Tomorrow folks around the country will head to the polls to vote for their favorite candidate or ideal.
This post is about why most of us are better off staying home.
The Impact of Your Individual Vote is Minimal.
One of the many problems with the “get out the vote” fever pitch is that, if realized, it actually minimizes the overall impact of state and local elections.
This is because the more people clamoring to make their voices heard, the less it matters what any one person is saying.
To illustrate, imagine you’re on a committee of ten people, yourself included.
In voting on any particular bill, you control 10% of the total vote.
What if you add ten more people to the committee?
Now you control 5% of the vote.
Add ten more. 3.3%. Ten more. 2.5%. And on it goes.
When elections are decided by a popular vote, your vote matters less if more people are voting.
Furthermore, Casey Mulligan and Charles Hunter (both economists) in their study “The Empirical Frequency of a Pivotal Vote” found 7 out of the 40,000 congressional races they studied going back to 1898 were decided by a single vote.
Another study published by Columbia University, “What is the Probability Your Vote Will Make a difference“, calculated the odds of your vote deciding a presidential election at 1 in 60 million.
Finally, because of the Electoral College system, the impact of your vote in determining the final outcome of an election depends heavily on the amount of electoral votes your state controls and the overall reddishness or blueness of your state.
For example, my home state of Illinois hasn't gone red since Reagan was elected and
Texas hasn't voted for a Democrat since Jimmy Carter.
Unless you live in a “swing state”, whether you stay home or not Election Day makes little difference.
Politicians Have Their Best Interests at Heart, Not Yours.
Time and time again, frustrated voters discover “their” candidate, as it turns out, is not nearly as concerned about the voters' priorities as first appearances would have had them believe.
When Roe V. Wade was passed in 1973, formerly “pro-life” politicians Ted Kennedy, Jesse Jackson, Al Gore, and Bill Clinton all experienced sudden “changes of heart”.
While correlation doesn't equal causation, the timing of their announcements, following the landmark Supreme Court decision in favor of women's privacy and right to an abortion, was quite curious.
Another example of similarly curious “evolutions” on political issues is Democratic Party’s position on gay rights.
Those folks who either supported the federal Defense of Marriage Act ( or publicly endorsed the view that marriage is a heterosexual union and then changed their minds are too numerous to name, but include President Obama, Joe Biden, Hillary and Bill Clinton, Harry Reid, Kay Hagan, Claire McCaskill, Mark Warner, Mark Begich, Jon Tester, and many others.
On the other side of the political spectrum, Marco Rubio, once a conservative darling and favored as the republican nominee for the 2016 election by conservative pundits and polls, has been deserted by his one time fans on the far-right and in the “Tea Party” for his support for comprehensive immigration reform (which he first opposed).
Examples of politicians flip-flopping could fill a library.
At the end of the day, Washington is concerned about Washington and politicians are concerned about politicians.
Rather than going back to the same greedy slot machine, hoping that *this* time things will go our way, why not bypass it altogether?
As the old adage goes, fool me once…
Voting for Your Cause Does Little to Help it.
Remarking on voting against slavery, Henry David Thoreau said this:
There is but little virtue in the action of masses of men. When the majority shall at length vote for the abolition of slavery, it will be because they are indifferent to slavery, or because there is but little slavery left to be abolished by their vote.
Thoreau, writing a little more than a decade before the start of the Civil War and sixteen years before the passage of the 13th amendment, was spot on.
The United States voted to abolish to slavery as a direct result of hundreds of thousands of dead Americans following a bloody civil war.
To say the 13th Amendment abolished slavery or did anything more than legally recognize what the people had already decided must be done and worked to strenuously accomplish is granting too much.
The same is true of all kinds of civil rights issues; Native American, female, disabled, homosexual, and more, not to mention other kiNds of important social changes reflected through legislation.
Voting for “change” either happens because change has already happened in the minds of the people or because no one really cares one way or another.
Either way, your vote says little.
Voting Feeds Government Corruption; It Doesn't Stop it.
When you vote for this measure or that measure, you aren't seeing your vision realized, you are only putting lifeblood back into a broken system.
Any model of government can only exist as long as there is civic participation of whatever form the model requires.
And for democracy to work, people have to engage in the defining democratic practice: voting.
Without votes, a representative democracy like our country would be stall, which, contrary to what you might think, is a good thing.
The American government is inundated with wickedness, propelled by greed, founded on self-concern, stained with blood, and opposed to Christ.
When I choose to work directly through a system like that, I can only make the problem worse.
So what can you do instead?
Make a Long-Term investment in Your Home Church
The Kingdom of God is run out of local assemblies of believers who meet in various locations and under different circumstances all across the earth.
True change or reform that does not involve the people of God under the reign of God doing the work of God wherever they may find themselves put by God (to borrow Scot McKnight’s phrasing), will not last.
Get involved in your home church and make that involvement high on your list of priorities.
Stop for the One
Christian evangelist Heidi Baker who works with the poorest of the poor in Mozambique has a mantra she carries with her wherever she goes to speak about the wonders God is doing in the Africa continent: stop for the one.
This is being attentive to....
the lady on the sidewalk who you walk by every day going to work
the guy who brings you your coffee at your favorite café
the kid who you sit by at school
that person whom you've never come into contact with before,
...and whomever God is telling you to minister His love and grace to.
As we go “low and slow” with the hurting people around us who need our help, we will see positive, lasting change bit by little bit.
Get Involved in Local Non-Partisan change Efforts
For me, this takes the form of pro-life work and tutoring.
Maybe you can volunteer time at a local homeless shelter, food bank, center for folks with HIV and AIDS, low cost medical clinic, etc.
Maybe you cannot volunteer time, but can give money on a regular basis or donate supplies/other non-monetary goods.
Whether you’re investing in organizations or activities that meet an immediate need or our seeking to eliminate the root cause of some social ill, you can be sure this is a way to help yourself and those around you without making things worse by necessity.
Support Non-Local efforts of the Same Kind
Finally, find a mission or an organization doing good work in another country and do the same thing.
Donate, volunteer, advocate—do something through direct action or investment.
I hope you will consider how civic participation through government hurts more than it helps and will consider one of these non-participant solutions going forward.
Leave questions, comments, and concerns in the comments section below!