Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Those who choose not to vote still have the right to complain

I’ll start off by saying that I’m an avid voter. Not only do I vote in every government election I can, but I’ve voted in a school board by-election, for my credit union board, and more. If I had had the chance, I would have voted before I was 18 (I’ve been politically conscious for most of my life). I can not, in any way, be considered a non-voter. Further, I actively engage people with resources intended to support their voting, have moderated candidate forums, been an election station worker, and run workshops to help people better understand the voting process.

Please keep that in mind as you read the rest of this.

I’ve often heard people say around election time “If you don’t vote, you don’t have the right to complain.” That’s wrong on more than one level.

On a basic freedom of speech principle, people have the right to complain no matter what they have or haven’t done.

There are more than just a few non-voters who see voting as an endorsement of a system they object to (I object to the current system, too, I just think that voting can help reduce some of its harm). Not voting in a system they disagree with should in no way limit their right to complain about that system and its actions and consequences. In fact, those people are often the ones with the most to say in complaint of the system.

There’s a quote on a button someone gave me years ago: “If 10 minutes every 4 years is all you put into democracy, that’s all the democracy you’re going to get.”

Voting is not democracy. Voting is a tool which can be applied in some contexts in support of certain aspects of democracy. However, democracy itself is a much, much, bigger pie. Just because someone doesn’t participate in one aspect of our society does not mean they must give up any right to participate in the rest of it.

So, to all the non-voters out there: Please keep bringing your voices to the democratic dialogue we need to be having as a society.

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