You've Got to Stop Voting - by Mark E. Smith
(This article was edited and updated on April 8, 2012)
The most common activist strategies, such as street demonstrations, protests, etc., rarely seem to bring about any change in government. There is only one nonviolent tactic that has been proven to work. Recently I asked the new president of a local activist group that had banned me from speaking, if I would be allowed to speak under the new leadership. I explained that I'm an election boycott advocate. The reply I got was:
"So my question is - how does NOT voting change anything? I can see actually writing in someone you believe in - but not voting simply is giving up."
I decided to answer the question as thoroughly as I could. Here's what I wrote, which I'm posting here with the person's name removed:
When you vote, you are granting your consent of the governed. That's what voting is all about. If you knowingly vote for people you can't hold accountable, it means that you don't really care what they do once they're in office. All you care about is your right to vote, not whether or not you will actually be represented or if the government will secure your rights. Prior to the '08 election, when Obama had already joined McCain in supporting the bailouts that most people opposed, and had expressed his intention to expand the war in Afghanistan, I begged every progressive peace activist I knew not to vote for bailouts and war. They didn't care and they voted for Obama anyway. That's apathy. But it's worse than that. Once I had learned how rigged our elections are, I started asking election integrity activists if they would still vote if the only federally approved voting mechanism was a flush toilet. About half just laughed and said that of course they wouldn't. But the other half got indignant and accused me of trying to take away their precious right to vote. When I finished asking everyone I could, I ran an online poll and got the same results. Half of all voters really are so apathetic that they don't care if their vote is flushed down a toilet, as long as they can vote. They really don't know the difference between a voice in government, and an uncounted or miscounted, unverifiable vote for somebody they can't hold accountable. They never bothered to find out what voting is supposed to be about and yet they think that they're not apathetic because they belong to a political party and vote.
10. If you don't vote, you're helping the other party.
No, *you* are. By voting for an opposition party, a third party, an independent, or even writing in None of the Above, Nobody, Mickey Mouse, your own name, or yo mama, you are granting your consent of the governed to be governed by whoever wins, not by the candidate you voted for. If there is a 50% turnout, the winning candidate can claim that 50% of the electorate had enough faith in the system to consent to their governance.
11. If we don't vote, our votes will never be counted and we'll have no leverage.
True, if we don't vote, our votes will never be counted. But how does hoping that our votes *might* *sometimes* be counted, provide leverage? The election just held in the UK had only a 32% turnout. Where people did vote at all, since UK votes actually have to be counted, they threw out major party candidates and voted for third parties (George Galloway's Respect Party for one, the Pirate Party for another) and in Edinburgh, a guy who ran dressed as a penguin, calling himself Professor Pongoo, got more votes than leading major party candidates. http://www.guardian.co.uk/
12. The choice is bullets or ballots, so it's a no-brainer.
The Department of Homeland Security has just used the authority that you delegated to the government when you voted, to purchase 450 million rounds of hollow-point ammunition that cannot be used in combat by law and therefore can only be used against US citizens. Your ballots authorized those bullets. There is a third option: not voting, not fighting, but simply withholding our consent. That has the result of delegitimizing a government that doesn't represent us and demonstrating that it does not have the consent of the governed. It is a legal, nonviolent, effective option called noncompliance. Noncompliance can take other forms, such as not paying taxes or creating alternative systems, but these cannot delegitimize a government. Since governments derive "their just powers from the consent of the governed," withholding our consent is the only way to nonviolently delegitimize a government that fails to represent us.
13. Evil people are spending millions of dollars on voter suppression to deny minorities the vote, and people have fought and died for the right to vote, so the vote must be valuable.
Nobody fought and died for an uncounted vote. While corporations do spend millions of dollars pushing through Voter ID laws and other voter suppression legislation, they spend billions of dollars funding election campaigns to get out the vote for the major parties so that they can claim the consent of the governed for their wholly-owned political puppets. If they didn't want people to vote, those proportions would be reversed and they'd be spending more suppressing the vote than getting out the vote. Voter suppression efforts are aimed at trying to fool the ignorant into thinking that just because somebody is trying to take their vote away from them, their uncounted, unverifiable votes for oligarchs who won't represent them, must be valuable.
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