Daily Analysis

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EDITORIAL ANALYSIS– The ethical act of voting 

The Editorial covers GS paper 2[Governance, Transparency & Accountability, Citizens Charters.]

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Introduction

Voting is the duty of having to act not for individual benefit, but for the benefit of the larger society. 

What are the sentiments involved during elections?

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  • The upper classes will tell you that poorer citizens vote only to get benefits such as cash, clothes, television sets and other consumer goods.
  • The majority group will say that the minorities vote as a bloc since they have all been told whom to vote for.
  • These are seen as examples of voters not doing their duty of voting for the best person, namely, the best political representative who will govern well.
  • Those who support a particular party will say something similar about those who are voting for another party.
  • It is as if when people vote for money or as a vote bank, they are not doing what they should but then it could also be argued that a person who blindly votes for one ideology or another is pretty much doing the same thing.

What are the impacts of getting paid for voting?

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  • The practise of getting paid for voting is not only endemic across States but is also done quite brazenly in some places as party members go house to house and distribute money and other goods.
  • In the case of taking money or goods, voters see elections as a transaction which goes against a fundamental principle of democratic voting, which is that voting is not a transaction.
  •  Voting is not a job in that sense it is not a job which is eligible for some compensation.
  • If a person wins because of our votes, then he or she derives enormous benefit from being a member of the legislature.

What is the logic for getting paid?

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  • Why can’t the voter who is enabling opportunity for another person’s wealth ask for a share in that wealth? If voters do so, then they are behaving rationally.
  • Giving money to voters is thus like an investment and the amount of payment to voters is really a measure of how much elected representatives hope to make during their tenure!
  • When we vote based on our ideology, we are following the same logic as those taking money.
  • When a group of rich people vote for a person who supports lower taxes, they are doing exactly the same as the poor, since voting is used as a transaction to get something they desire.

What is the way forward?

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  • The fundamental problem lies in viewing voting as a transaction, the aim of which is to get some benefit for an individual or a group. 
  • But we have to recognise that voting is not like any other transaction.
  • The duty that is inherent in the act of voting is an ethical duty, not just a constitutional one.
  • It is the duty of having to act not for individual benefit, such as money or ideology, but for the benefit of the larger society.
  • Such benefit for the larger society will include others benefiting as much as each one of us does through each of our votes.
  • It is also a recognition that a democratic action like voting is primarily for the good of something larger than one’s self interests.

Source: The Hindu.