J a n u a r y   2 0 0 4

Guest Writer

Will anyone care if they cancel the general election?
Voter apathy
by Ryan Douglas

lthough I've been eligible to vote for over a decade, I've only voted once.

I stopped exercising my voting rights for two reasons. One, I don't want to serve on a jury. Not voting keeps me out of the jury pool, which is right where I like to be. I know that most normal people get out of jury duty by lying, but I'd rather not vote than lie to a cop.

The second reason is that the last and only time I voted, I did so irresponsibly – which is much worse than not voting.

It wasn't until I had gone through the process of voting that I realized how difficult voting responsibly actually is. While at the polls, I found myself confronted with dozens of questions requiring important decisions that cannot and should not be made hastily.

It's much easier to merrily punch chads next to names made familiar by television ads and roadside posters than to perform the weeks of probing research required to formulate responsible voting decisions. A truly informed voter would have to wade through countless lies and untruths, while cross-referencing claims and counter-claims for accuracy in order to make a truly informed decision.

I chose one candidate because I had shaken his hand on a Washington State commuter ferry. I chose another because I had seen a sign with his name on it in my neighbor's front yard. Other candidates were chosen on mere whimsy.

When I left the polls that day, I didn't feel good about fulfilling my civic duty. I felt like a pawn.

If I didn't feel bad enough already, within a matter of months I was summoned to jury duty. To get out of jury duty, I was forced to lie to the police – something I don't like to do.

Bad as I felt, I was still unwilling to invest the countless hours needed to vote responsibly. Instead, I've decided to control damage by not voting, ever again.

Every few years I feel a pang of guilt for my abstinence. That is, I did until last week when I found out from the governor of Washington State that voting doesn't matter anyway.

It all started in September, when a federal appeals court ruled that Washington State's "blanket-primary" system was unconstitutional. Until that time, voters in Washington State could choose candidates from any party when casting their votes in the presidential primary.

A three-member panel decided that allowing voters to choose a candidate they wanted, and not the one that their party presented, violated the first amendment rights of the political parties, which are more important than the voters, since the voters don't actually elect the president anyway.

The day after the ruling, Washington Gov. Gary Locke stated that he'd "fight tooth and nail to keep this election." Three months later, he signed legislation canceling the primary altogether, asserting that the results are essentially meaningless and that money would be better spent on things other than democracy.

What a great idea! I don't feel bad anymore for not voting. I was right all along, and all those hapless fools who skipped out of work early so they could stand in line and vote were wasting their time and tax dollars! Maybe we can take all that tax money that we waste on elections and pour it into school programs that teach students what a fallacy democracy is!

Several other states have halted the democratic process to save money. Washington is one of at least four states that have canceled presidential primaries. No one seems to care much about this yet.

Will anyone care if they cancel the general election? Any honest politician could easily argue that the general election is meaningless, since it's the Electoral College that appoints the president and not the actual voting populous, anyway.

As you may have noticed, I don't really believe in the system. But that's because it's not my system. It's a system of politicians, for politicians.

I believe that the people should play a part in the system. Even if they don't really elect the leaders, their votes should be counted.

Somehow, I've always thought that even in a republic, every vote in some way mattered. I thought that, even though I couldn't make sense of it, at least the world of politics made sense to the politicians.

It wasn't until last week when the meaninglessness of it all became clear: by taking away our elections the politicians have shown us that they don't believe in their world, either.

E-mail Ryan at ryonie@hotmail.com, and see more of his work in our archives.

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