Here’s a great feature issued by POISON PLANET that encourages the Americans to vote! “Too political to participate in a broken system? Or are you just too apathetic to take 20 minutes out of your day to apply your politics? Go vote. Even if its just to vote on regional measures and propositions, to vote in local elections, and to snub both presidential candidates by voting for one of the 3rd party ones. Just do it.”
I know a lot of punks feel that voting validates a broken system and that it is a pointless act that fails to further their ends. I challenge that notion. For better or worse, those of us in the US live in a representative democracy. That may mean that we are at the mercy of both the majority of the populace and the corporations and lobyists that spend millions of dollars to influence politicians and the public, but the fact of the matter is, this is still the system we’re stuck with. As much as taking to the streets in protest gives us a sense of empowerment and also attempts to sway public and political opinion, it doesn’t change that often altering the system still comes down to a vote and if you abstain then all that screaming in the street could have been for nothing. Yes, in a presidential election your 1 vote is a mere drop in the bucket, but you should be at the polling places voting on local politicians, propositions, measures, and amendments at the very least.
For example, in North Dakota there is Measure 5 this election, an attempt to put a law on the books to make extreme animal cruelty a felony, because currently in the Dakotas, it is not. They are the only 2 out of the 50 United States to lack such laws. If you live in North Dakota and believe in animal rights, then you should be at the polling place. You have the ability to have your voice heard or you can let this opportunity slip through the cracks. The choice is yours.
There are ballot initiatives all over the country to vote on today having to do with gay rights, campaign contribution reform and the like. You can sit out of these initiatives and hope the average American “has your back” or you can do something about it yourself. Yes, you might not get what you want and you may feel cheated because you live in a region full of people you consider idiots, but at least you can feel better about throwing that brick through a window (if you must) because you “tried it their way” first.
Another area where your vote has influence is third parties. On the ballot here in Chicago there were multiple Green Party candidates running for a variety of low level positions. These are the races that no one pays attention to, and we have the greatest chance of getting a 3rd party candidate elected. And even if they do not get elected, your vote for 3rd party candidates influences a parties ability to stay on the ballot and how many campaign dollars they may receive. Every area is different as to how this works, but in my original New York State it even influenced how high up the ballot a name was listed. The more votes a party got in the previous election, the higher up the ballot their name/party was listed. These may seem like minor inconsequential victories, but campaign funding and visibility make a difference. They aren’t going to turn the world upside down and we aren’t going to turn into the socialized democracy or anarcho-syndicalist collective of your dreams overnight, but if we get a bunch of Greens as Water Commissioners here in Chicago, maybe that one area of the local government will experience some sort of shake up, and isn’t that worth 20 minutes of your time? I know its worth 20 minutes of my time. And after the votes are counted, yeah, its back to the protest circuit for most of us but maybe we’ll be able to shift our focus to another issue or assert our ideas one more increment further than the year before because we scored some small gain this election. That would be a small victory right?
It would be for me.