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Does Voting Really Help?

By Alex J. Ruiz – Let me start by saying that I do vote. Every year, I go to the polls and vote on issues concerning our community, city, state and country. I vote for other citizens whom I expect to represent my concerns at those same levels. Bryan Caplan, an economist and author at George Mason University contends that “voters are worse than ignorant; they are, in a word, irrational – and vote accordingly.” Caplan’s argument stems from a belief that voters are randomly choosing based on the fact that they are ill-informed. Gary Bass, an associate professor on politics at Princeton, reports on Caplan’s claims that 99% of voters fall into this category. (Bass, New York Times) Due to this randomness, Caplan also states that the ignorant votes will be split between candidates in his example of a political race for office. Theoretically, the majority of voters don’t count. But thanks for showing up. The remaining informed one percent will make the correct decision that is best for all citizens. That is a lot of power to wield to the public, and it appears to be mostly ignorants just clicking a button. Some simply have faith that the people who take office will represent in a dignified manner and that they are trustworthy. There have always been scandals over the years with politicians doing very unethical acts, and they generally have gotten their just punishment. But how did someone win votes and later be found unethical? Media bias can lead people to vote with leaning information. Or maybe the citizens just fall prey to a propaganda campaign. Either way, it takes more time to do the research on a candidate or an issue than listening to Glen Beck or CNN for an hour. This could be used to supplement the


knowledge you are trying to acquire. The reward will be that the world you live in is your own and by voting in an educated way, you are reshaping the new and improved democratic nation. There are ways to become a more informed voter. Finding verifiable information is a bit of a task, but it will allow the voter to make the decision that best fits their own personal beliefs. Information is sometimes simplified, shortened, or even given in a party leaning version to the public by political hopefuls trying to generate votes. The voter can gain true knowledge from reputable non-biased news sources. This is very difficult sometime especially during election time. It is important to simply learn the difference between facts and opinions during stump speeches and through the press releases. Is the information they are giving out verifiable? Is this information obtained from independent sources? Are the proposals that are offered even viable? Who crunched the numbers for the research they use to show their argument? These are but a few of the questions the informed voter must start asking themselves. Building a case with yourself on your stance on an issue may show that the voter was never truly aligned with the politician who happens to be a particular party candidate. Just a few questions will show an informed voter what is truly rhetoric and what can make the community better. But there are days when I wonder, does my vote really count for anything. If I feel I am in the 1% of people and am informed enough to make a decision and understand that it may not prevail. But if my vote does win out, I must be ready for the repercussions if I chose poorly. I don’t believe this is the case in our democratic society. We are so free that we are allowed to believe that we can make poor decisions and someone else will clean up the mess.


Are we putting too much stock in this public voting thing? I mean we (Americans) are essentially given the opportunity to say, “I want that person to speak for me”. It is up to the individual to really learn the issues. The concern should be that the person seeking election may not know about the issue. Learn their stance on it and fully understand what you want from the issue. Understand that propaganda can be used to further an agenda of particular groups. Voters can be irrational and vote based on unverified information or none at all. “It’s just something I heard on the radio” or “I read in the paper that….” We vote people into office, and then some elected officials make their decisions based on what’s best for them. Eliot Spitzer was the New York Attorney General who built his reputation and career by being a moral crusader. AG Spitzer was elected to Governor of New York in 2007. Shortly after this an investigation including wiretaps led to his admitting to a scandalous prostitution ring involvement. (Biography.com) The examples can go on and on. Anyone from city officials all the way to Bill Clinton can embarrass themselves after garnering the trust of many constituents. At the end of the day, our society needs to be informed on the decisions that need to be made. If we continue to allow non-informed voting to continue, our democratic government could become our greatest weakness. This could be due to inefficiency and ineffectiveness of programs, initiatives and other issues pertaining to the constituents. This country is a leading example to the world of the best of the best for its citizens. We as a country need to find the pride that allowed the possibilities for innovation, expansion, and upkeep when this country was founded.


Annotated Bibliography

Bass, Gary, “Clueless” 2007. New York Times. Accessed 2/17/11, http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/27/magazine/27wwln-idealab-t.html?_r=1 Bass writes an article explaining the details of Caplan’s book on voter ignorance. This ignorance is brought on by uninformed voters. Caplan does detail some solutions and Bass explains some of the reasoning behind these options.

Caplan, Bryan, “The Myth of the Rational voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies” 2007.

"Eliot Spitzer." 2011. Biography.com.. Accessed March 7, 2011, http://www.biography.com/articles/Eliot-Spitzer-279076. Eliot Spitzer led a tumultuous political career that started as a very ambitious lawyer. He followed the path he thought would give him the most successful chances. The story describes his life from private practice to the District Attorney’s office, and into the political realm. The political machine ended up being Spitzers downfall. He offered solutions that were not popular and he eventually ended his Governor post after scandals forced him to resign.


Does Voting Really Help?