Errol Morris Wants You to Vote. You Probably Shouldn’t.

Super-famous documentary filmmaker Errol Morris
wants you to vote
. And he made a mini-documentary about it for
The New York Times

Here it is:

11 reasons not to vote

Give Morris-as-documentarian credit: He perfectly captures the
vague jumble of reasons that actually drive people to (or away
from) the polls on Election Day. Click and watch as a charming
group of unconventionally attractive young people ramble on about
voting for 7 minutes at the behest of the director of The Gates
of Heaven
, The Thin Blue Line, and The Fog of

But Morris-as-voting-advocate gets a much lower score:
Glossy videos showing
purposeful celebrities making grand statements
are a better bet
for increasing voter turnout.

Below, an attempt at a taxonomy of the video’s arguments:

* One gal in fashionably large glasses speculates about whether
the likelihood that you will meet the love of your life at the
ballot box cancels out the likelihood that you will kill someone in
an auto accident on your way there. Another girl says she’d sell
her vote for $150. Let’s call this half-baked
utilitarianism, where the decision to vote hinges
on the likelihood of certain outcomes. This thinking is also at
work in the tale of the overseas Floridian, who failed to cast her
vote in that critical state in 2000 and has will be “spending the
rest of my life making up for that.”

* A dude in an orange sweater says he is voting to honor his
African-American grandmother, who wasn’t able to vote in Virginia
until she was 43. He wants to “serve her legacy.” He is essentially
an expressive voter—someone who votes because it
feels good, or to make a claim (to himself or others) about the
kind of person he is. A grey t-shirt guy makes this explicit,
saying: “It’s just a way of making yourself happy.” The same is
true for the guy who wants to “stick it to The Man” or the gal who
called voting “a cheap thrill.”

* Quite a few people expressed qualms about the disappointing
options, their own “clean hands”
qualms, a principle posited by Georgetown ethicist
Jason Brennan, in which “one should not participate in collectively
harmful activities when the cost of refraining from such activities
is low.” If all the candidates are unappealing (“like a wasteland
with smog everywhere and dead birds falling out of the sky”),
mightn’t it be better not to vote?

your vote doesn't countHere’s Morris’ account of
his own case for voting

The arguments against voting have been persuasive to many
Americans. But what about the flip side? Why bother? Here I think
the arguments are better. War and peace. Equal rights for women and
same-sex couples. My personal favorite, the balance of the Supreme
Court. The prospect of meeting the love of your life at the polling
place. Several people argued that if you don’t vote, you lose your
right to complain about the results of an election. But I
respectfully disagree. In our society, the right to complain is
even more fundamental than the right to vote.

I don’t know what, in the end, forces me to vote. It could be
fear; it could be guilt. Although my mother died over 10 years ago,
I feel that she is watching me, and I don’t want to disappoint


In the mood for some clarity and a handy debunking of the
reasons Morris serves up against the reasons not to vote? Why not
read my Reason cover story: “Your
Vote Doesn’t Count