Amid pushes from left, right, and in-between to get you out to vote—“It’s your civic duty! Save our democracy! Don’t let Orange Hitler get his way!”—it seems hardly anyone is pausing to ask, “Wait a minute, maybe some people would do well to not vote?”
I’m here to let you off the hook with this simple 12-question quiz. If you answer “yes” to four or more of these questions, you should either cram really hard for your midterms, or (more likely) play hooky on election day.
1. Do you get all or most of your news from late-night comedians?
It’s not like they’re ridiculously biased or anything. It’s not like they don’t feel the slightest responsibility to inform the voters of crucial context or alternative views on the issues.
2. Are you inclined to vote primarily based on a program, tax credit, or other specific policy change that a politician has promised you?
Omar Smith, a campaign staffer for Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum, told an undercover journalist for Project Veritas Action that, “You have to set a target for who will believe your story” and, “Fairy tales in the modern day begin with ‘once I am elected.’” According to Project Veritas Action, Gillum has promised programs to voters that would be funded through corporate taxes.
When pressed on how Gillum would obtain funding if corporate taxes are not a feasible option, the staffer said, “He can’t,” and that “It’s not for [the voters] to know” that the programs would not be possible without funding from corporate taxes. He also said the “Medicare for all” Gillum peddled in the primaries will “never happen,” citing Republican control of the Florida legislature.
Politicians skirt the truth and sometimes outright lie to get your vote. They always overpromise and underdeliver. If you haven’t yet grasped this fact and are motivated by policy promises instead of the politician’s record and general political stances (such as wanting more or less government intrusion in your life), don’t vote.
3. Is pressure from friends and co-workers one of the primary reasons you consider voting?
Right now your Facebook and Instagram feeds are liberally peppered with cute memes meant to virtue-signal about the importance of voting. You’re probably getting messages from friends urging you to vote. You might even see friendly Slack messages from HR with lots of exclamation points “reminding you” that election day is right around the corner.
The truth is, if you didn’t already feel inclined to vote before friends or coworkers nagged you about it, or feel that the issues at stake really matter to you, then you shouldn’t be voting. You just don’t care enough, and a person who isn’t intrinsically motivated to exercise his right to vote, but does so because of peer pressure, will probably do more harm to the country than good.
4. Do your habits show you’d rather play Candy Crush than read a news article?
According to Verto Analytics, consumers spend about 1 billion hours playing mobile games each month. Activision Blizzard (the maker of Candy Crush) has 37 million users who play its mobile games for an average of 7.4 minutes per session. That’s enough time to read a moderately informative piece on any political topic, or watch an informative video.
If you are loathe to give up part of your hour playing Candy Crush Soda to do a little research about the candidates you’ll be voting on and the issues at stake, maybe you shouldn’t vote.
5. Would you say ‘Ummmmm’ if an on-the-street interviewer asked you who the vice president is?
Watch this 2016 “man on the street” video where analyst Mark Dice asks Californians, “Who is Joe Biden?” If you are this level of oblivious, don’t feel bad about staying home on election day.
6. Are you primarily motivated by rage because ‘the other side’ wants to ‘take away’ your guns/free speech/health care/voting rights/bodily autonomy, but you can’t point to any specific policy positions to justify that belief?
It’s a common scare tactic for politicians and pundits to claim the folks across the aisle want to strip you of some benefit to make you angry enough to make it to the polls. Just check out this article from The Hill, where the author claimed Republicans “want to take away health care from millions of Americans to pay for tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy few.” This isn’t even remotely true.
Angry, uninformed people make poor voters. If you are informed about candidates and initiatives on the ballot, you are more likely to make a wise, level-headed choice.
7. Do you vote ‘D’ or ‘R’ straight down the ballot without having any idea about the individual candidates’ platforms or character?
Knowing the general Republican and Democrat platform is helpful, but what if you accidentally voted for a Roy Moore or a Keith Ellison because you only paid attention to the letter next to his name? What if you vote for someone who’s proven to be irresponsible with power?
Who a candidate is as a person matters more than his or her party affiliation. If this is how you plan to vote, please refrain.
8. Do you know what your stance is on the big issues, such as: abortion, taxes, climate change-oriented policy, welfare, gun control, and local versus centralized power?
If you don’t know how you want a candidate to govern on more than one or two specific issues, maybe you shouldn’t vote. Those other positions affect millions of people. You don’t have to be an expert, but you should do some research and have an idea of where you fall on all the major issues.
9. Are you motivated by fear based on what campaign staff or activists have told you about a candidate or party?
According to that same video by Project Veritas Action, the campaign staffer for Gillum said, “You have to whip them up, the poor, the middle income. You have to whip them up into a frenzy in order for them to vote.”
Community agitators will tell you anything to “whip you up” and get you to the polls. Don’t let others manipulate you. If you were planning to vote because you’ve consumed a lot of hyperbolic propaganda pushed out to you on social media by fringe activists and journalists, consider getting informed, including listening to the candidates’ own words in context, or staying home.
10. Do you follow politics or policy at all outside of election season, or do you rely on news filtered to you by Facebook, friends, and family?
If you only start paying attention to the goings-on of our democratic republic for a few weeks every two or four years, you might be missing a lot of context. Not everyone is supposed to be a news junkie, of course, but 20 minutes a week with quality sources is probably enough to give you a general idea of what’s happening outside of election season (you know, when politicians fail on their promises from the last election and make bad deals with the other side).
If you’re spending nearly three hours a day watching TV (the national average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics), I’m sure you can manage it.
11. Do you take your election commentary from anonymous sources on online message boards who claim to be high-level government officials?
Go away, QAnon.
12. If you were to vote, would you just vote for whomever Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Donald Trump, or any celebrity endorses without further research?
Endorsements from other politicians are primarily meant to serve their interests, not yours. While your interests may be loosely aligned with those of Barack Obama or Donald Trump, you still need to verify that that candidate is the one you favor based on your own beliefs and interests.
Still worse advice comes from celebrity actors and singers. While it’s fine if someone wants to use her pop culture platform to promote what she believes in, people like this aren’t necessarily well-informed. They have no real credibility on the topics they’re speaking on unless they show that they’ve done their homework. So while fandom might subtly influence us to trust those familiar faces, take everything they say with a huge grain of salt.
While voting is your right as an American citizen, it doesn’t mean you have to exercise it, in the same way that you have a right to own a firearm, but don’t have to—and shouldn’t—if you can’t do so responsibly.
So, are you equipped to cast an informed and level-headed vote in the midterms? If you answered “yes” to four or more of these questions and have no motivation to get informed and figure out what you want from your elected officials, don’t feel bad about not voting. In fact, you might want to celebrate your integrity.