Is the power of voting an illusion?


Wednesday 01 April 2015 14:00

Yes, in nearly all elections. It's distressing that many people emotionalise this issue, because it prevents us from accepting the necessity of solving the problem of voting's individual irrelevance. There is a reason that many countries mandate voting: it's because it is in fact something for which there is little rational individual motive.

Because, for an individual, voting entails almost no "power" at all. That doesn't mean it's not crucial at the aggregate level; it just means that humans are obnoxiously rational, and will ferret out whether they have to leave the house to do something. We can attack the issue with odes to democracy, but most people won't do things that don't feel consequential or important unless they're incentivised, one way or another.

Mills Baker

No. Many races at various levels, at least in the US, are decided by a few hundred or even dozen votes. A lot of people are shocked when someone wins by the slimmest of margins. So yes, a small number of people can affect the outcome of an election.

Matt Pickering

Yes and no. No, in that the human need for our 'special vote' to count is a sign of our individual hubris and inflated ego. The point of voting is not that your one vote is going to change the world. It ain't. It's about understanding how a robust system works and why participation is key. [It is] a civic obligation, like serving on a jury.

Dan Holliday

Absolutely not. There is great power in voting, that is why for hundreds of years people have been fighting, and sometimes dying, to gain the right to vote.

It seems to me that most of these answers miss the main point of voting, the voice of the people, rather than the voice of the person. The whole idea behind voting is that any single individual does not matter, but rather the collective voice of the people is what becomes significant.

Eric Christensen

While you don't vote, the fundamentalists and supply-siders and assorted loons are voting and filling up school boards and state legislatures. The margins of victory are often quite small.

Nick Du Plessis

If voting really changed anything, would they let us do it?

Ram Narayan

Yes and no. Your vote does not matter. Until it does. But on a more fundamental level, voting puts the government on notice – we are watching you.

Neel Kumar

These are edited answers. For the full versions, go to, the popular online Q&A service

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