Voting: Ethics

This article represents my view on the ethics surrounding voting.

Voting is a right, not a responsibility or a privilege

I ascribe to the view that the goal of government is to serve the interests of the body politic who comprise the society it serves and defends. This is pretty much the view of the founding fathers so it’s enshrined in the declaration of independence and the constitution.

Voting is the most forceful means for its citizens to make their interests known to the government. Thus it is a kind of right we are afforded by the law. It is not a type of service we provide. Public service is done by those elected and those employed by the government.

If you want to read about voting strategy, read this.

You should vote in your own interests (including altruism)

The whole purpose of a vote is to allow you to have an influence in the way the government is run so that in theory it can serve you best. To do that, you need to express, through your vote, what it is you want. This both serves you, and it serves the philosophical foundation of the American form of government.

That said, you can and probably should be interested in more than just yourself. You may well want your family, neighbors, fellow citizens, or all of humanity to be well served by the state or at least not harmed by it. Your own sense of altruism is just as much your own interest as more personal desires.

If you vote, you should make some effort to be informed

I think it is a bit irresponsible and not even very self-serving if you vote without at least some knowledge of who or what you are voting for. I think it is better to abstain than make a choice out of complete ignorance. In our system, true expertise is supposed to lay in the hands of those you elect, so being a policy master is not required, but to have some sense of who you are voting for and why seems reasonable at a minimum.

Voting should be as widely available as possible

Because voting is a fundamental right of a democracy, it should be as widely available as possible. I oppose taking away voting rights even from people who are incarcerated for felonies. Allowing the state to disenfranchise people for any reason has some very serious consequences and is open to serious abuses of power. Contrary, the political power of the incarcerated is generally pretty low so it doesn’t represent much peril. The only exception I would really consider is those convicted of vote fraud.

You should not try to cheat

Voting more than once or denying someone else a legal vote undermines the rights of others and you shouldn’t do it.

That said, I do think it is OK to delegate your voting decision to someone else you trust or for just about any other reason you so desire. Hopefully, you would do this because you think it best serves your interests.


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