What’s Your Ethic of Voting?

A single vote may rarely make a difference for good or ill, but cumulatively votes obviously have practical consequence, and so I think we can reasonably speak of an ethics of voting that applies to outcomes. I submit as well that voting can have personal consequence.

If I am correct in this, then by voting, one may act ethically or unethically. How so? For starters, a vote may be ethical or unethical (or both) depending on the intentions or end in view, what or who one votes for or against, and the circumstances in which one votes.

Intention matters. If I vote for a candidate or a proposition with the aim of causing you harm, i.e., out of a spirit of hatred, then I would be voting unethically, even if I had a rational and sound moral case for the specific object of my vote. One can do the right thing for the wrong reasons, and meanness makes the heart grow harder. What I vote for or against matters as well. If I were to vote to rob you of rights to which you are justly due in every conceivable situation and circumstance, for example, then my vote would be unethical. Circumstances also matter, as the choice presented to me at the polling location may be between two bad options. Usually is. Choose! Choose the form of the Destructor!

Voting is ethically messy because by voting I knowingly and intentionally give my support to a candidate who will advance what I consider good and also what I deem evil. I thereby cooperate with these consequences, formally if I intend them, materially and remotely in any case. Consequently, I share responsibility for the good and evil I help perpetuate or bring into existence, especially if I foresee these outcomes, but also if I should have foreseen them and chose directly or indirectly to remain in happy ignorance.

My ethic of voting, summarized, would be something like this: vote your conscience and with prudence, for the good you would see done, attentive to your share of responsibility for the foreseeable wrongs with which you will, by your support, remotely cooperate. Some wrongs I’m willing to tolerate, but to others I refuse to lend a hand.

What about you? Do you have an “ethic of voting” you apply regardless of who and what are on the ballot and what political issues hold prominence? If so, what it is?

Kyle Cupp

Kyle Cupp is a freelance writer who blogs about culture, philosophy, politics, postmodernism, and religion. He is a contributor to the group Catholic blog Vox Nova. Kyle lives with his wife, son, and daughter in North Texas. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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