Yesterday, I looked at the various options for alternative people to vote for besides Obama. Today, let's consider some reasons for not voting.
-"The candidates are the same"
While it's true that plurality voting pushes the candidates to have similar views in the grand scheme of things (neither is a communist, anarchist, autocratic dictator, etc.), there are still huge areas of disagreement. Romney would spend about $2 trillion more on national defense in the next decade than Obama. Obamacare would mean health insurance for about 45 million more Americans than Romney's plan. That's a shitload of difference. I'll grant it's not as much difference as there'd be if Gary Johnson or Jill Stein were in the equation, but it's not insignificant.
-"My vote doesn't matter. How likely is it that one or the other will win by a single vote?"
A study (.pdf) before the 2008 election calculated a 1 in 10 million chance that a single vote would affect the outcome in one of a few toss-up states, and 1 in 60 million that it would decide the presidency. While there are plenty of people who would buy a lottery ticket at those odds, I think it's pretty unlikely that such a tiny sliver of a chance of affecting the outcome is the primary motivating force for most voters.
The satisfaction I gain from voting comes from my sense of identity, as well as social pressures. As you might have guessed, I have lots of opinions about politics and enjoy sharing and discussing them with others. Election Day for me is first and foremost a time when we come together and tell each other what kind of country/state/county/municipality we want to live in. It's a time when we share our opinions with each other on a grand scale. To skip the opportunity to participate would make all my musings, reading and discussions of politics ring hollow. Unless I thought that...
-"Voting, or any involvement in government, is coercive/evil."
Our government is above all things an instrument of violence and coercion. Everything the government does is backed up with the threat of dudes with guns breaking down doors and making it happen. Voting necessarily involves a plurality making decisions that not everyone would agree with. Any participation in voting, then, might be viewed as a coercive act and something to be avoided.
One of the beauties of our voting system is that there is no limit to what one can work toward within the system. Constitutions can be amended, laws can be changed, anyone can be elected to any position, and positions can be created and eliminated as needed. While the government as currently formulated involves a plurality forcing obligations on others (taxes, imprisonment, etc.), one is not obliged to vote for the continuation of such acts. Were one so motivated, one could vote for candidates and issues which would dismantle any and all structures of government.
This could be viewed as a form of coercion itself, as it might prevent people who want things like Medicare and national defense from having them. But eliminating government wouldn't do that. Anyone who wanted could enter into private agreements to provide these benefits to each other. They just would not be given the power to force others to be involved through involuntary taxation.
-"Voting's just not worth my time."
Given that an individual's decision to vote or not only has a 1 in 60 million chance of actually affecting the outcome, there's no moral obligation for anyone to vote. Not everyone has the same values as me. Their own self-identity might not involve placing the same importance on politics/government. They might have views which are out of the mainstream to the degree that other voters would never accept them. Maybe they have something better to do on November 6th.