Work to make your vote count

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

November 22, 2007 Ed Cartoon

In a class-conducted survey at New York University, it was discovered that a large number of NYU students would indefinitely sell their right to vote in exchange for $1 million.

Many students would also sell their right to vote in the next federal election for as little as a free iPod touch. Most students in the class were from middle and upper-class backgrounds, and as such were not influenced by poor living conditions.

It is important when considering hypotheticals and thought experiments such as this not to run off with excessive hypothetical conditions.

However, it seems clear people are willing to prioritize their freedoms, feeling more strongly toward rights such as life and education than they do toward democratic rights.

The fact students are willing to sacrifice their right to vote reflects a very selfish “right now” attitude in society. People generally prefer to better their own lives over participating in processes with less tangible gains.

In accordance with a prevalent view that one vote does not make a significant difference, it can be difficult to see the direct benefits of voting in contrast to the very tangible prospect of receiving a million bucks.

However, it’s easy to take the right to vote for granted when you’ve always had it. Past generations fought and died for that right, and that reality ought to yield the true value of democracy.

As well, while it is easy to praise the democratic system from a privileged viewpoint, it is worth noting that the system has not worked for everyone. The third world very much exists in our own backyard in cases of poverty within Canada. The democratic system is tough to imagine giving up when it has provided us with freedom and financial stability, but those rendered poor by the same system might be happy to dispense with democratic rights in exchange for money.

However, to give up the right to vote on this basis is the wrong attitude. Nobody claims democracy is perfect, but it’s the best system we have.

Voter apathy only perpetuates itself, so the “my vote won’t make a difference” attitude damages the democratic process as a whole. You can’t improve the system by opting out of it, and the recent success of smaller parties such as the Green Party in Canada has demonstrated how far a small number of votes can go.

As such, rather than being apathetic because of democracy’s faults, both NYU and Canadian students should work through the system in order to improve it, taking more of an engaged interest in the democratic process.

Share this article on:

Facebook | DiggDigg |

Copyright © 2008 The Gazette