If you abstain from voting, you might worry that the rest of the electorate will take advantage of the situation to bias policy in favor of their narrow self-interest and against yours. But the evidence strongly suggests that most people’s political views are only weakly correlated to their self-interest. When voters support bad policies, it is usually out of ignorance rather than selfishness. There are some important exceptions to this generalization(e.g. – opinion on gun control is highly correlated with gun ownership, even after controlling for many other variables). But it does hold true for most major issues in the modern US.
In this election, as in several previous ones, I’m going to practice what I preach. I think I know at least as much as the average voter about the presidential and congressional races, and about Virginia Question 1. On the other hand, I know very little about Virginia Question 2, and almost nothing about most of the candidates in the local government elections here in Arlington County. With respect to the local races, my knowledge is diminished by the fact that the candidates don’t have party identifications listed on the ballot. Therefore, I can’t even utilize my understanding of the general proclivities of the Democrats and Republicans in this area. As a result, I’m going to abstain on most of these issues and leave them to the rest of the electorate, which hopefully knows more.
There is no shame in being ignorant about some, or even many, political issues and candidates. Such ignorance is often unavoidable, given the many races and issues out there and the fact that we all have competing demands on our time. But at least in some situations, it is wrong for us to inflict our ignorance on our fellow citizens by voting on issues we know almost nothing about.