Some Thoughts On Suffrage: Why Christians Should Vote

The province of Ontario has an upcoming election, and so I’ve been thinking about voting and related matters. Here are some more general thoughts I’ve had about the argument that Christians should not vote:

1. Not voting does not send the message that none of the candidates are acceptable. Because our system is set up so that the person with the most votes compared to the other candidates wins everything, all that matters is the relative placement of each individual in the race. So, when you spoil your ballot, you reduce the number of total votes that will be added up to decide the winner, making all the other actual votes more important proportionately speaking. Your spoiled ballot (or non-ballot, as it may be), does not count as a vote for “none of these candidates are good enough”; rather, it counts for “I delegate the power of my vote to everyone else who will actually vote”. Whether you like it or not, this is how the system is set up. If you have the power to vote and do not, the government simply decides that this is what your non-vote means. Protest votes or non-votes accomplish absolutely nothing to change the system.

2. The motives behind not voting are clear enough: wanting to signal to the powers that be that they are not even close to being what is desired by the non-voter. Unfortunately, this is, I believe, a tactical mistake. While it can be dismissed as “consequentialist”, it is an ethical truth that we all have to act responsibly in light of foreseeable consequences to our actions.

3. I think one of the main problems behind the non-voting position is that it simply gives up on the possibility of making moral calculations, of adding up various policy platforms and comparing them to your ideal to see which is the lesser evil (or, the greatest good). Perhaps this is done out of an honest opinion that none of the different policy options available in our context are significantly morally different; in this case, I simply have to disagree with my non-voting friends. But I suppose this would be the most fruitful place to have a discussion; it would require looking in detail at specific issues, rather than talking about heuristic ideological pictures and ideals.