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COLUMN

Don’t Rush to the Voting Booth

Roy Esaki

A paradox: two possibilities ... of course, you must invariably arrive at one and only one.

While the choice of the future president of the United States may be slightly more important than that of a carbonated beverage, the concept of differentiating between two comparable options is the same. There is, however, a clearly distinct alternative: we can choose to not choose, and not bother voting at all.

Given that a vote for a third-party candidate is less a decision on the future president and more a symbolic political statement, true voters can choose either George Bush or Al Gore. Critics ranging from Castro to Nader allege that both candidates are essentially interchangeable, as both represent the same corporate and big-government interests of the status quo.

Granted, the candidates have stressed their differences, which include their views on oil-drilling in Alaska, abortion rights, and taxation. However, it is Congress, not the president, that ultimately determines policy, and while the president may present the issues to be discussed, through legislative deliberation and compromise, either candidate’s proposals will surely be moderated and centralized.

But let us suppose, for whatever political, religious, ethical, or capricious reason, a voter does prefer either Gore or Bush. Then what? The mantra of politicos and civics teachers is that it is our civic duty to vote.

We have many other duties, though, including paying taxes honestly and following the speed limit, and we feel free to ignore these legally required duties. In any case, aside from elections for head dog-catcher in a one-stoplight town, one vote won’t make a difference in the outcome, especially if you’re from a solidly partisan Midwestern or New England state.

If you happen to vote in a partisan state such as Hawaii, that has a paltry four electoral votes and for which the polls close after the election has been decided by the mainlanders, voting in presidential elections is purely a ceremonial ritual. It’s like pressing the crosswalk button repeatedly; you feel better pretending you’re controlling the outcome and your fate, but it’s really beyond your control.

To vote, we have to think, read up on the issues, and order an absentee ballot or physically go to the booth, for something that won’t make a difference. So why spend hours of our busy lives to vote? To avoid being criticized as an irresponsible schmuck? To gain the right of complaining about politics? To be able to say, “Don’t blame me, I voted for the other guy”? To feel good about ourselves? Why not just sit back, hang loose, and let other people take care of our future? After all, we have more important things to do.