The Power of Not Voting

People like to talk about the power of voting but few bother to mention the power of not voting:

BUCHAREST (Reuters) РA referendum to change Romania’s constitution to prevent same sex couples from securing the right to marry failed to draw enough voters to validate the result on Sunday, after a campaign that led to a rise in hate speech against the gay community.


Dozens of human rights groups had said a successful referendum would embolden further attempts to chip away at the rights of minority groups and push Romania onto a populist, authoritarian track.

They have encouraged people to boycott the ballot, with several companies and popular musicians and artists following. A library chain even offered a book discount over the weekend for those who wanted to stay in and read rather than vote.

If voter turnout had been higher, the referendum may have passed. Since not enough people bothered to show up to validate the results, the referendum couldn’t pass.

Governments that describe themselves as democratic prefer to make it appear as though their power is endorse by “the people.” That means that they like to see high voter turnout. If a vast majority of people go to the polls during an election, a government can argue that it enjoys the endorsement of the majority of “the people.” If almost nobody shows up during an election, a government has a much tougher time making that claim.