An interesting perspective has dominated the concept and value of the vote in our electoral process. It is the belief that when we vote in an election, the result is winners and losers.
This dichotomous thinking has created the impression that my vote is lost or wasted if my candidate is unsuccessful. This is not only a fallacy but is a fundamentally flawed view of the intent and power of the vote. It gives the false impression that a vote is of value only if it yields the desired outcome.
In reality, the vote is not and was never intended to be an instrument of prediction, and certainly not for ensuring we get our preferences. When we cast the vote, it is not for the purpose of predicting, determining, or enforcing our desired outcome.
To the contrary, the vote is an instrument of choice – an expression of preference in a set of variables.
In situations where several of us have diverse or even divergent preferences, perspectives, or opinions, the vote affords us the opportunity to make a collective choice. It helps us unite around a common choice, irrespective of our preferences. Barack Obama put it thus, “There’s no such thing as a vote that doesn’t matter. It all matters.”
It all matters because each one of us gets an opportunity to express our preference. And in so doing, the majority position becomes our collective choice.
This means that in a national electoral process, every one of us gets an opportunity to choose our preferred candidate for each elective position. If the voting process is conducted in a manner that preserves the intent of each voter, then we must of necessity collectively celebrate the outcome of our will. Because once the vote is cast, the outcome belongs to all of us.
This is well illustrated in the only recorded electoral process in the Bible when the Apostles wanted to replace Judas. A careful analysis reveals at least five key steps they followed.
First, they set criteria for identifying the potential candidates. Two, they conducted a nomination – Justus and Matthias were nominated. Three, they prayed for God’s guidance in identifying the right candidate. Four, they voted – and Matthias got the highest vote.
Fifth, they inaugurated or commissioned the successful candidate – Matthias was added to the team of Apostles. Sixth, they returned to their normal routines, and we hear nothing more about that election. Mathias did not become the Apostle of those who voted for him, but a leader for the whole Church.
Accordingly, both those who voted for Justus and those who voted for Matthias, unanimously accepted the results and in unity embraced Matthias as their new Apostle.
The import of this is profound. Having gone through the rigorous process of choosing leaders at various level of our national governance, what should occupy our hearts and minds is not so much whether or not our candidates “won” or “lost”, but rather the outcome of our collective expression.
It is an absolute absurdity for anyone to insist that their vote must always yield their desired outcome – or else it is lost or wasted. Unfortunately, this myopic thinking is not only prevalent, but seems to be behind the many stresses, anxieties, and fatalistic positions taken by many during elections.
It is a demonstration of dim understanding of democracy when we engage in fights, riots, violence, and such other acts of hooliganism simply because we did not get our choice. Instead, we should celebrate all the men and women we have elected to be our leaders through the power of the ballot. You may not have voted for this one, and I may not have voted for that one. But after the vote, each of them is our leader.
Because, as Oprah Winfrey put it, “Casting a ballot isn't just something you do for yourself — it's for our collective future.”
This is why the secret ballot is such an ingenious invention in the casting of lots. It allows us to not only maintain anonymity in the voting process, but – more importantly – it accords us the dignity of benefiting from the outcome of the vote, irrespective of the choice we actually made.