Today is federal election day in Canada. When I raised the topic with a friend this morning, she replied, “Oh yes, that” and let it go at that. Made me reflect on my own ‘voter behaviour’ …
I’ve voted in every public election I was allowed to since becoming a citizen in 1973; whenever possible, candidates at the left of centre got my “x.” The latter because of my working-class (socialist) roots in post-war (newly democratic) Germany and the former because I felt it my duty to do so.
Between elections I take little interest in politics and tend to view elected officials with naive suspicion. According to Brown University philosopher Jason Brennan, I’ve acted irresponsibly for decades — and may do so again today!
In his recent book The Ethics of Voting, he writes that “There’s no duty to vote, but if you do vote, you have a duty to vote only for things [you] justifiably believe would promote the common good.” He argues that we have an obligation to become informed about the policy issues at stake and should try hard to evaluate the information in an unbiased way. This is because voting decisions affect not only the individual voter, but all of society.
Voting is not just a personal choice. It is wrong to exercise coercive authority over other people solely on the basis of what benefits ourselves alone. Vote well — or vote not at all, Brennan suggests. To exercise our civic duty, some of us need to stay away from the polls to protect the democratic process from uninformed, irrational, or immoral votes. “O yes, those ….”
source: Brennan, J. (2011). The ethics of voting. Princeton University Press. Read a review.