Should Everyone Be Allowed to Vote?


In a democracy, every adult citizen should be allowed to vote.

Q1 Analysis

This should not be a Q1 violation so long as:

Q2 Analysis

So long as everyone agrees on who is an adult citizen, this is not a Q2 violation.


When the United States was first formed, only a small group of people were given the right to vote. Over the years, this right has been expanded until today almost any U.S. citizen over the age of 18 can cast a ballot.

Do you think that there should be even fewer restrictions on who can vote? Do you think that some groups of people are either unable to make legitimate electoral choices or have not earned (or have lost) the right to vote?

Consider these groups of people. Which do you think should be allowed to vote?

For some of these groups, if you think they should not be allowed to vote, you will need to consider what legal means could be used to judge whether people are part of that group. For example, how would you test whether someone is sufficiently informed about an issue?

You might also consider whether or not people should be allowed to vote on all issues. Should ballot measures be open to anyone in an affected area? Or should only people directly impacted by a law be allowed to vote for or against that law?

Even if it is legal for you to vote, are there situations in which it might be immoral for you to vote? For example, which of these would you consider moral?

You are encouraged to leave your answers to the questions posed in this post in the comments section. This post is based on an excerpt from Ask Yourself to be Moral, by D. Cancilla, available at and See the 2Q system page for details of the philosophical system mentioned in this post.

Posted on June 15, 2010 at 10:16 am by ideclare · Permalink
In: 2Q

6 Responses

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  1. Written by Middlemet
    on June 16, 2010 at 9:57 am
    Reply · Permalink

    The discussion list covers a lot of things, most of which are fraught with potential Q2 violations. Right now I’ll focus on those that fall under an umbrella I’ll label ‘Unfit Citizens’. Those citizens of advanced age (presumably potentially disqualified due to issues such as dementia), mental disability, lack of proficiency with English (which has some racial overtones), and lack of education (which has a whole host of things going on). I feel that trying to cut out potential voters based on these kind of judgments is problematic at best. If you (rhetorical ‘you’ here, not directed at the poster, who I recognize is not espousing any of these things here) can disenfranchise someone because you deem them somehow unfit, then there’s no reason that someone can’t judge you unfit for similar reasoning. For example, those who feel that if you do not adhere to their religion you therefore cannot have a moral center, cannot make good decisions, and therefore should not have the right to vote. This may at first glance seem frivolous, but any normal reader here can see that many commentators adhere to the logic that without Christianity one cannot have a moral life and someone without it is somehow deficient.

    I’ll make a special note of the felony disenfranchisement issue, since it’s always struck me as rather dreadfully unfair. One can suffer the legal and social punishments related to your conviction, but on top of that have to suffer the additional civic execution of being cut out of the electoral process. Not too long ago a felony conviction was pretty much it, but many states now allow methods of reacquiring voting rights, which I happen to think is a good idea.

    I’ll save the discussion relating to the morality of gaming the system (Republicans registering as Democrats, voting randomly or by some gender/ethnic preference, etc.) for another time. I’d also be curious as to people’s thoughts of these issues from a perspective of representative democracy versus direct democracy. How would the same issues brought up above apply to elected officials voting on issues brought up in their legislative bodies? Where does one consistently draw lines, and where does one make deals to advance your broader legislative agenda?

  2. Written by ed42
    on June 16, 2010 at 6:03 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    Is it immoral to impose one’s values, by force, on another?

    Isn’t that exactly what voting does?

  3. Written by Middlemet
    on June 17, 2010 at 7:00 am
    Reply · Permalink


    Humanity has always faced a bit of a dilemma there. Society imposes a structure on its people including not only a body of laws, but cultural traditions and values that can punish just as much a legal code. Just look at the discrimination and ostracization that people who go ‘too far’ outside cultural norms face. However, without the society of other people, life is hardly enjoyable, or in many cases survivable. Without others to talk to, we can’t bounce ideas off each other, which hones our own thinking. Without a body of tradition, every generation has to reinvent the wheel, both literally and metaphorically. Can there be a perfect, ideal society which doesn’t need to impose such rules or values on its citizenry? I don’t think it’s even theoretically possible. Parents impose their brand of idealism on their children all the time. They can’t get their morals from a vacuum. And even if the children develop in a different way, they are still using what came before as a framework to branch off from.

    Even if we might have a disagreement whether or not it’s theoretically possible, in a practical sense it definitely isn’t possible right now. I won’t say that society is necessary for life. Evolution made people before people made societies. However, without those societies, it isn’t possible for any individual to meet their own potential, particularly intellectually. Given that choice, given that some people want to be the best that they can be, society becomes a necessity. At that point, I think it becomes the duty of an ethical individual not to insist on an individual societal form that is perfectly moral, but to try and work with what they have at hand to develop towards a more perfect state.

    I’ll reference back to one of your previous posts. Should people be held morally responsible for not rising above their culture? I quite liked your ‘Do not initiate force nor fraud’ principle for today’s age, but that kind of morality and language simply didn’t exist at many times in the past. It’s just as much of a moral construction, if more consistent and even-handed, as some of the moral codes of ancient civilizations, and to a certain extent the product of them. It took a few million years for humanity to start making civilizations, and it took centuries or even millennia of those before it seemed that these sorts of questions were seriously explored. It took seeing that these things had failings to make people think about and work towards something better.

    It may seem like I’ve been rambling on, but I’m actually working towards a point. You asked if it is immoral to impose one’s values by force of vote? I’ll turn it around and ask if there’s realistically a more moral way to run things, and if not, is it immoral today? I’ll grant that many votes are bad things, and I’ll grant that even rational intelligent people can make bad decisions, but that’s precisely one of the reasons the United States, for example, was set up to prevent a ‘tyranny of the majority’. Yeah, what they have produced is hardly perfect, especially in how it’s developed, but it then becomes the job of the ethical individual to work either towards bettering it through getting involved in society’s discussions, or experiment at introducing something brand new to the world.

  4. Written by ed42
    on June 17, 2010 at 6:59 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    I have no qualm with society using forced restitution from a violator to the victim. Other than that I believe the only ‘moral’ way to run things is shunning. If enough people in a village refuse to buy from and/or sell to an offender then the offender will leave.

  5. Written by ed42
    on June 17, 2010 at 7:09 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    I realize my last comment could be confusing. The first violator (the one the must be made to perform restitution) has violated “do no initiate force or fraud”. The offender I should have labeled an ‘offender of community standards’ (but has not initiator force or fraud).

  6. Written by Middlemet
    on June 18, 2010 at 9:10 am
    Reply · Permalink

    I’ll leave aside your statement that it is acceptable for society to force restitution to those who have damaged others through force or fraud. I’m curious as to precisely how a society would do that consistently and fairly without some form of governmental structure (which leads back to the what’s the best and most equitable way to run things, but again, leaving it aside for now). What I’d like to ask about is the second part of your statement. You say that the only ‘moral’ way to deal with societal norm transgressions is shunning the violator. You put ‘moral’ in question marks, so I wasn’t entirely sure what you were trying to convey there.

    Let me rephrase it, because I’m honestly not sure of your meaning. You seem to be saying:

    ‘It is moral for a society to use economic and social pressure to ostracize someone who violates cultural norms, but has initiated neither force nor fraud against any member of the community.’

    Q1 Analysis:

    This should not be a Q1 violation as long as what is and is not a transgression of societal norms is well defined for any given community.

    Q2 Analysis:

    Two parts here. As long as everyone in the community agrees on the definition of a violation of societal norms this should be all right. In addition, you must also accept ostracization should you choose to violate a societal norm for whatever reason, and furthermore that should you be in a different community for whatever reason, you have to accept potential ostracization for your actions, which may be acceptable in your home community, but not in the community where you now find yourself.


    There have historically been several methods of removing someone from the community without using any direct force. In the past, when the distance between communities was sizable, or in fairly harsh environments, this could very easily result in the death of the person ostracized. Shunning in particular, which is one of the only methods still in use, is noteworthy for its heavy implicit or explicit use of shame to force adherence to societal norms regardless on the individual’s beliefs, or to force an individual to relocate out of a community entirely.

    Having said this, it is a non-violent method of dealing with societal transgressors, which is certainly preferable to the horrific and intimidating use of violence that we’ve seen throughout history against ‘the other’.

    For consideration:

    – Is it acceptable to shun an individual in a primarily religious community who does not adhere to the prevailing orthodox interpretation of that religion?
    – Is it acceptable to shun an individual who wears clothes offensive to common tastes, but technically complies with any legal requirements of decency?
    – Is it acceptable for a predominately white community who wishes to maintain the racial purity of their community to shun any persons of different ethnic background who attempt to settle there?
    – Is it acceptable to shun an individual who violates societal norms through no fault of their own, such as someone who suffer from a genetic disorder, or who has suffered an injury resulting in an unsightly disability in a society that prizes physical perfection above other values?

    Please do not take this as an internet attack or anything of the sort. I actually intend it as a compliment. When I said in my previous response that I believe it is the duty of the ethical to participate in society’s discussions, I believe that is precisely what you are doing. To be honest, I get a great deal of intellectual satisfaction in participating in these discussions. Plus, it’s fun! I recognize that what you probably mean by ‘moral’ (though as I said I’m unsure, which is why I’ve rolled out the analysis) is that the only moral way to run things is through a method that initiates neither force nor fraud. While we may disagree with the criteria for shunning, and what is or is not a societal norm, we could agree that it is good to be non-violent.

    I’m going to disagree with you on one last point, though. I agree that it is good to be non-violent, and that shunning is preferable to someone being lynched for being black, or beaten to death for being gay. That doesn’t mean that shunning is good or moral. Just because it isn’t as bad doesn’t mean it isn’t bad. You believe that you shouldn’t initiate force or fraud, but is force limited to physical force? The psychological pain and anguish, as well as the social and economic damage, of having your family or community cut you off because you reveal that you’re gay, or that you’re marrying someone of a different race/religion, or that you’re an atheist, are real. I bring all this up not to win any points, or anything like that, but in the spirit of free exchange and self-examination that you have done such an excellent job in fostering.

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