“One voice, one vote,” Rhetoric, and Voter Frustration

About one month ago I saw a bumper sticker that said “one voice, one vote.” This slogan and its many problems have been on my mind since then. This slogan, while deeply rooted historically, is perhaps now more than ever problematic given rulings in and associated with Citizens United.

“One voice, one vote” simply doesn’t happen and is actually impossible.

This ideal is not possible. It suggests a kind of equality exists and is possible in our societal structures.

While kind of stating the obvious, “one voice, one vote” is inaccurate because those we elect can’t possibly represent every voter and all of his/her interest and the vasty majority of those who “represent” us to some degree are just hired or appointed, not elected. And, what about those who are not allowed to vote? 

“One voice, one vote” rhetoric ignores various layers of intersectionality and Privilege Systems. It suggests that one voice equals one vote and one vote equals one voice. People in the United States are aware of much more when it comes to this kind of situation than given credit for. Internet memes regularly blast the non-voting population, but they believe, validly in at least many cases, that their vote really does not make that big of a difference. The elite still, generally, does what it wants to do with some brief and occasional exceptions.

And the ideal of “one voice, one vote” could only possibly, potentially apply if every one voted and if every one was allowed to vote. Voter turnout, we know, is low in part because people have to work and online voting or voting by mail is not an option for most people. 

Either way, those who “lose” inevitably feel like their voice was not heard and will not actually be represented or heard by the “winner.” 

As mentioned above, the existence of Super PACs further invalidates “one voice, one vote.” Those with money to essentially buy an election, through the use of advertisements based on lies and fear, clearly have far more than one voice, especially one voice and one vote equal to that available to the 98 and 99 percent.

Part of the problem relates to that society does not distinguish between “equality” and “equity.” When our focus is on “equity,” our focus is actually more on equality. For example, imagine there is a person who is 3′ tall and another who is 6′ tall. Equality is giving them both one piece of bread. Equity is giving the 3′ individual one piece and the 6′ two pieces. I’m not at all saying people should be given more or less votes based on their identity but we just need to recognize the imperfections of our systems and not promote rhetoric everyone knows is not really true. We need to work toward a better and better, more equitable, and thus equal, society. 

In a nutshell, “one voice, one vote” can be read as insulting the intelligence, rights, and hopes of individuals.