Don’t Feel Bad About Not Voting Today

By
Mayor Bloomberg voted today, but that's okay. Photo: Getty Images

Election Day is finally here! Time to fulfill your one civic responsibility besides jury duty, which you usually lie your way out of anyway. Sure, maybe you haven't really been paying attention to the issues as closely as you could have — Someone is fat, right? And Mayor Bloomberg is rich — but you're going to go pull the lever because, damn it, patriots fought and died so that you could live in a representative democracy, and you're not going to let them down. That's thoughtful of you, but don't bother, says Times ethicist Randy Cohen.


It is reasonable to urge your neighbors to be informed about issues that affect your community. But it is irresponsible to encourage the unaware to put their ignorance into action so aimlessly. “Just vote” doesn’t express civic virtue; it’s sentimentality. You might as well urge the unpracticed to use power tools or Rollerblade. Simultaneously. At least they’d injure only themselves.

So vote today if you actually know and care about the candidates, or the issues, but don't "just vote" because it seems like the right thing to do. It's not. You're skewing the true expression of the will of the people, and basically just ruining democracy for everyone else.

Must You Vote? [Moral of the Story/NYT]