November 16, 2020
From Anarchy In The Burbs (USA)

In our last post, we analyzed statistical data that showed how many people in the United States are able to vote and still choose not to. Time and time again, we see and hear the argument about privilege in regard to voting: the people who do vote are privileged and selfish, and the people who don’t vote are somehow also privileged and selfish. This argument is tired and premised on shaming people into action through condescension and guilt. It doesn’t work on the 126 million people who don’t care to vote.

So, who are these people who aren’t voting, and why don’t they vote, anyway?

Despite the opinions claiming that non-voters are the “privileged few” who have no critical stake in politics:

  • Voting trends in 2016 and 2018 both show that almost half of nonvoters are non-white, even though these communities compose only one-fourth of the voting population.
  • 56% of nonvoters are quite poor – making less than $30,000 per year – even though that income group constitutes just over one-fourth of the voting population.
People who abstain from voting do so because they are so misrepresented or entirely ignored by electoral politics and policies to bother voting. The solution to a corrupt system can’t be to just register these people to vote and provide information on candidates or policies, because the problem isn’t whether they have the capacity to vote. They choose not to vote because electoral politics have not substantially changed their lived realities. 
There is a correlation between those who choose not to vote and those who belong to the most vulnerable communities – people who are indigenous, Black, undocumented, queer, poor, and so on.
One of the most common arguments for “voting blue no matter who” is the fear of mass deportations and further xenophobia from the Trump administration.
  • 409,849 undocumented folks were deported under Obama in 2012.
  • A little over 265,000 undocumented folks were deported under Trump in 2019.
  • Section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act states that law enforcement (local) can partner with ICE (federal) to deport people in a local community. This means that cities and counties can become subject to federal jurisdiction regardless of more benevolent local policies – and/or local elected representatives.

These local representatives and local elections are, on a smaller scale, comparable to “voting blue no matter who” when it comes to presidency. At the end of the day, local and federal electoral politics are just electoral politics, and this is just one snapshot demonstrating the neglect of one vulnerable group of people.

In San Bernardino, local elected officials are making six-digit salaries while the city recovers from bankruptcy for the past five years, and while most members of the community aren’t making even close to that salary range. 

How can it be argued that electoral politics and elected officials are designed to listen to and protect vulnerable communities, when these communities are the first to be exploited – even at the local level?

“… We must recognize how [these] systems have evolved to the point where you hardly have to keep someone from voting to keep their vote from having effect. The system evolves to protect itself, and privilege is the opposite of giving up on the belief it will self-rectify” – Hari Ziyad

We can do more – and better – for ourselves than voting.


– Clusiau, C. & Schwarz, S. (Directors). (2020). The power of the vote [Television series episode]. In Schwartz, S. (Producer), Immigration nation. Scotts Valley, California: Netflix.
– Greenwald, G. (2020, Apr 9) Nonvoters are not privileged. They are disproportionately lower-income, nonwhite, and dissatisfied with the two parties. The Intercept.
– NYT Editorial Board (2019, Jul 13) All presidents are deporters in chief. The New York Times.
– Department of Homeland Security (2020, Sep 30) Delegation of immigration authority section 287(g) immigration and nationality act.