10 Reasons to Vote: A Sympathetic Challenge to Mark’s 10 Reasons NOT to Vote

Written by Casey Ochs : January 10, 2008

Editor’s Note: My good friend Casey (who is, by the way, a part of Missio Dei) posted 10 good counter-reasons to vote as a response to my recent article in which I explain why I don’t vote. I think his counter-argument is one-part compelling, and one-part humorous. And so I’m posting them as an article without his permission. His thoughts show that I have to do a lot better job of indoctrinating my friends at Missio Dei. :)

I will likely vote again this election as I have in most since I first cast my ballot for Jimmy Carter back in 76. I voted for Reagan in 84, but became thoroughly disillusioned after the Iran/Contra affair and the discovery that Nancy Reagan consulted astrological charts to schedule Ronnie’s important meetings. Since then I have either voted for quixotic third party candidates, written somebody in, or left parts of the ballot blank.

Why do I vote? Clearly the exercise of my franchise has had zero affect on the nation over the last 20 years. Still, it is my ritual to show up (albeit with less enthusiasm) every two years to go into the booth and mark my ballot. For those of you struggling for an excuse to vote after reading Mark’s convincing arguments (which I don’t totally disagree with, by the way), here are my top ten reasons to vote this coming November 4th.

10. If you don’t vote you’ll likely have to explain to friends and relatives ( quickly summarizing Mark’s convincing arguments above) why you didn’t vote. No matter how eloquent you are they will not understand and will probably think you a slacker, or worse.

9. Failure to vote will be particularly hard to explain to recent citizens coming from places like China, Somalia, or Pakistan, who are ecstatic about their newly acquired rights. Frankly, it’s just easier to go in and write Pedro on the ballot than it is to swim upstream on Election Day. This may be a lame reason, but I had to come up with ten so be patient.

8. Voting is a constitutionally guaranteed right and responsibility. Like free speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, freedom to assemble, freedom to petition and the right to bear arms (I don’t own a firearm, but support the right to do so), voting is a right that should be exercised and supported. Our responsibility is to do what we morally, ethically and peacefully, can and leave the results to God.

7. You can vote and still be prophetic. You can vote and still be a witness against the system. Imagine if 100 people in your precinct voted for, say, a pastor of a particular small submergent church in Minneapolis. The ballot counters might end up doing a Google search and who knows where that might lead?

6. We owe it (the exercise of our vote) to our ancestors who left the tyranny of their homelands across the sea, or who struggled out of slavery and oppression here. When I think about the Freedom Riders of the 60’s who peacefully fought for voting rights in the Jim Crow South, often sacrificing their lives and livelihoods, I’m humbled and convicted by their courage. Voting to honor the memory of these heroes is sufficient reason for me.

5. Voting can divide Christians, but so can not voting. Does it cause more division among our Christian brethren to vote our conscience, or refrain from voting? I think this is a toss up.

4. Yes, voting is part of the world’s system, but so are many other things we do (like paying taxes, a far more coercive thing than voting). Unlike paying taxes, however, it is possible to vote and still prophetically challenge the system; voting for Pedro is always an option, not filing by April 15th is not. I think we would all agree it is not a sin to vote, (yet).

3. The Constitution is law written by flawed men for the purpose of establishing peace, security and prosperity for the people of the United States. It is not a perfect document, but in as much as it aligns with God’s Word we support it and abide by it. I don’t see the Constitution as the problem, but rather men and women who have co-opted or usurped it for their own greedy and immoral purposes: another reason for the proclamation of the Gospel. Regardless, we always remember our allegiance is first and foremost to Jesus Christ and His Kingdom.

2. Voting is a community undertaking and as people who are called to be salt and light our participation in this community activity can be Kingdom and community-building. Waiting in the voting line is a great way to meet your neighbors (and maybe find a date?).

1. When you vote you get a nifty sticker.

I completely understand and sympathize with Mark’s arguments. There are good reasons for not voting and good reasons for doing so. We need to express grace and mercy, however we believe on this issue, even towards our brethren who have staked Huckabee signs in their front lawn.

Thanks Mark for another thought-provoking essay.

Author Bio:: Casey Ochs is a husband, a father, and a member of Missio Dei.

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Viewing 9 Comments

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    Some of those arguments seemed to based around what others might think (10, 9, 6, 5). I dont discount all your arguments. I guess i just dont care what others think so much when it comes to this issue.

    But maybe i should vote because hey... free sticker. lol.
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    These arguments make more sense as a counter argument to my article than as a stand alone, I think. The prophetic nature of our faith means that we should care what others think. In other words, a prophet without credibility doesn't have much of a witness.
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    I hear you Mark.

    Did the prophets of the OT have credibility? Many were murdered for their words because it didn't play to what they wanted to hear. Obviously they were credible. God was using them as a voice to His people. But did the people view them as credible or were they blatantly rebelling against God's call to them? I know the people of Ninevah listened.
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    Joe, you are certainly correct. I may have overstated things a bit. I don't think we should care too much about other's perceptions, but those perceptions do matter when our goal is presenting a counter-witness.
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    If you choose to not vote as a prophetic voice against "the system" (a legitimate option) then you also need to be ready to reasonably defend your positions Scripturally. How people view your actions is important; this is part of your prophetic Christian witness and is not to be confused with "fear of man" or caring what other people think of you.

    If you say "I don't vote because I do not wish to participate in the system" then you run the risk of being asked why you take public transportation, send your kids to public school or are enrolled in state sponsored health care, all of which operate, of course, thru public funding and the voters' mandate. It's one thing to be called a slacker, it's another to be called a hypocrite.
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    The problem with voting among Christians is that it tends to be a battle over control of the political mechanism. If it is possible to vote in a way that increases limitations on the power of the political mechanism it is advisable to do so. In so doing we limit the power which the state exercise over innocents and participate in an act of mercy. This is in my view legitimately prophetic.
    If the motivation for voting is to gain hold of a larger portion of the franchise for the purpose of exercising its power in our own behalf, in order to capture privilege, then it is altogether evil and no better than the actual use of violence on others.
    Nathanael Snow
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    good word casey. i think for myself, it isnt about not participating in the system as much as i fear the violence my vote endorses. my last vote in the presidential election is costing lives today. it may be an overstatement, but my vote was an endorsement of some sort.
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    I'm not sure voting is indistinguishable from other ways one might participate in the American political structure. Some of the other acts of participation mentioned (e.g. taxes, public transportation, health care, etc.) tend to be part of rendering to Caesar what is Caesar's without attempting to secure Caesar's place for the church. I would distinguish voting from these because it is the primary way in which political power is exercised in the United States. The power, allegedly, is in the people. Thus, although voting may not be undertaken with the intent to wield the power of the state, it is really one of the most profound ways that Americans do wield political power. Thus, it seems to me that this might make the church's witness to the state unintelligible, or at least significantly obscured.

    Just a thought. I'm not trying to debunk your ten points but do think it's important to clarify the place of voting in regards to political power.
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    "God sends rain on the righteous and unrighteous"

    I heard someone say that the righteous person's rain is God's saving grace, as dispensed by the Church. The unrighteous one's rain is God's common grace, as dispensed by the social institutions (government, schools, firefighters, police). Such a world as our needs all the grace it can get, I think.


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