The primaries are weeks away and the application deadline for an absentee ballot is Monday. Voting is upon us and controversial candidates abound. And once again, the majority of the nation’s voters are uninformed. Research indicates that although most voters mean well, they are politically incompetent. This does not mean that the voting bloc is stupid, but simply uninterested in the facts of the political process. The uninformed are obligated to abstain from voting.
In a democracy, citizens have no duty to vote, simply the right to vote. But more importantly, would-be voters must understand that voting is morally significant. Our vote can make government better or worse, therefore making people’s lives better or worse. Not every vote is morally acceptable.
If citizens do choose to vote, they are obligated to vote well. They must justifiably believe on the basis of sound evidence that their vote promotes and facilitates the common good, not just their personal opinion of the common good.
This is similar to driving. As a driver, you have a moral obligation to drive in a manner that promotes the common good- the safety of other drivers. If you don’t know how to operate a vehicle, everyone would agree you shouldn’t drive.
This position on voting creates an awkward situation for politically active individuals that vote for what they believe will best facilitate the common good. However, despite their noble intentions, if these individuals have ignored pertinent details or made their decision irrationally, then they have polluted democracy with their votes and increased the likelihood of bad government.
If you are feeling furious at this position, consider the difference between the right to vote and the rightness of voting. Every citizen, regardless if they are uninformed or informed, has the right to vote that is inherent in the nature of democracy. Sometimes, it is within one’s rights to do something morally wrong. However, this does not alter the moral responsibility one’s vote demands.
Students should not vote if they are uninformed or unwilling to thoroughly weigh evidence before voting. The uninformed vote is too easily influenced by irrelevant factors like oratory, charisma and ad campaigns. Citizens helping to choose the most powerful person on the planet should disdain the idealistic and misguided belief that everyone’s opinion is equally important.
It is undoubtedly difficult to determine the quality of one’s evidence for a morally right vote, as everyone views the facts through the prism of their own political ideologies. I don’t presume to know the best way to do that. Regardless, students should reconsider the nature of their vote and acknowledge that their vote has serious social consequences, and is not a mere expression of personal ideologies. Too often voting is undertaken in a flippant manner. Like skipping chapel, even if we are allowed to do it, we should do it responsibly.