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Why vote?

November 7, 2012

So, I’ve been listening to some podcasts recently (*cough* Freakonomics *cough*) that seem to suggest that the fashion with economists today is to eschew voting and dismiss it as “irrational”. Basically: “Cool economists don’t vote”. (In fact, I’ve noticed that “cool economists” usually excuse themselves from dealing with most things that they deem to be “irrational”.)

Clearly, voting is not a “rational” decision. I, personally, would also question anyone who argues that a single person deciding to vote is somehow instrumentally useful. I’ll be the first one to admit to not being fully informed about all of the candidates on my ballot. I confess that I didn’t vote for any Soil and Water Commissioners this time around, and the only information backing up my decision on electing county justices was that they were women (and hence seemed less likely to encumber my reproductive rights, in a pinch).

I don’t vote to solve problems–although it may, sometimes, become a happy side-effect. I don’t even really vote to “make my voice heard”, whatever that means. I talk plenty on a daily basis, so believe me, if “making my voice heard” were what I was after, I would hardly grab a bullhorn and dive into the cacophony of an election cycle to do it. I can be heard better in campus committee meetings, volunteering around the community, going to a school board meeting, sitting in a coffee shop and chatting with my neighbor, or any number of better ways than a federal election.

So why do I vote? On the morning after what for me feels like a pretty happy election, it seems worth pondering…

I vote to feel connected the future–and the history–of my country and community. When I think about the other places in this world I have lived, and the other places I could live, choosing to vote in this country feels like an expression of “where the heart is”.

I vote to feel implicated in the ways my community and country will evolve, and to remind myself to stay active in creating these evolutions.

I vote because, despite all the political vitriol, the act of voting is still a powerful, almost miraculous sign of our desire to be in community with each other.

I vote because, for an unforgivably long period of time in this country, women were not allowed to vote.

I vote because, in many other countries across the globe, people do not have the opportunity to vote and signal their commitment to their communities and support (or lack of support) for their leaders.

And in future elections, I hope to remember that I vote because, regardless of the outcome, I am committed to cooperation across differences and to helping this country solve its messes.

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