Your vote makes or destroys our collective future

Ballot box destroyed during tallying of votes at Arid Zone School Hall, Lamu County. August 2017. [Jane Mugambi,Standard]

Kenya’s democracy is still work in progress. Each citizen gets an equal, but tiny share of political power. A voter’s ballot makes a difference only if he or she breaks a tie. But the probability of breaking a tie, in most cases, is small.

Thus, most voters have no incentive to be well-informed about politics, or to correct their misinformed opinions. They have no reason to think critically about politics or to process information in a rational manner. They indulge in their prejudices and biases.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair famously quipped that most people, most of the time, don’t give politics a first thought all day long. Or if they do, it is with a sigh before going back to worrying about their kids, parents, mortgage, boss, friends, weight, health, sex life etc.

For most normal people, politics is a distant, occasionally irritating fog, he added. For an ordinary voter, it makes sense to pay little attention to political issues, and instead devote most of your time and effort to other matters.

For instance, today’s average Kenyan voter has neither ability nor interest to read and vigorously critique manifestos and demand party ideologies. Majority don’t even know basic information, like the scorecard of leaders seeking re-election or how the incumbent regime has spent their taxes in the last 9 years. 

They make little effort to seek out new data. And even when they have it already, they poorly evaluate it. Instead of acting as truth seekers, they function as “political fans” cheering on leaders, over-valuing any data that confirms their pre-existing views while ignoring or downplaying that which cuts the other way.

That’s why most don’t think twice if offered a little money to vote for a particular candidate, spend sleepless nights campaigning for him or her, being recruited as an online charlatan to spin or join a gang to disrupt opponent’s rally.

It’s time we understood that voting isn’t just an individual’s choice. Rather, it is the exercise of power over others. When we vote for people who will occupy positions of political power, they do not just rule over those who voted for them, they rule over the entire society. And when we exercise power over other people in that way, we have a responsibility to be at least reasonably informed in the way that we do so.


Share this story
Picture story: County where men buy the groceries while wives wait at home
A woman is allowed to go to the market only if she is a seller or when the home does not have a man.
Diabetes: Insulin now an essential drug
Listing NCDs is a relief to Kenyans like 65-year-old Kahuho Mathai from Nyeri County, who was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.