It is one of the few remaining and explicitly condoned social pressures in the United States. Its familiar icon, the “I Voted” sticker, has been transformed, by an overwhelming sense of negative judgement, from a quaint little symbol of quiet patriotic pride to a passive-agressive instrument for identifying those who dare to refuse to cave to peer expectation.
It isn’t just about sensitivity and shaming, though. The overzealous and inescapable insistence that every individual must vote is misguided, and it actively works against the best outcomes for the country by any measure.
The idea that everyone should vote on every issue, on every race, and/or in every election cycle is predicated on a number of false assumptions that most of us are too busy patting our own backs and criticising others to ever take the time to question.
“If you want to improve the system by promoting something, promote causes and people you believe to be beneficial; don’t force feed the voting process itself.”
THE “MORE IS BETTER” FALLACY
For the pupose of this discussion, we should recognize that the intent is to discuss those votes in which the results will be measured by percentage rather than by gross number. If your initiative needs x gross number of votes to pass, then obviously general participation numbers matter. In the case of the more familiar style in which percentages determine outcome, however, achieving the greatest general number of voters should not be the primary concern.
Often, two opposing sides of a vote will each present greater general voter turnout as working in favor of their individual and conflicting positions. This is simply a persuasion technique and cannot possibly be true for both sides simultaneously. A greater number of general voters must either not move the percentage needle at all, or it must actively work against one side. Additionally, too intently promoting greater general voting turnout fails to take into account individual differences in information, impact, investment, and attitude.