Last week, millions of spectators tuned in to watch the first of the Presidential debates kick off in Denver,Colorado.
In St Andrews, a viewing party was held for those truly dedicated to watching an hour and a half of question avoidance and fake smiles, all kicked off by Mitt Romney’s congratulations of Obama’s wedding anniversary which was the same night. Poor guy.
Those of us less committed fulfilled our quota of political interest by watching the good bits later on youtube, which primarily consisted of skipping to the parts where moderator Jim Lehrer was shamelessly ignored by both debaters. Poor guy.
However, while the races are heating up for many, there are, in fact, a few St Andreans devoted to distancing themselves from the drama back home. While absentee voting ballots have made voting from abroad accessible to many a willing ex-pat, some people have made conscious decisions not to take advantage of them.
Far from popular belief, these people are not simply apathetic and uninterested – at least not all of them. They have intentionally removed themselves from American life to come here, and that naturally includes American politics which, at this point in time, seems to consume all of American life.
For some, the choice not to vote is deliberate, not passive, and is informed by various factors. I have heard from two residents ofMassachusettswho both explained that as their votes will not count, since the state is always Democratic, they see no point in going through the process of voting abroad when it won’t make a difference.
Though both said they would vote had they been in the States, it is not worth it here. One, a Democrat, is not worried about the outcome of his state so therefore doesn’t feel a special responsibility towards it, while the other, a Republican voter, feels he can make no difference.
This all challenges our conceptions of what it means to take responsibility and exercise the right to vote. Even if a vote does not “count”, in that it won’t swing a swing state, is it not symbolically important?
If everyone felt that their vote did not count, then nobody would vote, and suddenly any one person’s vote would count. Isn’t that what we always learn, that one person can make a difference?
Then again, if something is simply symbolic, it might not be worth paying the postage to send a ballot all the way back to America.