproportionate amount of nonvoters who are young, poor, uneducated, female, or otherwise marginalized. Higher voter turnouts could aid in securing more equal representation for these groups because politicians would be forced to listen to them. Evidence for this includes Australia, which has adopted a mandatory voting system and has seen decreases in economic inequality and political corruption. Australia’s voting requirement has shaped a culture in which voting is considered a “civic duty” rather than simply a right, and is therefore taken more seriously. Some suggest that this sort of attitude could cause voters to become more informed about politics. In addition, a higher voter turnout in the US could combat the polarization of politics that is so prevalent currently. Partisan Americans are more likely to vote, causing candidates to target their campaigns towards the extremes of the political spectrum, but a broader range of voting citizens could force politicians to become less divisive in their tactics, which could help build bipartisan cooperation.

“Informed” could be interpreted in many ways, and there’s no clear-cut way to draw the line between “informed” and “uninformed” voters. How much does one have to know to be considered “informed?” What topics would one have to be knowledgeable about? How would this even be measured?

There’s no easy answer, but to me, the simplest solution is this: become an informed voter. The best way to solve this problem is to avoid it altogether just by googling candidates ahead of time. But if that fails, and you end up in a voting booth with minimal knowledge of the names in front of you, I still think that you should vote. If you know which party you like the best, or you know a little bit about the candidates, the best thing to do, in my opinion, is to make a choice based on the small amount of information that you possess. You may not always be an expert on every candidate, but most people will still be able to make an educated guess about which candidates would be more aligned with their views.

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