The Electric Commentary

Monday, November 06, 2006

Voting Recommendations

First of all, you probably shouldn't vote. Why? Here's Greg Mankiw:

Feddersen and Pesendorfer suggest that nonvoting has to be understood together with a related phenomenon--the decision of voters to skip some items listed on the ballot. This behavior, which political scientists call roll off, is common. Feddersen and Pesendorfer give an example of a 1994 Illinois gubernatorial race in which about 3 million citizens showed up at the polls, but only 2 million voted on a proposed amendment to the state constitution.

Anyone who has ever entered a polling booth can easily see why roll off occurs. You come ready to vote for your favorite candidate in some race you've been following closely, but then you face a whole list of races and ballot questions, most of which you know little or nothing about. What do you do? You could quickly make a decision based on your scant knowledge. But what if the contest is very close? Do you really want the outcome based on your almost random vote?

So you choose another course: You skip the item. In practice, this means that you are relying on your fellow citizens to make the right choice. But this can be perfectly rational. If you really don't know enough to cast an intelligent vote, you should be eager to let your more informed neighbors make the decision.

Feddersen and Pesendorfer suggest that not showing up to vote is motivated by the same reasoning as roll off. Eligible voters who are less informed about the candidates than their fellow citizens choose to stay at home, knowing the outcome will be more reliable without their participation. By not voting, they are doing themselves and everyone else a favor. If the ill-informed were all induced to vote, they would merely add random noise to the outcome.

Read the whole thing.

Anyway, if you do feel that you can contribute something by voting, I highly recommend going with my time tested strategy of voting to cause gridlock. My reasoning goes something like this:

1. Most politicians are either stupid or corrupt.

2. Stupid/corrupt people will do stupid/corrupt things.

3. There is no way to get smart/honest people in government.

4. Your best bet is to tie the hands of the stupid/corrupt people.

So, if the President is a Republican, you should vote for Democrats in the house and senate races. Simple as that.

Also, if you're in Wisconsin you should vote against the Constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, because it's incredibly stupid to enact Constitutional law specifically to deny rights to the citizenry.

You should also vote against adopting the death penalty, because the government is lousy at killing people. Well, actually, they're good at killing a lot of people, but they're lousy at killing the right people. The death penalty is also more expensive than life in prison.

As for governor, you're screwed either way. Use the "create gridlock" strategy, but remember that the Wisconsin governor has more power than your average executive, so more prudence is called for.

Finally, if you're in Chicago, like me, voting is pointless, as all Chicago elections are either non-competitive or rigged. Instead, I recommend that you work an extra half-hour in the time that you would normally be voting, and then donate that money to charity.

Finally (part 2), I predict that the Democrats will take the House, but not the Senate.


  • You could always pull a Danny and sell your vote for a pint of beer.

    One problem though is that you know someone just as clueless as you will also be voting, so you might as well vote too, if only to assure randomness and prevent people like Martin from the simpsons from winning with only two votes, when bart's superior down with homework campaign failed.

    By Anonymous Phil, at 1:08 PM  

  • I think that if you vote in Chicago you should do all write-ins for already listed candidates. Example:
    Mayor: Lord Richard "Caesar" Daley
    AG: That vastly underqualified chick whose dad controls the State legislature.
    Alderman: Whoever has the most goons ready to break my windows/riot in protest if he loses.
    US. House: Pork Magnate #3.

    You should preferably write them in as Republicans just for giggles.

    By Blogger Scott H, at 1:11 PM  

  • It was two beers.

    By Blogger DannyNoonan, at 1:38 PM  

  • looking for liberals (and conservatives) who like to debate the other side....feel free to come by and say hi...tomorrow could be a good day to do that

    By Blogger The Game, at 10:58 PM  

  • There aren't any liberals or conservatives here.

    By Blogger DannyNoonan, at 11:42 PM  

  • not voting is such a reasonable choice. in addition to the "i don't know enough to make an informed decision" reason, there's also the reason that registering and not voting indicates to those in power that your vote is there to be collected or won over for the next election-- much better than voting for the "lesser of two evils"-- neither of which you really believe in.

    personally, i don't vote anymore (though i am registered) because i refuse to participate in any system that allows others to tell me what to do. i think voting is for slaves, but that's just me.

    By Blogger ahren, at 11:06 AM  

  • So, it’s your contention that voting is just a way to make the Pleb’s feel they have some control over their lives, to feel good about themselves, to poke their chest out and shout “I’ve done my duty”. Kind of like joining the sierra club or recycling.

    By Blogger blamin, at 4:07 PM  

  • Blamin, who are you talking to, me or Ahren? I think it's important to throw a monkey wrench into the system, so I am in favor of voting, unless you're ignorant, in which case you should stay home, as you haven othing to add.

    I didn't see anyone make that "pride, feel good" argument that you're talking about.

    By Blogger PaulNoonan, at 6:04 PM  

  • I vote so I feel I have the right to bitch about things later. Heck I even campaigned against Bush (thus breaking my nonpartisanship) and it really was worthwhile, if for no other reason that to scare college kids with my Chicago driving.

    By Blogger Scott H, at 12:58 AM  

  • Scott, that doesn't make any sense at all. If you didn't vote, you have more of a right to complain. Afterall, if you didn't vote, you didn't participate in the sham process or partisan nonsense that lowers the quality of candidates accross the board.

    By Blogger JesusIsJustAlrightWithMe, at 8:42 AM  

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