Sidestep Voting: Election Day DIrect Action!

The following call to action was designed by a number of individuals after a panel on anti-authoritarians and the upcoming elections held during the National Conference on Organized Resistance in Washington, DC in January 2004.

“Election Day”: Those who wish to take an hour out of this day to cast a vote are welcome to do so; but we urge you to spend the remainder of the election day in creative experiments in self-determination and cooperation!

Quite a bit of energy is squandered by traditional leftists and anarchists debating the old question of whether or not to vote; the answer is that it’s the wrong question. For people to be able to focus on getting power back in their hands, the terms themselves have to be set anew. We must sidestep the entire issue of voting, and focus our attention on alternative ways of applying power. This will save everyone a lot of wasted energy and unlock the vast potential dormant in our communities, our relationships, ourselves.

A nationwide campaign is being called for this election year to emphasize the effectiveness of direct democracy as a way to make decisions without mediation or hierarchy, and of direct action as means to implement those decisions and create the kind of communities we desire. We will demonstrate that these are viable alternatives to electoral representation. This campaign will include literature distribution, postering and stickering, demonstrations, educational events, and other forms of community outreach, both in own communities and around the Democratic and Republican National Conventions. It will culminate in a nationwide day of direct action on November 2, election day.

At the end of the day or in the weeks that follow, people can reconvene and compare which approach was more rewarding and empowering: ballot-box voting or direct engagement without representatives.

The Strengths of This Campaign

The election is an event of global importance that takes place in every neighborhood, an excellent occasion for us to develop alternative processes. Campaigns that are both global and local don’t have to try to get all concerned activists to come to one city. On the contrary, this is a perfect time for people to act where they live while feeling connected to a nationwide campaign.

A campaign that declines to take sides but instead raises entirely new questions can be provocative without being alienating. The broadness of the general theme—direct action and direct democracy—is such that participation is open to anyone, with any preferred style of tactics, at any desired level of engagement. This is a campaign that everyone in a community can participate in: from a chapter of Food Not Bombs to a senior citizens group demanding better health care, from a high school global justice club to an animal rights action group.

It is a campaign that can include numerous types of direct action: from free schools to guerrilla gardening, from community monitoring of police to civil disobedience. Harmony of purpose is the only goal sought between participants; unanimity on specific strategies or objectives is unnecessary.

After this next election day, we can be sure that people will retire from civic engagement in despair or relief—unless they’ve had a positive experience to remind them how much more they can do outside electoral politics. The idea is to dream up and practice the many ways we can take power out of the hands of the elite, be they elected or unelected, and redistribute it to everyone through a network of free communities and neighborhoods. We do this to provide each other with shelter, education, art, and information, to share resources and ideas, and to determine our own lives. This is our chance to emphasize the power everyone wields in their daily lives. Join with your friends and neighbors, in whatever ways you see fit, in emphasizing the great things we can do when we cut out the middleman!

Invitation to Participate

This is a decentralized campaign. It belongs to no one, but all are welcome. Any individual or group that desires to participate is encouraged to take this text, rework it so it best expresses their views, and circulate it under their own name with their own contact information. Join in also at