Tag: Voting

Why Convicts Should Be Allowed to Vote

Not letting convicts or ex-convicts vote is discriminatory. Why should they not be allowed to vote, when their quality of life is affected by politics too? If their lives are not worthy, then why are we feeding them, housing them and providing them medical care? Since voting is an essential function of being a citizen of the country, it is as if convicts are not considered valid citizens, in which case perhaps they should all be exiled rather than fed and sheltered.

Furthermore, not allowing them to vote can effect, to some degree, a self-perpetuating tyranny of that faction of people who do not commit so-called crimes—that is, the same faction of people who, by voting, can determine what actually constitute a “crime” as well as what the punishments are. Some things may be able to continue to be regarded as crimes that are actually unjust, or not in the popular interest, to be considered crimes, because those who commit the crimes are barred from voting.

Here’s an example: let’s say 40% of people think smoking marijuana should be a felony, while 60% think it’s just fine. The 60% who think it’s fine are convicted for smoking marijuana because it’s illegal, while the 40% not in jail continue to exclusively vote on legislation and legislators that keep marijuana being a felony. The numbers chosen here may be a hyperbolic extreme, but the point is that the general effect they illustrate may actually occur to some degree or another.

Another important example is prison reform. The conditions people have to live under in prisons are deplorable, but if convicts and ex-convicts can’t vote, then there’s nobody to stand up for the people subjected to the unacceptable conditions of the prison environment.

Why It Doesn’t Make Sense to Encourage People to Vote for Its Own Sake

People think that they’re doing the humanitarian thing by encouraging people to vote, such as by public announcements..In some countries it is even required that their citizens vote. This doesn’t make sense. If, for example, 70% of eligible people vote instead of 50%, then that’s not going to affect the outcome of the election for the better unless the extra people who wouldn’t have otherwise voted vote are more likely to vote for the better candidate.

In other words, the principle of statistical sampling says that if fewer people vote it shouldn’t make much of a difference, unless you have sampling bias. So for more people to vote to affect the outcome for the better, those extra people must be better, on average, at voting for the better candidate than the base of people who are going to vote anyway.

In numbers: if, say, 40% of people like candidate A, and 60% like candidate B, and 50% of people vote, and then you change it so that 70% of people vote, that’s still 40% of those 70% of people liking candidate A and 60% liking candidate B. Nothing’s changed. Candidate B has the same advantage. When it changes is when there’s some probabilistic correlation between being one of those people who wouldn’t have voted otherwise and voting for a particular candidate.

In numbers: Say 50% vote, 40% of whom vote for candidate A and 60% of whom vote for candidate B, and then you encourage another 20% to vote, and 50% of those people like candidate A and 50% like candidate B. Then you’ve actually changed something. But have you changed it for the better? Let’s analyze that for a moment..

Who is most likely to vote already, without having to be encouraged? Those who are more passionate about politics are. Who is likely to be more informed? Those who are more passionate about politics are. Who is more likely to vote auspiciously? Those who are more informed. Therefore by aimlessly encouraging people to vote you’ve added a bias of uninformed opinions (or subtracted that of informed opinions—semantics). So what have you just done? You’ve probably hurt the prosperity of your nation, if you’ve made any difference at all. So I would suggest not encouraging people to vote, unless you know whom you’re targeting.

To be fair, though, in actuality conservative boomers with lots of hatred and conviction probably vote more than millennials who are disillusioned with the whole system, so encouraging people to vote in today’s clime is probably a good thing.

Logically, whether you encourage people to vote should depend on whether those who would be compelled to vote are more likely to be on your side. And on another level, obviously whether you should convince people to vote if those people would likely vote for your party depends on whether you subscribe to the right (i.e., most beneficial for everybody overall) party. So if you’re a Republican, please ignore this message. 😉