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The Problem with Voting

Voting at the polls is a cornerstone of democracy today. When we think about, and understand, democratic participation, we imagine casting some kind of vote for some kind of person or issue in some kind of election.

Unfortunately, a focus on voting narrows the possibilities for democratic participation, which is really all about shared decision-making. Don't get me wrong, voting is important. It took us about 2500 years to set up voting as an actual mechanism to make decisions, and even now it's certainly not a widespread practice. The right to vote is a contested aspiration in many corners of the world, and we should support the right of each and every person to an equal voice in community decision making.

However, an exclusive focus on voting carries a significant risk. The concept of democracy is an aspiration; an aspiration to share decision-making, and to enable each other, as equals, to participate in decision-making. Decision-making cannot always be achieved with a single transaction such as voting. Complex issues require ideas to be shared, different opinions to be heard, and judgements to be adjusted, contemplated, and refined. The best decisions are often achieved through deep collaboration. Further, to participate in decision-making in a meaningful way, we need to collect and process new ideas.

New ideas are often best explored and understood through conversation. Voting in an election does not require conversation with one another, and in fact can be done in complete isolation. An exclusive focus on democracy as voting neglects the powerful shared decision-making we see elsewhere in our communities. Think about shared community projects, volunteer-run events, joint ventures, and countless other areas where groups of people discuss and make decisions through conversations with each other as political equals. If we can think of democracy as much more than voting, countless opportunities for our communities become possible.

So let's not put all our aspirations for democracy in the voting booth - let's look for democracy elsewhere.

Where have you experienced shared decision-making? Where does this show up in your day to day life?

Comments

  1. Good post! Being engaged in community has always been the best way to vote. The 'information age' and social media has changed the size of our community, and I believe reduced the need for our very expensive political institutions. Instead of voting for a politician that is the lesser-evil every few years or so, people are now able to vote for exactly what they want whenever they want by communicating on social media. Hopefully it doesn't take 2500 years to resize (or eliminate) existing political institutes so the taxes we pay are used to better support our communities.

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