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The Open Mind: why I stopped voting

The Open Mind is a new series encouraging students to think of a time they’ve changed their opinion on a fundamental issue. In an era where views seem more polarised than ever, ‘The Open Mind’ demonstrates that critical thinking, flexibility and a preparedness to have one’s prejudices challenged remain strong and important.


In 2019, I shared that I wouldn’t be voting in the General Election and that I spoiled my ballot. This went down as well as you would think. I am no victim here but I was met with many unsolicited comments about how not voting is privilege epitomised, how I want the “evil” side to win, and why my decision was stupid.

The irony isn’t lost on me being a politics student who doesn’t vote. I understand the stereotype of politics students being moral busybodies who pester you to “vote!” I used to be one of those people. I made my apolitical parents vote because I thought it was that important. I was a Labour Party member, who spoke to his Labour MP and did work experience with the party. I knew that what I was doing was being an evangelist to the enlightened crowd, preaching to the choir. I was supporting the cause that I knew was good, because I believed it, and I believed it because it was good. Encouraging people to vote was part of this process.

We are informed, since primary school that to be democratic is to be “good”. Almost all countries make appeals to democracy, even authoritarian hellscapes. We as a society love democracy so much that we elect leaders that bomb civilians across the middle-east in order to give them this “good”. We are told with fairytale sweetness about the value of voting, all the good things we have now are a result of voting and the heroes who died for our right to vote.

I made the seemingly logical conclusion that we can vote our way to freedom, while using the fairest system we have created – democracy

I thought the state was there to operate in our interests, the rule of the people. I felt like I would be represented by some group of politicians. Sure, politicians may disagree on the best outcomes, but compromise and cooperation along with rational public discourse will guide us toward progress, as it had always done. I made the seemingly logical conclusion that we can vote our way to freedom, while using the fairest system we have created – democracy. Over time, however, I critically thought about what voting had done for “the people”. It was a gradual process, but I noticed that voting was ineffective in practice, and immoral in theory.

To be against voting today draws the same reaction as labelling yourself a fascist sympathiser. I mean, don’t I know that democracy comes from the Greek “dēmokratiā” meaning “rule of the people”? By no means have I fallen down the rabbit-hole of wanting an iron-fisted strongman. It is instead that the idea of voting and self rule as a concept was, by design, to make the population control themselves, while the elite controls the operation of the country. We hear the myth that “we” are the government. If “we” are the government, then “we” accept corporatist bribes, “we” drone-strike weddings and “we”lock non-violent people up every day. 

Thaddeus Russell, author of A Renegade History of the United States, makes the case that the freedoms we enjoy today was created by countercultures acting against the democratic system, and that voting (self-rule) is what was actively persecuting those acting free. Drinking culture, promiscuity, interracial relationships, self-indulgence and a culture of entertainment over Puritanism were all popularised and later accepted in spite of the democratically elected system oppressing these “renegades”. In summary, sex workers did more for women’s freedoms than the Suffragettes.

By voting, you legitimise a system that puts your liberties at stake in a casino game dependent on if the Red or Blue team win a nationwide popularity contest

A stance is not right because most people believe it, and I have faith most people agree. Why is it then that we accept a watered-down majority opinion on what is right? Voting is characterised by compromise on all sides on our liberties. Today’s culture has made people eye-roll when you tell them “my rights are not up for discussion.” Both sides, rightly, view their opponents as against their rights and freedoms.  By voting, you legitimise a system that puts your liberties at stake in a casino game dependent on if the Red or Blue team win a nationwide popularity contest. You are told that voting represents you, when there is a chance that you are stuck with a “representative” who does not align with your views, and potentially campaigning against you.

There’s a level of arrogance in assuming that you know better how to run someone’s life than they do themselves. The west have began making steps in understanding the immorality of the colonial mindset, justifying how these people need the values proposed as it will improve their lives and should impose these values by force if necessary. As glad as I am for people recognising how backward this train of thought is, why is imposing your ideas on someone via the state much different? 

By voting though, I won’t be making a difference, and instead I will be emboldening a system that has historically and currently acts independently from how it is presented

Toward the end of the election cycle, we hear from snarky politicos “if you don’t vote, you can’t complain”. It’s virtue signalling, showing your commitment to what is considered a good cause while positioning yourself as having enough status to dictate when someone can complain. These people do not care about you voting, they care about you voting their way. These types would rather you not vote than vote for “them”.

I do not judge someone for voting. I understand the impulse to want to better your country. In our system, it seems like the only part of life that will allow you to influence politics. By voting though, I won’t be making a difference. Instead, I will be emboldening a system that has historically and currently acts independently from how it is presented.

By the next election cycle, I will hear the same people telling me I am wrong for not voting and that I am part of the problem. They will tell me that I shouldn’t complain when the “evil” side win. Well, I will continue to not vote, and I will continue to complain.

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