Our enduring vote fallacies


Daniel Benson Kaaya

“Some people make a claim that I will paraphrase as follows: ‘…a lot of votes could affect an election. Therefore, it is important that you vote, because the votes add up. Because a lot of votes matter, each individual vote matters.’  This argument is an example of the fallacy of division. This fallacy is committed when one asserts that what is true of a whole must also be true of a part of that whole” – Mark Brandly, Professor of Economics

The right to vote is the foundation of any constitutional democracy. The respect and observance of this right is the source of almost all the political and socio-economic realisations states have. The European Human Rights Court in United Communist Party of Turkey vs. Turkey (1998) 26 EHRR 121 para.45, observed, “is without doubt a fundamental feature of the European public order”. Democracy is realised through this fundamental right—the right to vote, therefore, the right to vote is the fundamental feature of any public order.

The right to participate in periodic free and fair elections is principal to the modern concept of a democratic society. In Wesberry vs. Saunders [(1964) 376 US 1, 17] it was observed that, “ no right is more precious in a free country than that of having a choice in the election of those who make laws under which, as good citizens, they must live. Other rights, even the most basic, are illusory if the right to vote is undermined”.

In addition, Article 21(3) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) provides: “The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections, which shall be by universal and equal suffrage, and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent voting procedure.

The right to vote is a basic human right as held in Hipperson v Newbury District Electoral Registration Officer [1985] QB 1060, 1067. However, this does not imply that “leaders” manipulate voters into voting them in. Yes, it is manipulation. What do you call what is happening now (and always). Those in power want re-election with no or dismal evidence of development effected by them. Those who want to be voted in make unrealisable promises—that do not have a clear-cut mode of realising them (without “how” promises). It is unadulterated manipulation. What they simply want is a job and fame, not servanthood.

If it were within their powers, they would want even a foetus or a toddler to register as a voter! This should not be speciously construed to mean that they would do anything to serve the people—it denotes that they would do anything to starve them, to loot from them, to quicken their deaths and make their destinations very long (suboptimal infrastructure). That is why they prefer to address the people, not the people asking those questions of accountability.

Registration as a voter should be an informed personal decision. No person should register on another person’s reason (unless the other person’s reason is mutually correct), implorations or musical gimmicks. Politicians want people to register on the reasons that it is a fundamental right to vote, it gives a voter the right to complain if the chosen candidate fails to deliver on the “promises”, and it is an opportunity to make change. This is mere fallacy. The following is a critical examination of these “fallacies”.

Indubitably, voting is a fundamental right as described above. Scholars have argued that rights often form a vital element of the constitutional infrastructure of the modern states. They provide the moral justification for assertions and counter-assertions in a wide variety of political debates. Ronald Dworkin, an illustrious legal philosopher, pointed out in describing a right ‘in a strong sense’ in his philosophical book, Taking Rights Seriously, that the status of a right entails: that a person both is entitled to stand on his own right, and to require others to be duty bound to respect it.

The foregoing indicates that one’s right is another’s obligation. To put this into context, it means that when one votes in a candidate, or re-elects an individual, the elected person need to respect that right by delivering on his/her manifesto or any promise that a voter placed reliance on and voted him/her. However, what has been exhibited since “independence” is contemptuous disrespect of this obligation by “leaders”. Why vote if they will not respect your right?

Second, it is said that one should register and vote because it gives a voter an opportunity to complain or express his/her dismay against the administration. This reason deceptively implies that those who did not elect the administration do not have the right to complain against the administration. This is another fallacy. In democracy, not all the voters elect an administration—only a majority number of the voters elect an administration.

The concept of democracy has the assumption that the entire population has elected those successful candidates. This is indicative of the fact that every citizen – including those who abstained and those not allowed to vote or who voted against the administration – have the right to complain or express their disappointment against the administration. The assumption is premised on the reason that resources of the state, which the administration is the custodian of (through social contract), belong to the entire population, and not only to those who voted for the administration.

If a citizen does not register or vote, as a citizen he/she reserves the right to express his/her opinion about the administration’s intentional failures. The purpose of publicising this fallacy is that politicians want the citizens to remain ignorant of the fact that the citizenry is the first and principal organ of checks and balances—and the source from which the concept of checks and balances emanates.

Voting is a right, not a duty. It is not compulsory to register or vote. If a citizen, in his/her measured estimation, does not see a candidate worthy of his/her time and vote, the citizen is allowed to be at peace with that informed decision. The point is, candidates, through their works, should give citizens reasons to register and wake up early to go vote for them. Voting is not Christianity, where salvation is by faith and not works. There should be concrete achievements (works) that will compel a citizen to register and vote—not deceptive and manipulative persuasions.

Since voting is not a duty, a voter should only vote when he/she is almost certain that there is a person who can create desired change. In addition, it is not necessary that a voter vote for all contestants; he/she can only cast a vote for a member of parliament, if other contestants do not satisfy Article 10 and Chapter VI of the Kenya Constitution, 2010. These two provisions are the standard that a voter should use to decide on whose to favour to vote.

Another fallacy is that one should vote because it is an opportunity to make change. Ideally, this should be the case. Any election period should be a season of change. However, in our case, it has been a period of choosing whom to enrich (whatever form of enrichment—even their coquetries and cohabitations). It is even practically impossible to choose who would make a good a leader out of the pool that we have!

Mark Brandly observed, “Why are scoundrels successful in the political arena? Analysing the nature of an election provides us with an answer. In order to win an election, candidates need to offer their supporters other people’s wealth, and candidates must convince their supporters to vote in spite of the fact that individual votes will not affect the election. Accomplishing these two goals requires deception. Therefore, candidates who are willing to violate property rights — to steal — and be deceptive have an advantage over candidates with stronger moral convictions. So of course, elected officials are corrupt. Candidates with moral integrity are at a severe disadvantage in the political sphere. Do not put your hope in political solutions.”

If the foregoing has been too much and intellectually tough, the point is, the citizenry is too ignorant and gullible to vote! Politicians want this state of affairs to continue and even proliferate.

Remember these Mark Brandly words, “the greater the power of the political office that a candidate is seeking, the more likely it is that that individual has no sense of right and wrong”. ^


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