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process by which a population chooses an individual to hold public office
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An electoral choice of ten different fascists is like choosing which way one wishes to die. The holder of so-called high public office is always merely an extension of the hated ruling corporate class. ~ George L. Jackson
The capitalist class is represented by the Republican, Democratic, Populist and Prohibition parties, all of which stand for private ownership of the means of production, and the triumph of any one of which will mean continued wage-slavery to the working class. ~ Eugene V. Debs
The political game can produce no important changes in our society and we must radically refuse to take part in it. ~ Jacques Ellul
The oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class shall represent and repress them in parliament! ~ Vladimir Lenin
When annual elections end, there slavery begins. ~ John Adams
To give the victory to the right, not bloody bullets, but peaceful ballots only, are necessary. ~ Abraham Lincoln
I know nothing grander, better exercise, better digestion, more positive proof of the past, the triumphant result of faith in human kind, than a well-contested American national election. ~ Walt Whitman

An election is a formal democratic decision-making process by which a population chooses an individual to hold public office.

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  • I consider biennial elections as a security that the sober, second thought of the people shall be law.
    • Fisher Ames, speech on Biennial Elections before the Convention of Massachusetts (January 1788), reported in Seth Ames, John Thornton Kirkland, Works of Fisher Ames with a Selection from His Speeches and Correspondence (1854) p. 7.


  • I would relate to the crowds how I called on a certain rural constituent and was shocked to hear him say he was thinking of voting for my opponent. I reminded him of the many things I had done for him as prosecuting attorney, as county judge, as congressman, and senator. I recalled how I had helped get an access road built to his farm, how I had visited him in a military hospital in France when he was wounded in World War I, how I had assisted him in securing his veteran's benefits, how I had arranged his loan from the Farm Credit Administration, how I had got him a disaster loan when the flood destroyed his home, etc., etc.
    "How can you think of voting for my opponent?" I exhorted at the end of this long recital. "Surely you remember all these things I have done for you?"
    "Yeah", he said, I remember. But what in hell have you done for me lately?"
    • Alben W. Barkley, That Reminds Me— (1954), p. 165. Barkley first told this story during his 1938 campaign for renomination as Kentucky's Democratic candidate for the United States Senate.
  • VOTE, n. The instrument and symbol of a freeman's power to make a fool of himself and a wreck of his country.
    • Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1948), p. 359. Originally published in 1906 as The Cynic's Word Book.
  • How shall we avert the dire calamities with which we are threatened? The answer comes from the graves of our fathers: By the frequent election of new men. Other help or hope for the salvation of free government there is none under heaven. If history does not teach this, we have read it all wrong.
    • Jeremiah S. Black, "The Third Term: Reasons Against It"; first published in The North American Review (March 1880); republished in Chauncey F. Black, ed., Essays and Speeches of Jeremiah S. Black (1886) p. 383.
  • What is it we all seek for in an election? To answer its real purposes, you must first possess the means of knowing the fitness of your man; and then you must retain some hold upon him by personal obligation or dependence.
    • Edmund Burke, "Reflections on the Revolution in France" (1790), republished in The Works of the Right Honorable Edmund Burke (1899), vol. 3, p. 483.


  • On Election Day, I stay home. Two reasons: first of all, voting is meaningless; this country was bought and paid for a long time ago. That empty shit they shuffle around and repackage every four years doesn't mean a thing. Second, I don't vote, because I firmly believe that if you vote, you have no right to complain. I know some people like to twist that around and say, "If you don't vote, you have no right to complain." But where's the logic in that? Think it through: If you vote, and you elect dishonest, incompetent politicians, and you screw things up, then you're responsible for what they've done. You voted them in. You caused the problem. You have no right to complain. I, on the other hand, who did not vote—who, in fact, did not even leave the house on Election Day—am in no way responsible for what these politicians have done and have every right to complain about the mess you created. Which I had nothing to do with. Why can't people see that?
  • Your ship cannot double Cape Horn by its excellent plans of voting. The ship may vote this and that, above decks and below, in the most harmonious exquisitely constitutional manner: the ship, to get round Cape Horn, will find a set of conditions already voted for, and fixed with adamantine rigor by the ancient Elemental Powers, who are entirely careless how you vote. If you can, by voting or without voting, ascertain these conditions, and valiantly conform to them, you will get round the Cape: if you cannot, the ruffian Winds will blow you ever back again; the inexorable Icebergs, dumb privy-councillors from Chaos, will nudge you with most chaotic "admonition;" you will be flung half frozen on the Patagonian cliffs, or admonished into shivers by your iceberg councillors, and sent sheer down to Davy Jones, and will never get round Cape Horn at all!
    • Thomas Carlyle, Latter-Day Pamphlets, The Present Time 1850
  • Nam ego in ista sum sententia, qua te fuisse semper scio, nihil ut feurit in suffragiis voce melius.
    • I am of the opinion which you have always held, that "viva voce" voting at elections is the best method.
    • Cicero, De Legibus, III. 15. Philippics, IV. 4. Tacitus, Agricola, Chapter III.


  • Who may be excluded from a share in the ruling of men? Time and time again the world has answered:

    The Ignorant
    The Inexperienced
    The Guarded
    The Unwilling

    That is, we have assumed that only the intelligent should vote, or those who know how to rule men, or those who are not under benevolent guardianship, or those who ardently desire the right.

    These restrictions are not arguments for the wide distribution of the ballot—they are rather reasons for restriction addressed to the self-interest of the present real rulers. We say easily, for instance, "The ignorant ought not to vote." We would say, "No civilized state should have citizens too ignorant to participate in government," and this statement is but a step to the fact: that no state is civilized which has citizens too ignorant to help rule it. Or, in other words, education is not a prerequisite to political control—political control is the cause of popular education.

    • W. E. B. Du Bois, "Of the Ruling of Men," in Darkwater: Voices from within the Veil (1920)


  • I have serious doubts about the value of debates in a presidential election. They tend to be a test of reaction time rather than a genuine exposition of the participants' philosophies and programs. Further, in debate, candidates tend to overstate their views. In the 1960 situation I had a very practical objection: Nixon was widely known; Kennedy was not; dramatic debates would therefore help Kennedy.
  • An election is coming. Universal peace is declared, and the foxes have a sincere interest in prolonging the lives of the poultry.
  • To vote is to take part in the organization of the false democracy that has been set up forcefully by the middle class. ... The political game can produce no important changes in our society and we must radically refuse to take part in it.


Let us not commit ourselves to the absurd and senseless dogma that the color of the skin shall be the basis of suffrage, the talisman of liberty. ... Let suffrage be extended to all men of proper age, regardless of color. ~ James A. Garfield
  • When the shadow of the Presidential and Congressional election is lifted we shall, I hope be in a better temper to legislate.
    • James A. Garfield, letter to General Hazen (August 1, 1867), concerning his difficulty in getting legislation passed to reduce the size of the military. Reported in The Life and Letters of James Abram Garfield (1925), vol. 1, p. 421.
  • Let us not commit ourselves to the absurd and senseless dogma that the color of the skin shall be the basis of suffrage, the talisman of liberty. I admit that it is perilous to confer the franchise upon the ignorant and degraded; but if an educational test cannot be established, let suffrage be extended to all men of proper age, regardless of color. It may well be questioned whether the negro does not understand the nature of our institutions better than the equally ignorant foreigner. He was intelligent enough to understand from the beginning of the war that the destiny of his race was involved in it. He was intelligent enough to be true to that Union which his educated and traitorous master was endeavoring to destroy. He came to us in the hour of our sorest need, and by his aid, under God, the republic was saved. Shall we now be guilty of the unutterable meanness, not only of thrusting him beyond the pale of its blessings, but of committing his destiny to the tender mercies of those pardoned rebels who have been so reluctantly compelled to take their feet from his neck and their hands from his throat? But someone says it is dangerous at this time to make new experiments. I answer, it is always safe to do justice. However, to grant suffrage to the black man in this country is not innovation, but restoration. It is a return to the ancient principles and practices of the fathers.
  • Bad local government is certainly a great evil, which ought to be prevented; but to violate the freedom and sanctities of the suffrage is more than an evil. It is a crime which, if persisted in, will destroy the Government itself. Suicide is not a remedy. If in other lands it be high treason to compass the death of the king, it shall be counted no less a crime here to strangle our sovereign power and stifle its voice.
  • I always voted at my party's call,
    And I never thought of thinking for myself at all.
    • W. S. Gilbert, H. M. S. Pinafore, reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922)


If an election can cause us to lose everything, what is it exactly that we have in the first place? ~ Michael Horton
  • Let the black man vote when he is fit to vote; prohibit the white man voting when he is unfit to vote.
    • Warren G. Harding, speech delivered to a segregated, mixed race audience at Woodrow Wilson Park in Birmingham, Alabama on the occasion of the city's semicentennial, published in the Birmingham Post (27 October 1921) quoted in Political Power in Birmingham, 1871-1921 (1977) by Carl V. Harris (1977) University of Tennessee Press, ISBN 087049211X.
  • The freeman casting, with unpurchased hand,
    The vote that shakes the turrets of the land.
  • Let all people come in, and vote fairly; it is to support one or the other party, to deny any man's vote.
    • Holt, C.J., Ashby v. White (1703), 2 Raym. Rep. 958; reported in James William Norton-Kyshe, Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904), p. 244-245.
  • Non ego ventosæ plebis suffragia venor.
    • I court not the votes of the fickle mob.
    • Horace, Epistles I. 19. 37.
  • We'd all like t'vote fer th'best man, but he's never a candidate.
    • Kin Hubbard, The Best of Kin Hubbard (1984), part 1, p. 14. The sayings of Abe Martin, Hubbard's rural sage, appeared from 1904–1930 in many newspapers.


  • When any election is held it will fortify rather than destroy the credibility of the power brokers. When we participate in this election to win, instead of disrupt, we're lending to its credibility.
  • An electoral choice of ten different fascists is like choosing which way one wishes to die. The holder of so-called high public office is always merely an extension of the hated ruling corporate class.
  • Our mission is at once the oldest and the most basic of this country: to right wrong, to do justice, to serve man…. Because all Americans just must have the right to vote. And we are going to give them that right. All Americans must have the privileges of citizenship regardless of race. And they are going to have those privileges of citizenship regardless of race.
    • President Lyndon B. Johnson, "The American Promise", delivered to a joint session of Congress, March 15, 1965. Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1965, book 1, p. 281, 286. He was talking about the civil rights bill he was about to present to Congress.


  • The margin is narrow, but the responsibility is clear.
    • John F. Kennedy, press conference (November 10, 1963). Transcript, The New York Times (November 11, 1963), p. 20. In Theodore Sorensen's Kennedy (1965), these words are followed by "There may be difficulties with the Congress, but a margin of only one vote would still be a mandate" (p. 219).


  • I am of the opinion that all who can should vote for the most intelligent, honest, and conscientious men eligible to office, irrespective of former party opinions, who will endeavour to make the new constitutions and the laws passed under them as beneficial as possible to the true interests, prosperity, and liberty of all classes and conditions of the people.
    • Robert E. Lee, letter to General James Longstreet (29 October 1867), as quoted in Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee (1924), p. 269
  • The oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class shall represent and repress them in parliament!
  • I am superstitious. I have scarcely known a party, preceding an election, to call in help from the neighboring states, but they lost the state.
    • Abraham Lincoln, letter to Iowa governor James W. Grimes (July 12, 1856); in Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (1953), vol. 2, p. 348.
  • To give the victory to the right, not bloody bullets, but peaceful ballots only, are necessary.
    • Abraham Lincoln, speech (c. May 18, 1858); in Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (1953), vol. 2, p. 454. Other uses of his contrast of ballots and bullets can be found in his message to Congress of July 4, 1861, "That ballots are the rightful, and peaceful, successors of bullets; and that when ballots have fairly, and constitutionally, decided, there can be no successful appeal, back to bullets" (vol. 4, p. 439); and in a letter to James C. Conkling, August 26, 1863, "There can be no successful appeal from the ballot to the bullet" (vol. 6, p. 410). In Arthur Brooks Lapsley, ed., The Writings of Abraham Lincoln (1905), there is a reconstruction, forty years later, of a speech to the first Republican state convention of Illinois, Bloomington, Illinois, May 29, 1856, in which this sentence appears: "Do not mistake that the ballot is stronger than the bullet" (vol. 2, p. 269). This lengthy reconstruction was not "worthy of serious consideration", in the opinion of Basler (Collected Works, vol. 2, p. 341).
  • This issue embraces more than the fate of these United States. It presents to the whole family of man the question whether a constitutional republic, or democracy—a government of the people by the same people—can or can not maintain its territorial integrity against its own domestic foes. It presents the question whether discontented individuals, too few in numbers to control administration according to organic law in any case, can always, upon the pretenses made in this case, or on any other pretenses, or arbitrarily without any pretense, break up their government, and thus practically put an end to free government upon the earth. It forces us to ask, Is there in all republics this inherent and fatal weakness? Must a government of necessity be too strong for the liberties of its own people, or too weak to maintain its own existence?


If elections were open to all classes of people, the property of landed proprietors would be insecure. ... Our government ... ought to be so constituted as to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority. ~ James Madison
  • I believe that there are societies in which every man may safely be admitted to vote…. I say, sir, that there are countries in which the condition of the labouring-classes is such that they may safely be intrusted with the right of electing members of the Legislature…. Universal suffrage exists in the United States without producing any very frightful consequences.
    • Thomas Babington Macaulay, speech in Parliament on parliamentary reform (March 2, 1831); in Macaulay, Speeches, Parliamentary and Miscellaneous, vol. 1 (1853), p. 12–13.
  • And as it is to be appropriated to this use with the consent of the State ceding it; as the State will no doubt provide in the compact for the rights, and the consent of the citizens inhabiting it; as the inhabitants will find sufficient inducements of interest to become willing parties to the cession; as they will have had their voice in the election of the Government which is to exercise authority over them; as a municipal Legislature for local purposes, derived from their own suffrages, will of course be allowed them; and as the authority of the Legislature of the State, and of the inhabitants of the ceded part of it, to concur in the cession, will be derived from the whole people of the State, in their adoption of the Constitution, every imaginable objection seems to be obviated.
  • Who are to be the electors of the federal representatives? Not the rich, more than the poor, not the haughty heirs of distinguished names, more than the humble sons of obscure and propitious fortune.
  • Unless you draw a check from the Party (which believe me, I don’t), winning elections solely for the sake of winning elections is not worth the effort – we don’t get involved in politics to “root for laundry,” just mindlessly cheer on one side simply because it wears an “R” on its jersey. You have to actually deliver something different than what your opponents would deliver, or the whole exercise is a waste of time.
  • Every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods.
  • When you come to the land the Lord your God is giving you and take it over and live in it and then say, “I will select a king like all the nations surrounding me,” you must select without fail a king whom the Lord your God chooses. From among your fellow citizens you must appoint a king – you may not designate a foreigner who is not one of your fellow Israelites. Moreover, he must not accumulate horses for himself or allow the people to return to Egypt to do so, for the Lord has said you must never again return that way. Furthermore, he must not marry many wives lest his affections turn aside, and he must not accumulate much silver and gold. When he sits on his royal throne he must make a copy of this law on a scroll given to him by the Levitical priests. It must be with him constantly and he must read it as long as he lives, so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and observe all the words of this law and these statutes and carry them out. Then he will not exalt himself above his fellow citizens or turn from the commandments to the right or left, and he and his descendants will enjoy many years ruling over his kingdom in Israel.


  • Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote.
    • George Jean Nathan, in Clifton Fadiman, The American Treasury, 1455–1955, p. 344 (1955). Reported in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989) as unverified in Nathan's works.


  • The right of voting for representatives is the primary right by which other rights are protected. To take away this right is to reduce a man to slavery, for slavery consists in being subject to the will of another, and he that has not a vote in the election of representatives is in this case.
    • Thomas Paine, "Dissertation on First Principles of Government" (1795), republished in Moncure D. Conway, ed., The Writings of Thomas Paine, vol. 3 (1895), p. 267.


  • An election is a moral horror, as bad as a battle except for the blood; a mud bath for every soul concerned in it.
  • Suppose three muggers confront you on the street and say, 'We want your money. But don’t’ worry—we’re going to let you vote on whether or not you should give it to us.' If this group votes three-to-one in favor of taking your money, does this legitimize its actions?
    • Butler D. Shaffer, as quoted in Facets of Liberty: A Libertarian Primer, edited L.K. Samuels, Freeland Press (2009), chapter 1: “Who Authorizes the Authorities?”, p. 12.
  • Perhaps America will one day go fascist democratically, by popular vote.
  • Я считаю, что совершенно неважно, кто и как будет в партии голосовать; но вот что чрезвычайно важно, это - кто и как будет считать голоса.
    • I consider it completely unimportant who in the party will vote, or how; but what is extraordinarily important is this—who will count the votes, and how.
    • Joseph Stalin, 1923, as quoted in The Memoirs of Stalin's Former Secretary (1992) by Boris Bazhanov [Saint Petersburg] (Борис Бажанов. Воспоминания бывшего секретаря Сталина). (Text online in Russian).
    • Common paraphrase: "The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything".
  • Looking back, I am content. Win or lose, I have told you the truth as I see it. I have said what I meant and meant what I said. I have not done as well as I should like to have done, but I have done my best, frankly and forthrightly; no man can do more, and you are entitled to no less.
    • Adlai Stevenson, remarks on a radio and television broadcast summing up his presidential campaign on election eve, Chicago, Illinois (November 3, 1952); in Major Campaign Speeches of Adlai E. Stevenson, 1952 (1953), p. 315.
  • In countries where royalty is upheld, it is a special offence to rob the crown jewels, which are the emblems of that sovereignty before which the loyal subject bows, and it is treason to be found in adultery with the Queen, for in this way may a false heir be imposed upon the State; but in our Republic, the ballot-box is the single priceless jewel of that sovereignty which we respect, and the electoral franchise, out of which are born the rulers of a free people, is the Queen whom we are to guard against pollution.


  • The belief that the people of a democracy rule themselves through their elected representatives, though sanctified by tradition and made venerable by multiple repetitions, is actually mystical nonsense.& In any election, only a percentage of the people vote. Those who can't vote because of age or other disqualifications, and those who don't vote because of confusion, apathy, or disgust at a Tweedledum-Tweedledummer choice can hardly be said to have any voice in the passage of the laws which govern them. Nor can the individuals as yet unborn, who will be ruled by those laws in the future. And, out of those who do "exercise their franchise," the large minority who voted for the loser are also deprived of a voice, at least during the term of the winner they voted against.

    But even the individuals who voted and who managed to pick a winner are not actually ruling themselves in any sense of the word. They voted for a man, not for the specific laws which will govern them. Even all those who had cast their ballots for the winning candidate would be hopelessly confused and divided if asked to vote on these actual laws. Nor would their representative be bound to abide by their wishes, even if it could be decided what these "collective wishes" were. And besides all this, a large percentage of the actual power of a mature democracy, such as the U.S.A., is in the hands of the tens of thousands of faceless appointed bureaucrats who are unresponsive to the will of any citizen without special pull.

    Under a democratic form of government, a minority of the individuals governed select the winning candidate. The winning candidate then proceeds to decide issues largely on the basis of pressure from special-interest groups.  What it actually amounts to is rule by those with political pull over those without it.  Contrary to the brainwashing we have received in government-run schools, democracy—the rule of the people through their elected representatives—is a cruel hoax!

    Not only is democracy mystical nonsense, it is also immoral.  If one man has no right to impose his wishes on another, then ten million men have no right to impose their wishes on the one, since the initiation of force is wrong (and the assent of even the most overwhelming majority can never make it morally permissible).  Opinions—even majority opinions—neither create truth nor alter facts. A lynch mob is democracy in action. So much for mob rule.

  • As long as I count the votes what are you going to do about it? Say.


  • I know nothing grander, better exercise, better digestion, more positive proof of the past, the triumphant result of faith in human kind, than a well-contested American national election.
    • Walt Whitman, "Democratic Vistas," in The Complete Poetry and Prose of Walt Whitman (1948), vol. 2, p. 228.

Author UnknownEdit

  • In times of stress and strain, people will vote.
    • Author unknown. Attributed to parliamentary debates, Great Britain (1857); reported as unverified in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989).
  • If voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal.
    • Author unknown, graffiti; reported in Mother Jones Magazine, Vol. 7, Num. 3, April 1982, p. 25.

See alsoEdit

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