// The novel "Seeing" by Jose Saramago tells the story of a country whose citizens suddenly refuse to vote. Voters turn up to the polls but 83% submit blank ballots. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/09/books/review/09rafferty.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
> This communal exercise of what the narrator calls "the simple right not to follow any consensually established opinion" does not sit well with the authorities; one cabinet minister refers to the electoral blank-out as "a depth charge launched against the system."
It's a fairly witty conceit: a city full of Bartlebys, politely preferring not to do what is expected of them and generating, through simple negation, absolute panic in the corridors of power.
The ruling party declares a state of emergency, then a state of siege; it deploys agents of the secret police to spy on citizens, then to haul them in for interrogations and lie-detector tests; and when none of those measures work, the wily prime minister decides to pull the entire apparatus of government out of the capital and leave the people to fend for themselves, on the theory that the resulting anarchy will return the prodigal voters to their senses and ultimately to the stern but reassuring paternal embrace of the state. Again the populace fails to cooperate: life in the capital remains peaceful and orderly, as if no one had even noticed that anything was missing.
// h/t +Jordan Peacock
for the reference
I've advocated nonvoting as a form of political protest. I'm not anti-democratic, I just think that our system has broken past the point of legitimacy, past the point that voting can fix it. Not voting is my symbolic refusing to participate in an unjust system. I don't think my vote is worth anything more than a symbolic political gesture anyway, so I might as well use it to express my actual politics. https://plus.google.com/+DanielEstrada/posts/UZy4RaFAk7e
However, people tend to be both upset and offended at the suggestion that they shouldn't vote. So perhaps I can revise my suggestion to address some of these concerns and make the request more reasonable.
Attached are images from Wikipedia on voter demographics in the 2008 election, where turnout was 57.1% of elegible voters. Around 229 million people were eligible to vote, and about 131 million actually voted. And as you can see, those voters tend to be white, educated, wealthy, and old. If you fall into any of these demographics, then you are over-represented in the voting booth. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voter_turnout_in_the_United_States_presidential_elections
Instead of advocating against voting entirely, perhaps it's better to advocate that people in these overrepresented demographics should voluntarily refrain from voting, if only to make the results more representative of the population as a whole. If we can encourage underrepresented persons to vote while discouraging over represented persons from voting, perhaps we can both express our dissatisfaction with the system as it stands, while still helping to improve it from within. An activist's win-win.
In 2016, the VAP will be around 245 million, and if voter turnout is ~55% that means about 135 million people will vote. "Seeing" puts the line of political legitimacy at 17%, or around 41 million votes; reaching that line would require convincing almost 90 million people to submit blank ballots. That seems ambitious. Voter turnout has only dipped below 50% once since 1929, and that was in 1996, an incumbent election during a year of relative prosperity, the perfect storm of political apathy.
Could make voter turnout dip below 40%, not from apathy but as a deliberate political statement? This seems like a plausible goal that would still make a political point dramatic enough that might actually be heard in the halls of power. Below 40% turn out isn't enough to trigger a legitimacy crisis, but it is enough to make our dissatisfaction clear, and to demonstrate that we can still organize an effective, collective response. 40% of 245 million is 98 million votes; to dip below 40% we'd have to convince ~37 million people to submit blank ballots or just not show up. Surely there are 37 million people willing to use their vote to make an urgent political point in these desperate times.
We could still encourage political engagement in other elections, reserving our protest only for the presidential election and the monied corruption it represents. If we organized carefully, we might even get voter turnout to dip below 40% without seriously disrupting the overall election results, by targeting states that vote reliably one way or the other and whose voters fall largely in these over-represented categories.
If you are white, wealthy (>$50k/y), educated (have a college degree), or old (>55), then please, for the sake of the nation, don't vote for president. Your politics are already well represented in both the ballot box and in Washington. For the moment the country no longer requires your input. Please step aside gracefully, so we can fix this broken machine.