2018 - Should I cancel my vote?


In class (it is also in the book) we modeled a utility function that depended positively on the proportion of people of the same party as me and negatively on the proportion of people from the competition.

Adapting this model to Mexican politics, eliminating the cost of going to vote and with the proper parameters (such as a gamma <1/2) we could say that PRIistas would put more effort on voting if they believe there is a bigger proportion of PRIistas in the voting lists willing to vote; and they would be less motivated to vote the higher the proportion of PANistas, MORENistas and independent supporters.

However, what happens if I do not like any of the parties running for office? Should I refrain from voting? Should I cancel my vote (null vote) ? Should I vote for my second preference (the party that I dislike the less)? or should I vote strategically to impede my last preference victory? I would like to debate this.

If I assume the Kantian imperative and assume that it is morally valuable to protest by cancelling my vote or even refraining from going to vote maybe I should do that. The day after the election we would see a big percentage of null votes and a big amount of people not voting. This would critically damage the image of legitimacy for the winner.

But this does not happen. Then, should I be forced to vote for someone that I believe does not represent me? Should I give my support to someone I don’t like even if I do not care who wins?

Now consider that people voting strategically assume the Kantian imperatives applies to them too. It is certain that not all people believe on the morality/value of strategic voting. Now, should they refrain from voting?

What is the equilibrium? Should I vote or not?

**assume there are no costs for voting (like transportation) or corrupt incentives to do it (bribery, “despensas”, etc)
**think of this as a moral dilema


Hi MĂ©xico,

Now, that we are going through an election period, your comment results absorbing. As you, I´ve thought that strategic voting is an option that must be analyzed.

I recommend you read the next article, it shows a short analysis about strategic voting. The author says: “I believe that strategic voting weakens rather than strengthens our democracy”, I think that his ideas are interesting, so, i post the link under if you are interested to read it.


Hi Mexico,

In the context of the Mexican election I found your question interesting. Although cancelling my vote seems tempting I wouldn’t do it for the following reasons:

It doesn’t matter if a high percentage of the voters cancel their vote. It demonstrates that people do not feel represented by the available options, but it will be ignored. There are some presidents who arrived at the office under suspicious circumstances or with low approval and it doesn’t matter. Unfortunately, there are no consequences when null vote appears.

I would prefer to vote for a party that I dislike less although I don’t feel represented by them. I would feel worse if another political party won the election.

Voting could also be considered a way to punish an administration who was unable to take actions under repugnant acts (human rights violations, corruption, etc.) or didn’t accomplished what was promised during the campaign. It would feel repugnant to cancel my vote and let such a party win. Although we could identify some degree of corruption in every party, I think that we could find that some outcomes are more repugnant than others.

I think that in this election I am not thinking about what a person who supports the same party would like me to do. I’m thinking about what a Mexican who has been victim of this system would like me to do and that is punish the repugnant acts with the only mechanism we have: not letting them have the power. In a country where there is no rule of law and mechanisms to bring someone to justice, voting could play an important role by preventing that a certain group gets to the power.


If all the people that didnt like any of the candidates for president got together then it will be an equilibrium (supossing their are no costs of any kind) for them to cancel their vote. But in the current situacion and in reality the chance of that happening and the cost of arranging something that big would be enormous hence unfeasible. Now, their is a difference between not voting and having a null vote. The second one can be an option for social protest and a feasible one. The first one isnt an option nor an equilibrium for anyone because the person than didnt vote will not part be a part of anything and their preferences were not taken into account .

At the end your vote reflect your preferences and in a society prefrences need to be known otherwise the mechanisms fail to achive optimum equilibrium.If non of the candidates represent what a Mexican wants then they shouldnt vote for the least worse. Their has to be a mechanism that reflects that the probable outcome may not be the optimal equilibrium not just show the probable one.

I think that the best option will be to vote for the least worse because now a days their is no mechanism capable enough to achive an optimal equilibrium.


I believe that cancelling a vote is not optimal because if someone does cancel his/her choice, no preferences are taken into account, as Paola mentioned in her entry, and preferences are a very important factor in the design and performance of a market.

On the other hand, I think it is important to talk about one of the main problems of democracy (as in one-man, one-vote): the public do not necessarily possess any particular collective wisdom, so we can be in “danger” of a sub-optimal outcome (of any kind) if we don’t voice our preferences via voting. This is why, I believe, we should always vote.

To conclude, I would like to ask the following question: what other types of situations or principles can be applied to dealing with problems of aggregating social preferences?

Nice topic.


Hey @AlainJD,

I read your article and I disagree on some points. For example, I am not sure if “strategic voting promotes an us-versus-them attitude”, maybe that attitude emerged first and is the reason strategic voting is taking place. Although I have to admit that it can foster it.

However, the articles addresses Canadian politics, a different escenario from Mexico. The author tells all his story based on strategic voting against a certain party, not a certain candidate. In Mexico I believe is the latter, people know their candidate even more than the party itself (on the exception of the PRI).

Anyway, the thin line between strategic voting and a us-versus-them attitude still makes me believe that cancelling my vote (and everyone doing the same) could be the best option. Although everyone agreeing on the same Kantian imperative is far from true in this case.


Hi @paolacymet and @omarocampo

Thanks for your answers. I have to agree on you on the fact that not going to vote is undesirable, certainly their preferences are not taken into account but maybe their first preference is not having a preference. This goes to the argument that @omarocampo presents too, maybe people are expressing their preference: they could dislike democracy, voting itself, or value their time the most.

However, I am not sure about voting for the least worse. Maybe it works if you actually believe one or two of the candidates represent you, but having a null vote is better for people who think NONE of the candidates fits his/her preferences.


Hello everyone, I’d like to join the discussion by adding some points I think explain better the approach given by @MariaFernanda, I indeed think that even though a large number of people will nullify their vote, this will have no consequence in the outcome of the election but I think that this is a particular case of the “voting paradox” since the people that nullify their vote don’t act as the book says: “… by virtue of being Kantian, they act as a group.”

To show this I attach an article by Parametría which, through a survey, gives some insight about the choices people make prior to the election i.e. voting for a candidate, not voting or nullifying their vote. The survey’s results show that only 1 out of ten people who were asked about their choice said yes to the question of whether they’d nullify their vote. Adding to this, a significant number of nullified votes were not counted as a “protest” since they were the result of people who made mistakes at the time of the election such as voting for two candidates (?) or voting and writing the name of a person not running for a public charge.

I think this reflects the outcome of few nullified votes not taking into account because even if I think that nullifying my vote is a form of protest, I don’t see that my vote could make a difference or an example to others because:

1.- (Showed in the survey) Many people that would rather nullify their vote still think that voting is a civil duty and thus they vote for their least preferred option.

2.- Knowing that nullifying my vote won’t have any consequences and also that some people will act as in the previous bullet point then it’s more costly for me to choose this option.

I think the solution to this problem also lies in applying the kantian equilibrium approach but for it to work, the people interested in nullifying their vote must act as another political party and thus pressuring the actual system to attend to this demands.


Rogelio Melo

Survey data: