Open Phones: Why Don't You Vote?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Voter turnout in New York is abysmal--and we want to know why, what there is to do about it, and why we should all care.

Listeners: If you don't vote, tell us why. Maybe you don't vote because you feel like your vote doesn't matter. Maybe you feel like both parties are the same. Do you want to vote but are not allowed to? Or are you disillusioned with the political process and don't want to participate? Call us up at 212-433-WNYC or text "NYCVOTES" to 30644. 

Comments [74]

James from Princeton NJ

I DO vote but am strongly thinking of not. Here's why. 1) The electoral college is a crock of - well, you know. 2) I don't trust ANY of the people in power in congress as well as in my local government

Nov. 01 2011 12:11 PM

we live in a fauxocracy-which can also be pronounced foxacracy.

Oct. 27 2011 05:46 PM
Alan from Manhattan

To those of you who don't want to have to vote for the lesser of two evils, but also to everyone else: Please consider the voting system known as Approval Voting. If we were to adopt Approval Voting nationally, we'd get a system that has these advantages: (I'm copying these points from

- More expressive
- No vote splitting or spoilers, ever
- Always vote your honest favorite
- Significantly less spoiled ballots
- Results are easy to understand, just like Plurality
- Ballots are familiar to voters and look essentially the same as Plurality
-Excellently chooses the beat-all (Condorcet) winner
- Alternate candidates get a more accurate measure of support

Oct. 27 2011 04:21 PM
Frank from Newark

Does nobody ever wonder, why emerging democracy around the world do not adopt the US-system?
A majority voting system just is not democratic, ever, because minorities are not represented at all.

Oct. 27 2011 02:54 PM
Matthew Friefeld from Port Chester, NY

The system no longer represents us citizens. The corrosive effect of money in campaigns and a complete infestation of lobbyists at every level of government has destroyed the democratic republic envisioned by our founding fathers. I call our present system a "Lobbyocracy"

Oct. 27 2011 12:38 PM
Mary L. from New York City

Some of the reasons callers gave on the show seem simplistic or immature, like magical thinking: if I vote things should change the way I want. Also, there's a short attention span to recent history: Republicans have superior p.r. and set out years ago to make people feel that government is ineffectual at best -- those who don't vote are making them right. Also, through government we have accomplished a lot, but people don't remember: e.g., a great deal of environmental and health and safety improvement has occurred, inspite of opposition. this is not covered in sound bites on the news. It takes time to change direction as an economy and we have to bring the whole community along, at least to some extent. Treating both parties the same on this again is falling for the strategy of the GOP.

Oct. 27 2011 12:21 PM
John A.

"Brian should do a show on what percentage
of the 1% vote and how much they donate to
their candidates and lobbyists."
You should force yourselves, WNYC, to do a regular segment on money in voting - weekly or even daily and earn yourselves some (more) prominence for reporting.

Oct. 27 2011 12:10 PM
Helen Reiss from Brooklyn, NY

While I agree that our electoral system is broken and corrupt and does not accurately represent the American people, I take issue with people who say they will not vote (who by the way seem overwhelmingly young). There are clear and very serious differences between the Republicans and their love affair with the Tea Party, their desire to erase the New Deal from history, and their puzzling ability to convince working class people that it is the interest of the working poor and 'middle classes' to support the wealthy and corporation owners, etc.; and the Democrats, while very imperfect clearly are more on the side of the average citizen. Not voting In this election is giving tacit approval to the ultra conservative, Christian fundamentalist side of the political spectrum.

Oct. 27 2011 11:50 AM
Lonnie from Brooklyn!!!

I've noticed that a lot of white people treat going to vote like going to a movie...If they don't like a Movie-- not showing up in large numbers makes the movie tank.

They think they're 'Sending a Message'

PS-- you ARE sending a Message: The Politician KNOWS that they don't have to WORRY ABOUT YOU!


And Yes-- often times it's choice of lesser evils-- but even THEN, just VOTING is just the start. You CONTACT the Politician's Office. Talk to the Staff. Let them know when you don't LIKE Something.

Pointer--Your elected Politician's office does not know WHO you voted for-- but be sure the Election Process TELLS them WHETHER YOU VOTED. And they keep an eye on the People who DID VOTE, because they want to make sure that THAT VOTER may Vote for them next time.

If you DON'T VOTE, you DON'T MATTER. EVEN when you CALL the Office, because they KNOW that STATISTICALLY, if you didn't Vote BEFORE, you WON'T VOTE AGAIN. . .So they don't have to WORRY about what you said.

The System ain't perfect, but it's better than everyone else's.


Oct. 27 2011 11:46 AM
rose from Brooklyn, of course

Why is everyone saying that Obama hasn't done anything for the 99 per cent. Yes, more needs to be done, but don't kill the man. He has tried and accomplished many things and is still trying.

Just a very small amount of a larger list of things he has done to consider:

Signed Credit card accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure Act (May 22, 2009); credit card companies are
prohibited from raising rates without advance notification or arbitrarily if customers are paying
bills on time (2010)
* Note: In place of the old policy, new consumer protections were instituted and the industry’s
predatory practices were banned

Instituted a new focus on mortgage fraud (2009)

Signed the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act (May 20, 2009)

Signed Prevent Deceptive Census Look Alike Mailing Act (April 7, 2010)

Signed measures detailing what mailed items can be marked “Census” (May 24, 2010)

Signed Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (July 21, 2010)

Signed Social Security Number Protection Act (Dec 18, 2010)

Protections from online shopping fraud (Dec 29, 2010)

Enhancements to Consumer Protection Safety Commission (Aug 5, 2011)

Oct. 27 2011 11:46 AM
Louis from Red Bank

Media-ocracy (at best mediocre) - TV ads, partisan radio talk, partisan cable news, objective news of the "he says, she says" variety - all leading to a misinformed electorate...

Oct. 27 2011 11:46 AM
George Fowler from NYC

More to the point why DO I vote? Campaigns are Madison Ave's most successful projects and the winners of elections prove there's nothing more to a campaign. Whether or not I vote I get burnt. Maybe going forward I'll save the time spent voting for something useful like cleaning the sidewalk after my dog does his business.

Oct. 27 2011 11:45 AM
Tony from Downtown Brooklyn

If you don't vote because you feel the current system is flawed, the current system remains. Had you voted in 2000 it may have given Al Gore a big enough margin so that the election could not have been stolen. Gore presumably would not have appointed Alito and Roberts. Citizens United doesn't pass. Your lame complaint that your vote is inconsequential against the powers of corporate greed and power is a little less valid. BECAUSE YOU VOTED!
There's a reason that the right is anti-intellectual. The Koch Brothers don't believe the world is 5000 years old. But they fund and enable crockpots who do because ignorance is one of the tools that will allow wealthy white men to rule from the minority in this country.
If your vote didn't matter, why are GOP state legislatures trying to pass voter suppression measures(thinly disguised as anti-voter fraud legislation) around the country? Because your vote matters.
It may require educating yourself. I know that's far more difficult than self righteously complaining on the radio. But please vote. Your vote matters. And it's important.

Oct. 27 2011 11:45 AM
Julia from Brooklyn

I do not vote because I don't feel represented. I see puppets, not candidates participating in a national popularity contest. I see time and time again corporations "investing" in political campaigns to reap the benefits in policy changes. These are not representatives of the people, but of corporations.

This contest is then heavily pushed by media who makes a parade of the whole affair to get us really interested for a few months. I'm sure it raises their ratings, but it degrades what should be a serious conversation between candidates on how to run a country.

As a result...

The whole thing has become a very elaborate illusion to give us the sense that we have a voice and we have a democratic process. In reality, it barely matters which guy you choose when both candidates are being bribed.

Change the way elections are funded and maybe we'll have a true election.

Oct. 27 2011 11:44 AM
francine from Red Bank NJ

People always think of Capitol Hill when talking about voting and politics, but local politics count a lot too. No politician star from the top, they all started from their communities and through these people we do have how to influence in politics. we should be more self conscience about who we support locally.

Oct. 27 2011 11:43 AM
Greg Leshé

For years I have made the snyde remark to friends and acquaintances that this Country is home to "the Greatest Government Money Can Buy". This home grown expression feels more real now than ever. I consistently vote in National through local and county elections but I am truly fed up with the two party system. I just called my village hall and requested a voter registration form so that I can re-register as an Independent. I was a Democrat but those days are over. We need to dismantle the two party political system because it has proven time and again that the only constituents it really serves are the money and power interests, and that pretty much encompasses the realm of the big banks and the large corporate citizens.

Oct. 27 2011 11:43 AM
Pat from Maplewood, NJ

You think the 1% votes? I bet they don't, since they know that they already bought the election.

Oct. 27 2011 11:42 AM
Merry Neisner from Manhattan

i vote solely because the president appoints the supreme ct

Oct. 27 2011 11:42 AM
The Truth from Becky

Because Libby - a lot of the first time voters didn't know to come out 2 years later.

Oct. 27 2011 11:41 AM
Edward from NJ


Oct. 27 2011 11:41 AM
John Powers from Brooklyn

I nominate "Sociopathocracy". For decades economic, political and media elites have expressed, in word and action, contempt for government, for science, and most disturbingly, for the rule of law. If the super-rich and powerful don't at some level believe in the need for self-constraint, much less the need to constrain others like themselves, how can we expect anyone, at any level of society to honor the institutions that make modern life worth living?

Oct. 27 2011 11:41 AM
gordon from london

Come on occupy drop your dogmas and form a voting block! you really want to strike fear into the hearts of the ruling elite? RUN A CANDIDATE!! if we vote as a block we out number the religious right 2 or 3 to 1.

Oct. 27 2011 11:40 AM
Tony from NY

Corporatocracy - From wikipedia: social theories that focus on conflicts and opposing interests within society, denotes a system of government that serves the interest of, and may be run by, corporations and involves ties between government and business. Where corporations, conglomerates, and/or government entities with private components, control the direction and governance of a country, including carrying out economic planning (notwithstanding the "free market" label)

Oct. 27 2011 11:40 AM
GrrlScientist from former NYCer, now in Germany

in response to your on-air question, "what sort of -ocracy is america?" i say america has become a corporatocracy: of the corporations, by the corporations and for the corporations.

after GW's "peaceful coup" that got him into the white house, i've not voted since. and i am a person who worked as a volunteer in politicians' offices for most of my life, who has been very active in grassroots organisations, and who has flirted with running for public office myself. i feel so disillusioned and alienated that i left the united states and now live in europe, in a "socialist country" that allows people FAR more dignity than the USA ever has.

Oct. 27 2011 11:40 AM
Joel from Nyack

I have always voted, for nearly 50 years. Recently it has been more out of habit than out of having faith in our system. Democracy is an illusion here. It is all about $$$$$. Take the money out of politics, get rid of the Electoral College, and have the national popular vote decide in national elections.

Oct. 27 2011 11:40 AM
Amy from Manhattan

If you don't want to vote, then that's up to you. But do it on the record. You can do that by registering, going to your polling place, & casting a blank ballot. Why bother? Because that blank ballot will be counted, & if enough people do it, it will be reported. No one can say you didn't vote because of apathy. You voted against the system. News outlets already talk about how many people who do vote omit votes for certain offices while voting for others--they'd also look at how many cast a ballot but didn't vote for *any* of the candidates.

I've never done this, but I'd rather see people "just vote no" than not vote at all.

Oct. 27 2011 11:40 AM
Valerie from

Guess what guys? Not voting speaks as loudly or more loudly than voting. By NOT voting, you are letting those who DO vote control the process. See the anti-choice, religious right, etc. Guess what? They're voting. And guess what else? They have true influence on the issues that matter to politicians today.

Oct. 27 2011 11:40 AM
Bobby G from East Village

Sounds like people feel that a vote has a minuscule amount of power compared to the power of money.

Oct. 27 2011 11:39 AM
Muriel from Financial District

We live in a Global Corporatocracy which is why I visit OWS almost everyday to lend my support. I hope it makes everyone wake up and it seems to be. I was delighted to see Support OWS in Port Jefferson, Long Island this past weekend. World wide protests show how concerned everyone is about this corporatocracy that could buy and sell many countries including our own "most powerful country in the world".

Oct. 27 2011 11:39 AM

i always voted, this election i will not.
the lobbyist and money brokers control the voting process.
i also believe in direct action and get rid of this un democratic voting.
i support Occupy USA

Oct. 27 2011 11:39 AM
Jean-Pierre from NYC from NYC

I am no longer going to vote because there is no point. There is no difference between politicians and policy AFTER, i stress, AFTER the elections.

It is a complete joke and very sad after millions of people died throughout the centuries of civilization for the right to vote.

Oct. 27 2011 11:39 AM

Brian should do a show on what percentage of the 1% vote and how much they donate to their candidates and lobbyists.

Oct. 27 2011 11:39 AM
Joni B from Brooklyn, NY

Oct. 27 2011 11:39 AM

All you have to do is look at the success of the Tea Party in 2010 to understand the potential impact of the individual vote.

Oct. 27 2011 11:38 AM
Marcio from Nyc

so much for change, look people both partys screwing us we need to change the government

Oct. 27 2011 11:38 AM
Libby from Harlem USA

We get the government we don't vote for! The biggest problem with government today is that American citizens don't vote. Yes lobbyists and corporate influence are a problem, but only because people don't hold their representatives accountable at the voting booth.

People came out in legions for Obama's election. But two years later the poll places were almost empty. And people wonder why congress is implacable--tea party folks got out and voted. Americans want instant everything, it doesn't work that way. If Obama had a cooperative legislative body we'd have very different outcomes right now.

VOTE people - its your civic duty.

Oct. 27 2011 11:38 AM
Pat from Maplewood, NJ

I've always thought if I don't vote I forfeit the right to complain, but I feel now that my vote has been washed away by the tidal wave of corporate money buying the politicians.

And now the Supreme Court agrees.

Until we fix this, somehow, nothing will change.

Oct. 27 2011 11:38 AM
dg from manhattan


Oct. 27 2011 11:38 AM
john from office

Brian Sceen your callers, this is a good subject, the GOD lady was not helpful.

Oct. 27 2011 11:37 AM
Tom from Manhattan

By not voting you are still "voting" –letting all of the powers that created this dysfunctional system continue to rule. They have voted this system in. This is exactly what they want!

Oct. 27 2011 11:37 AM
Joni B from Brooklyn, NY


Oct. 27 2011 11:37 AM
art525 from Park Slope

OK you're disillusioned with the system and you're not going to vote. Boy that'll show 'em won't it? How pathetic.

Oct. 27 2011 11:37 AM
Edward from NJ

$#@#@! People who don't vote drive me crazy. If you don't vote, don't whine when things don't turn out the way you want. If everyone who thinks it pointless to vote were to actually vote, maybe it wouldn't seem so pointless.

Oct. 27 2011 11:37 AM
Bob from Neptune, NJ

Kakistocracy: a system of rule by the worst men

Oct. 27 2011 11:37 AM
Brenda from New York City

I don't think I buy the "I don't vote because I don't like the system" argument. Go vote and right in your preferred candidate.
Not voting will never be content as dissent but only as apathy. You must make your voice heard.

Oct. 27 2011 11:37 AM
Jane from Hell's Kitchen

I like Michael Moore's "ocracy," kleptocracy.

Oct. 27 2011 11:37 AM
Paula from nyc


Oct. 27 2011 11:37 AM
Glenda from Manhattan

We live in a corporate oligarchy.

Oct. 27 2011 11:36 AM
Tom from Upper West Side

graftocracy...I will also accept greedocracy

Oct. 27 2011 11:36 AM
The Truth from Becky

She didn't even get the "novelette" joke - went right over her head! ha ha haaa nice try Brian

Oct. 27 2011 11:36 AM
Joe Sherman from The Bronx

I'm not going to vote in the Presidential election as a protest against the travesty of the Electoral College system. It gives a Wyoming vote 4 times the weight of a California vote. It disenfranchises voters in 39 states that are defined as red or blue and makes the outcome depend on the votes in 11 swing states. We should have a straight popular vote.

Oct. 27 2011 11:36 AM
John A.

All I can think while I hear this discussion is this:
The best reason why I will vote is to Deny reward to the Republicans for shutting down the country.

Oct. 27 2011 11:36 AM
office from office

Wow, thnak god the electorial college protects us from the MOB. Average person is NOT SMART.

Oct. 27 2011 11:35 AM
Leah from Brooklyn

Exactly how can taking yourself out of the system make you more powerful? No one is waiting at the polls and thinking, "Gee, Jane didn't show up! We really better gets our act together - she must be really disappointed in us!" The very best thing you can do to keep things as they are is not to vote.

These callers have been largely self-defeatist, with poorly defended arguments and logical fallacies. What can you complain about if you don't use the voice you have?

Oct. 27 2011 11:35 AM
ash from nj

because representative democracy was maybe acceptable in 1776, but not in 2011, the age of computers, internet. why not we all vote over internet for all (or most of the legislation).

Oct. 27 2011 11:34 AM

Gerrymandering is at the heart of most people's lack of faith in the effectiveness of their voting.

Oct. 27 2011 11:34 AM
David from Queens

If you don't vote, you are a genuine idiot.

Oct. 27 2011 11:34 AM
john from office

I am glad that some of these callers are not voting, wow. Bring back the exclusions.

Oct. 27 2011 11:33 AM
JT from LI

The only reason the tea party gets what they want is because they vote. Republicans will flip on any issue important to the tea party because they know they will show up to vote.

Protesting is a great visible action, but if the politicians know there will be no consequences they can, and mostly do, just ignore you.

Oct. 27 2011 11:33 AM

Brian, your premise is that there must be something wrong with those of us who choose not to vote. We don't need fixing. The system needs fixing.

Oct. 27 2011 11:32 AM
The Truth from Becky

Stay confused Jessica and pull that lever again for President Obama in 2012!!

Oct. 27 2011 11:32 AM
Richard from NYC/LI


Oct. 27 2011 11:32 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

I'll only vote in the next presidential election IFF Herman Cain gets the Republican nomination. Otherwise, I think I'll skip it this time around.

Oct. 27 2011 11:28 AM
Betsy Kaufman from manhatten

After George Bush won the 2000 election by a single vote (of nine voters) I did not think I'd vote again. But I continued voting, in every election, big & small, until just recently I heard a Freakonomics segment in which Steven Levitt said he didn't vote because there was no rational reason to (I'm paraphrasing). Works for me.

Oct. 27 2011 11:18 AM
rose-ellen from jackson hts.

That enlightened socialist policies are off the table for both parties means voting perpetuates
hypercapitalism which is perceived more and more as an unjust pyramid scheme.When universal health care, free higher education for those who would qualify from higher
education, a guaranteed living wage or job is not even on the table as legitimately debatable values and glorification of the wealthy class[if you're rich you must be good] is the ideology of both parties-then voting only encourages a gowing elite class[oligarchy]. As long as democratic socialism is off the table,the political system is seen as reactionary for the 21st century-a highly technoligically advanced nation of 350 million people.[telling everyone to go out and start a small business is like telling people who can't afford bread to eat cake.Insensitive and unfeasable! and clueless!

Oct. 27 2011 11:13 AM
Alex from Morris County, NJ

Local government rarely seems to have opposition. With only one canadite up for a position, it seems pointless to vote. Unless there is a public question to be voted upon, that I have formed an opinion on, I typically don't vote for local elections.

Sadly, I believe I am with a majority of voters, that only vote for the "Big" elections.

Oct. 27 2011 10:35 AM

With the electoral college what's the point?

Oct. 27 2011 10:34 AM
Bryan from Newark

I live NJ. I don't vote because it's pointless. The reason can be summed up in two words: bipartisan gerrymandering.

Oct. 27 2011 10:27 AM
carl, queens n.y.

the reason i stopped voting is because i feel as an american citizen, i have no right interfering in the internal affairs of israel.. we have been dishonest m.e. brokers from day one.. we also allowed our government to sucker us into invading a country who couldn't fight its way out of a wet paper bag, iraq.

Oct. 27 2011 10:20 AM
john from location

I always vote, I had a brother that died for that right.

People dont vote because they vote when they are inspired or in love with one candidate and dont realize it is a long run deal, not instant gratification. So they get discouraged.

Look at how people have abandoned Obama, they expected him to walk on water and he has done his best. Now the MOB, will abandone Obama.

Oct. 27 2011 10:18 AM
Donna from Montclair

How different if would have been had Tim Geithner accepted a haircut and Goldman Sachs had not put 100% of the bailout money their pocket. Goldman Sachs got their bailout, where's mine. Tim Geithner should be FIRED! This would be a great start to restoring confidence here.

Oct. 27 2011 10:16 AM
Hank from NY

I can bank online, I can trade stocks, buy and sell a wide range of goods and services, yet I cannot vote online.
Additionally, and more troubling, there is a dearth of uncaptured, honest, upstanding citizens running for office out of self-less reasons to improve the common good and who will be up to task.

Oct. 27 2011 10:15 AM

Jury Duty. Just moved to a new house in Queens from Brooklyn. I was called in Brooklyn recently and didn't want to be called in Queens while my 7-year period is still in effect in BK. I did some research on it and all I found was vague language about it.

Oct. 27 2011 10:12 AM
Alex from Brooklyn

I have always voted in the past but recently I've been very doubtful that our two party system really address the issues that are important to me.
I've been entertaining the idea that potentially taking myself out of the system may make more of an impact than participating. This, of course, would only work if others chose to not to participate as well.

Oct. 27 2011 10:11 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.