Why vote?

Today’s the election and I, for one, will be glad when it’s finally over.  Last week we did our own informal poll to determine who we thought would win the Missouri Senatorial Race.  In our poll Roy Blunt defeated Robyn Carnahan by capturing 59% of the vote.  I’ll be keeping an eye on the returns to see if we picked the winner correctly and if so, how close our percentage of victory matched that of the state. 

While we wait for the results and to encourage you to vote let’s take a look at one fundamental question that affects us all on election day.

Why do people vote, anyway?

Your vote won’t tip an election.

A new study calculated that the average American voter had a one in 60 million chance of deciding the presidential election. The 2000 presidential election was decided by 537 votes in Florida. But even then, your grandmother in Tampa could have stayed home and not changed the outcome. 

The chance that your vote will decide a presidential election is much smaller than the chance that you’ll get hit by a car on the way to the polling booth, one psychologist pointed out, not helpfully.

So why do we vote? Psychologists and economists who study human motivation talk about actions and rewards, how the brain is wired. People generally can be motivated to do things that affect their well-being … or that they believe will. That’s rational and logical. But voting is essentially irrational, if you think the goal is to decide an election. Your lone vote just won’t do that.

There are lots of theories about why people vote anyway. Here are some offered by the American Psychological Association:

*Voting is a form of altruism.

*It’s a habit and a ritual, something we do to fit in or feel compelled to do by social pressure.

*It’s prompted by the illusion that, because we vote, others of a like mind will also vote and create a groundswell for our choice.

Maybe that explains why so many people don’t vote. That’s usually chalked up to apathy and ignorance. But perhaps some people weigh the motivations listed above and say … why bother? After all, nothing will change if they stay home.

Life is full of small gestures that carry more meaning than practical impact. Sending $100 to your alma mater won’t put a kid through college. Using plastic bags won’t save the planet. Casting a vote won’t …

Well, it probably won’t elect anyone. But it will be the ultimate expression of your faith in democracy.

It will be your personal endorsement of some people who seek to lead us. In that sense, one vote speaks very loudly.

Most importantly, you are part of the greatest democracy in the world and many people have sacrificed their lives to provide you the privilege of voting for the candidate of your choosing.  Voting is one of the founding principles of our country, and no matter how screwed up we might think our country is at times, by not voting you become part of the problem and not the solution.

See you at the polls, if you haven’t already been there.  Wear that “I voted” sticker like a badge of honor!

About Craig Thompson

I am a young professional with two great sons, and I work in the healthcare setting. I am employed in hospital administration and serve as Chief Operating Officer at Golden Valley Memorial Healthcare in Clinton, Missouri. These are challenging and exciting times in healthcare and my blog will focus on healthcare, raising boys or being raised by boys, and living in mid America.
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One Response to Why vote?

  1. Raquel Silies says:

    ” . . . and to the Republic, for which it stands . . .”

    A republic is a form of government in which the people or some portion thereof retain supreme control over the government,[1][2] and in which the head of government is not a monarch.[3][4] The word “republic” is derived from the Latin phrase res publica, which can be translated as “a public affair”. Both modern and ancient republics vary widely in their ideology and composition. The most common definition of a republic is a state without a monarch.[3][4] In republics such as the United States and France, the executive is legitimized both by a constitution and by popular suffrage. In the United States, James Madison defined republic in terms of representative democracy as opposed to direct democracy,[5] and this usage is still employed by many viewing themselves as “democrats”.[6] Montesquieu included both democracies, where all the people have a share in rule, and aristocracies or oligarchies, where only some of the people rule, as republican forms of government.[7] In modern political science, republicanism refers to a specific ideology that is based on civic virtue and is considered distinct from ideologies such as liberalism.[8]

    Democracy is a political form of government in which governing power is derived from the people, either by direct referendum (direct democracy) or by means of elected representatives of the people (representative democracy).[1] The term comes from the Greek: δημοκρατία – (dēmokratía) “rule of the people”,[2] which was coined from δῆμος (dêmos) “people” and κράτος (Kratos) “power”, in the middle of the 5th-4th century BC to denote the political systems then existing in some Greek city-states, notably Athens following a popular uprising in 508 BC.[3] Even though there is no specific, universally accepted definition of ‘democracy’,[4] equality and freedom have been identified as important characteristics of democracy since ancient times.[5] These principles are reflected in all citizens being equal before the law and having equal access to power. For example, in a representative democracy, every vote has equal weight, no restrictions can apply to anyone wanting to become a representative, and the freedom of its citizens is secured by legitimized rights and liberties which are generally protected by a constitution.

    So technically, our country is a Republic -right? In theory at least, but definitely not in practice.

    Having said that, I vote every time I get a chance – because I always say – if you don’t vote – don’t complain.

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