The Right not to Vote
Today in South Africa we are holding municipal elections. It’s a public holiday so that people can spend all day in queues, exercising their right to vote.
I’m at work, exercising my right not to vote.
Naturally, when i tell some voters that i have no intention to vote, their reaction is bizarrely similar to when i tell some religious people i’m an atheist. Their first reaction is to attack my position as if i am some sort of abberation, and convince me that i am obligated to vote. The fact that i don’t try to convince others not to vote (or not to be religious) seems lost on them. But then again people seem to think that the right to freedom of religion only counts for people who have a religion, and the right to voter freedom only counts for people who want to vote.
Well guess what, it doesn’t. Much like freedom of religion is there to protect both the religious and irreligous alike, the right to voter freedom is there to protect both those who wish to vote, and those who do not. Why someone does not want to vote is none of your business, just like why someone has made the religious choice they have is none of your business.
The standard argument from voters at this point will be ‘think of all the people who died and struggled just so you could have the right to vote’. Except all those people also died so that i could have the right not to vote. People don’t seem to understand that being forced to vote if you don’t want to, for whatever reason, is just another form of tyranny. Forcing me to vote when there is no candidate i feel is worth supporting, is infringing my rights. That is all part and parcel of the freedom that was struggled for. If you don’t like it, tough.
Of course, i wouldn’t be me if i just stopped at explaining why you have no right to tell me to vote. Naturally i have an opinion about why i’m not voting, and things would just be crazy if i wasn’t about to voice it. So here it is:
I don’t agree with democracy. Democracy gives the average person the ability to decide who will govern the country. The problem with that is the average person is stupid, selfish and gullible. They will vote for a party like they’re supporting a soccer team, regardless of how badly they perform. Their vote will not be educated, and it will not be for what they believe to be the good of the community as a whole. They will not seek to inform themselves of what each party stands for. In short, they will fuck it up.
What i would support is a meritocracy. All the same principles as democracy, only you have to earn the right to vote by doing something more than just reaching the age of majority. Anyone can earn the right to vote, you just have to apply yourself. Basic requirements would be things like a grade 12 education, attending voter education classes, and performing at least a few hours of community service of some kind. A criminal record of any kind will mean you cannot vote. Ever again.
The right to vote would be given to those who prove themselves capable of making an informed decision, and being a responsible citizen. And no, this is not reverting back to the days when you had to be a certain race or class to achieve the right to vote. Anyone from any background or race or religion should be capable of fulfilling the voter requirements by applying themselves and being socially responsible. If you cannot meet these basic requirements, you are either not motivated enough, in which case you don’t really want to vote anyway, or you are basically incapable of casting an education vote and so shouldn’t be allowed to.
Naturally, this is not going to happen anytime soon. So why don’t i just be satisfied with what we have now? Well, maybe if i lived in a country like the US, or the UK, or Australia, where democracy functions as it’s meant to, i would concede that point and vote. Except i live in South Africa, where there are majors issues with the way we practice so-called democracy. For one, we do not have a strong enough opposition to contest the ruling party in any meaningful way. We never will have a strong enough opposition, for the same reason that the ANC can do what it likes to its voters and will not lose – because people support their party because it’s their party. The non-ANC parties will vote for their team: the christians will vote for the ACDP; the Zulus will vote for the IFP; the communists will vote for the ACP; the Afrikaaners will vote for the FFPlus. And those that have neither religious, racist or cultural inclinations will still be split between the DA and ID. And even if by some miracle everyone puts aside race, religion and culture and even party loyalty, and all vote for one opposition party, ANY opposition party, ALL THOSE VOTES PUT TOGETHER ARE NOT ENOUGH TO MAKE AN IMPACT.
People say it’s not about beating the ANC, it’s about winning enough seats for one other party so we can have a strong opposition in parliament to keep the ANC honest. Except that the ANC command over two thirds of the vote. One third, even united, is not enough to keep the ANC honest. With a two thirds majority, they can still steamroller just about any decision, and even change the constitution as they like. So the numbers don’t add up.
But even if in just one city, like Cape Town, we manage to get an opposition party to win the election, it won’t be for long. Look at last year, where the DA succeeded in winning Cape Town. Before the term was even through, the ANC with its offers of ministerial posts and fat salaries got enough DA members to cross the floor that the ANC was effectively back in power. Now you go and ask all those people who went out and voted DA if that was what they voted for. They voted DA, the DA won, and the ANC still has more seats in the end and has their mayorial candidate in the seat of power? Is this democracy? No. Not in any way, shape or form.
So there you have it. I’m not going to vote until there’s a slot on that ballot that says ‘Vote of no confidence in the electoral process’, and someone is actually paying attention to how many people put their X next to it. Spoiling your ballot isn’t good enough, because there’s no way to tell on the spoiled ballots count how many were on purpose and how many were because they let the average idiot into that booth with a sharp pen and a dull wit.