Wonky

Nonvoters: The Other Abstinence Movement

Non voters i i
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Non voters
iStockphoto.com

To many Americans, the right to vote in a presidential election is a sacred and precious opportunity. To others, the right to not vote is just as meaningful. And they exercise it.

In just-released data, the Pew Research Center reports that about 43 percent of Americans of voting age in 2008 didn't participate in the presidential election.

The report goes on to say who nonvoters prefer in the election coming up on Tuesday between President Obama and Mitt Romney. (No offense, but what difference does it make? They're not voting!)

While we still don't know what the total number of nonparticipants will be on Nov. 6, we do know that a large swath of Americans are not planning to vote early or late or at any time. For myriad reasons — cynicism, apathy, moral objections, for example — some people are choosing to abstain.

Recently we sent out a query on NPR's Facebook page asking the political abstainers to tell us why they do not plan to vote. Answers — and answerers — were all over the map. Conservative voters in predominantly liberal states — and vice versa — just didn't see the point.

A number of people are disenchanted with the Electoral College system. There are those who want to use the Internet to vote and govern, and there are those who just want to be left the heck alone by the whole process. And then there are some people who will not be voting for other reasoned reasons, including these:

Non-Voter Voices

  • Lindsey Jackson

    Lindsey Jackson i i
    Courtesy of Lindsey Jackson
    Lindsey Jackson
    Courtesy of Lindsey Jackson

    Age: 23
    Hometown: Jonesboro, Ark.
    Occupation: Graduate assistant

    Reason: "I am not a registered voter, I have never voted and do not plan to this election year. I do not vote because I believe that at the end of the day, money is more powerful than a ballot."

  • Luke Banda

    Luke Banda
    Courtesy of Luke Banda

    Age: 23
    Hometown: Johnstown, Pa.
    Occupation: Physical therapist assistant

    Reason: "A simple understanding of statistics shows that my vote does not matter."

  • Janice Hudson

    Janice Hudson
    Courtesy of Janice Hudson

    Age: 26
    Hometown: Montgomery, Ala.
    Occupation: Language interpreter

    Reason: "I don't vote because as a Christian and a student of the Bible, I feel it is not a Christian's place to become involved in politics. If one were to research the early Christian church's opinion on politics, you would see that they, like Jesus, were neutral in all political matters since they consider God's Kingdom as the only solution to mankind's problems. Of course, they recognized the God-given authority of human government, obeyed said governments, but also separated themselves from any kind of political involvement."

  • Mark Guadagni

    Mark Guadagni i i
    Courtesy of Mark Guadagni
    Mark Guadagni
    Courtesy of Mark Guadagni

    Age: 23
    Hometown: Danville, Calif.
    Occupation: Student

    Reason: "I didn't register to vote because I didn't want to increase my chances of getting jury duty. I live in California, which typically isn't a swing state, and I don't feel I have any strong convictions to vote for something that is rarely decided by one vote. I choose to be politically active in other manners, such as precinct walking for candidates, writing letters to local congressmen and participating in online political discussions, like this one."

  • Laticia McNaughton

    Latitia McNaughton i i
    Courtesy of Dawn M. Gibson
    Latitia McNaughton
    Courtesy of Dawn M. Gibson

    Age: 29
    Hometown: Tuscarora Indian Nation, N.Y.
    Occupation: Teaching assistant

    Reason: "As a Native American, specifically a citizen of the Iroquois/Six Nations Confederacy, I have always chosen not to vote as an assertion of our tribal sovereignty and nationhood. Native American nations have their own governments, languages, cultures, traditions, etc., that long precede the existence of the United States."

  • Gregory Hillis

    Gregory Hillis i i
    Courtesy Gregory Hillis
    Gregory Hillis
    Courtesy Gregory Hillis

    Age: 37
    Hometown: Louisville, Ky.
    Occupation: Assistant professor of theology, Bellarmine College

    "As a Christian pacifist I do not feel that I can conscientiously participate in the process of choosing a commander in chief of the armed forces. While a president brings to the office a list of domestic priorities with which I may or may not agree, a substantial portion of the job revolves around the president's role as commander in chief. No matter how much I like a candidate's platform, in the end I cannot turn a blind eye to the reality the president will necessarily participate in violence by virtue of the office."

  • Philip Husom

    Philip Husom i i
    Courtesy of Philip Husom
    Philip Husom
    Courtesy of Philip Husom

    Age: 26
    Hometown: Minneapolis
    Occupation: Graduate student

    Reason: "Aside from there being no distinguishable characteristics between parties in America, it comes down to something even simpler: It is not rational for the average citizen to vote. The amount of time and energy required to make oneself a truly informed voter is not worth the minuscule benefit gained. Because of the costs involved in being informed, voters rely on information distributed by parties and special interest groups. This information is inherently biased, and voters can easily be led via these shortcuts to vote against their rational interests."

  • Thene Singleton

    Thene Singleton i i
    Courtesy of Thene Singleton
    Thene Singleton
    Courtesy of Thene Singleton

    Age: 20
    Hometown: Olympia, Wash.
    Occupation: Audio engineer

    Reason: "I don't vote because I don't have the proper authority to, despite my being fully eligible and able to send in a ballot. There is so much bias created by my friends and the media that I don't feel I have a well-enough informed grasp on the candidates' positions to make an effective decision. That, and the misinformation spread by each side paired together make me think that it would be ridiculous for me to think that I could effectively represent my opinion."

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