Ethical Dilemmas on Election Day

For election day, I would like you to imagine the following scenarios and tell me in the comments how you would decide and for what reasons.

Scenario 1:

Imagine you are a strong supporter of Barack Obama. You are 100% convinced, you have followed all the debates, you have been reading all the newspapers, attended town hall meetings and then you made up your mind.

You are on the way to drive to the polling station to cast your vote when your neighbour asks you if you can give him a ride to the polling place. It’s 5 km away, he can’t walk very well. If you didn’t take him with you, he would not be able to vote today.

The problem is: He will vote for Romney. He has also followed the campaign closely, read everything he could, but came to a different conclusion from you. You know you won’t be able to convince him during the ride to the polling place to vote differently.

You know if you take him with you, his vote will cancel our your vote. Will you take your neighbour to the polling place? Will you leave him behind? Will you tell him that both of your votes will cancel each other out and that you should simply both stay at home?

Scenario 2:

Same scenario as no.1, but this time your neighbour will vote for Romney for the one reason that he (the neighbour, not Romney) is a racist and doesn’t like black people. Again, you know you won’t be able to change his opinion.

Will you take your neighbour to the polling place? Will you leave him behind? Will you tell him that both of your votes will cancel each other out and that you should simply both stay at home?

Scenario 3:

You have followed the campaigns closely, read all the newspapers and blogs, studied the party manifestos and finally made up your mind. You are one of the most informed voters in the country.

Driving to the polling place, a drunken guy stops you and asks you where you’re going. You explain. He says “Whoa, an election! Great idea. I’ll vote too. Who is running? What it is about?” He asks you to give him a ride because he has no idea where the polling place is.

You know that this guy will just randomly vote for anybody (if he won’t invalidate his vote) because he has not followed any part of the campaign. His uninformed vote may cancel out your vote. Will you take the drunken guy to the polling place? Will you leave him behind?

I am curious about your responses and especially your reasons!

About Andreas Moser

Travelling the world and writing about it. I have degrees in law and philosophy, but I'd much rather be a writer, a spy or a hobo.
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19 Responses to Ethical Dilemmas on Election Day

  1. Peaches says:

    1) Yes, I’d take him. Maybe somebody else needs a ride too. Car-pooling is good, so is voting. I understand the conundrum you’re trying to portray, I just really think voting is important. I think Americans slacked on it for far too long. 2) No. I wouldn’t That’s where my bias gets too big. My America, and the one we need moving forward, has room for all sorts of opinion. But we don’t have time to give *that much* stupidity and bigotry a voice. Too much needs to be done. 3) Sure. I’d try to explain the platforms for him as best I could and explain how the candidates and proposals might effect him. There are people, much less informed, voting today. Drunk couldn’t really be worse.

  2. bettecox says:

    Error in your facts… one vote doesn’t cancel out the other. Electoral college calculations and tabulations – read up about all that. (I’m a former elector.) To answer about giving rides, yes to the first two, no to the last. Don’t drive or ride with drunks, sorry.

    • But aren’t the electoral college votes based on the final results in the individual states? So if I vote in Florida, and the other guy votes in Florida, we cancel each other out because we change neither the winner nor the margin of victory. At least in race between two candidates which it practically is.

    • Peaches says:

      It goes by districts and the majority of districts are what is used to represent the state. Some states actually don’t give ALL their votes to whichever candidate wins the most districts. Some divide it proportionally. For answering your questions, I assumed we were in the exact same district and such and, thus, would or would not “cancel each other out”.

    • Yes, I did mean to imply that the voters are in exactly the same district, that is why they use the same polling place.
      Also, the examples only work in a race that is realistically a race between two candidates with two voters who will vote for either of the two frontrunners. If we had 5 or 7 or 10 candidates with equal chances, two people not voting would help all the other candidates which would make staying at home not an option.
      Lastly, we have to stipulate that there is no quorum. (Damn, this example is getting complicated.)

    • Peaches says:

      I think your example is fine. I think some people get off on trying to prove others wrong because they can’t find other things to boost their ego. Your example was clear to anybody reading it without their own personal bent.

  3. One the first one, yes, I’d take him. (Well, my wife would – I’m just a passenger!) On the second one, if it were me driving, I’d have to strongly think about it, though I would lean towards no – while freedom of speech should allow for somebody to say anything (even stupid crap), I’d prefer not to enable a racist. But the wife would have the final vote, and she’s not quite as complicated in her thinking – she’d run the guy down! (KIDDING! I’m kidding! But he’d still be a pedestrian!) On the third one, I do actually know a guy in the neighborhood who’s not QUITE a perpetual drunk – but bloody close. I’d give him a ride and a short-form briefing, with the main points of both candidates. I’ll be honest – I’d probably emphasize the positives of my choice, but I’d try to give him a mostly unbiased view.
    And in all cases, I’d vote. I really didn’t feel like going today – I’m still not fully happy with either candidate. But I’ve known far too many civic minded folk, especially military vets, who have given great parts of their lives to ensure I could vote. So I dragged my lazy butt out of the house and voted. And got a sick idea for a voting-related post! (Free plug! Free plug! ;) )

  4. CLKeyes says:

    Yes I would take them all. It isn’t my job to judge their final selections, they may tell me one thing but in actuality do another, these are secret ballots. I would suspect that if all participants were extremely committed to their own points of view they wouldn’t be very good neighbors and wouldn’t ask for a ride in the first place. However I live in a vote by mail state and it is unlikely anyone would ask me to drive them to vote or even mail their ballot for that matter. As far as canceling votes, my husband and do that all the time, but the votes go in anyway.

    • I appreciate the first very liberal and highly democratic voice of somebody who respects everybody’s vote, regardless of motive – which is ultimately the only way a democracy can function, I assume.

    • CLKeyes says:

      If we allow our votes to be taken away, to me it is tantamount to taking away my freedom of speech. If we aren’t allowed to vote then we will no longer have a representative government. We have come close to loosing anyway with so many politicians pledging their allegiance to different high money donors like Grover Norquist and they turning their back on the country to satisfy their own ambitions. There is a Dr. Seuss book, “Horton Hears a Who” and in it Horton tells the littlest Who that no matter how small …something something it is important to make a lot of noise. Voting is our way to make that noise.

  5. I agree with CLKeyes, I’d take them all. Respecting everyone’s right to his or her opinions isn’t always easy, pretty, or fun, but it is sort of the point of living in a democracy.

  6. JS says:

    1. Yes.
    While I might not support his views, I definitely wouldn’t block someone from voicing their educated opinion.

    2. Yes.
    I definitely do not support any form of racism. However, the neighbor has his own views on the world, and while they may be uninformed and destructive I would not stop him/her from voting. In a democracy, even ignorant people should be allowed to voice their mind.

    3. No.
    The neighbor is definitely in no shape for coherent thought. Voting while intoxicated to me is the same as driving while intoxicated, except that it has possibly negative circumstances for a much wider array of people.

  7. Konstantin says:

    1 and 2 are probably yes, since the benefits of improving my relationship with my neighbor outweigh the cost of the tiny probability that he casts the decisive vote.

    3 is probably no, since there are significant costs to letting a drunk stranger into my car and no benefits to counter them.

  8. dino bragoli says:

    He temporarily lost the right to vote when he started getting drunk. He also can’t drive, be in charge of children or a horse. Of course he has the same right to drink or get stoned as do I but he has chosen a bad time to it.. Maybe if he sobered up before Polling Station closing time…. maybe.

  9. dino bragoli says:

    Whoops, I forgot to mention, it’s early.. I would take any others who voted in a manner I didn’t like, I would bend their ear all the way to the booths! Payback time ha ha!

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