A Silver Linings Playbook for Voters
by Janise Macanas

The natural tendency of a person to not vote because it takes too much personal effort has been called the “Voting Paradox,” first studied by social psychologists.  According to the paradox, a rational, self-interested voter will not vote, because the chance of casting the pivotal vote is so minuscule, one vote does not make a difference.  Banking on this perspective, why vote at all, yet over a million Utahns voted during recent elections.

In the playbook of strategies, here are a few reasons why so many people actually vote and why you should too:

1.  Maintain a Seat at the Table. 
At the 2014 Association for Women in Psychology National Conference, Charleta B. Tavares challenged women to run and support others seeking public office to maintain a “seat at the table” where decisions about policies and funding occur.  Exercise your responsibility to vote by supporting the candidate who will best represent your interests and concerns at the table.  Remember, the seats at the table are limited, so maintain a seat by keeping it filled. 

2.  Stand Up and Be Counted
Researching issues, candidates, viewpoints, positions and backgrounds may take time and effort, but it increases your sense of belonging and is socially meaningful.  Voting validates a sense of duty to the group and shows you cared about the outcome.  The popularity of wearing the “I Voted Today” sticker shows pride in being counted. 

3.  Express an Opinion
Sometimes your vote is for the less popular and challenges the majority to compel further discussion.  Take note of this past week’s ruling by the United States Supreme Court in Shuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, upholding a Michigan state ban on race based affirmative action in education.  Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote the 58-page dissent, boldly differentiating her views from the majority:

Race matters for reasons that really are only skin deep, that cannot be discussed any other way, and that cannot be wished away. Race matters to a young man’s view of society when he spends his teenage years watching others tense up as he passes, no matter the neighborhood where he grew up. Race matters to a young woman’s sense of self when she states her hometown, and then is pressed, “No, where are you really from,” regardless of how many generations her family has been in the country. Race matters to a young person addressed by a stranger in a foreign language, which he does not understand because only English was spoken at home. Race matters because of the slights, the snickers, the silent judgments that reinforce that most crippling of thoughts: “I do not belong here.” 

Whether you wish to shape the future, maintain a seat at the table, be counted, or express your opinion every vote makes an impact.  Don’t forgo the opportunity to vote in the next election.  

Janise Macanas is an Assistant Attorney General and a Utah State Bar Commissioner for the Third District.