Feature

Meg Whitman: Does voting matter?

The former EBay CEO apologizes for a spotty voting record as she runs for governor in California

Former EBay CEO Meg Whitman isn't the first business tycoon to "try his or her hand at politics," said the Los Angeles Times in an editorial. "Yet even among such dilettantes, the abruptness of Whitman's conversion" from businesswoman to candidate for the Republican gubernatorial nomination stands out. That's one reason it's troubling that Whitman didn't register to vote until she was 46, and didn't bother to cast a ballot in such crucial elections as the 2000 "nailbiter" between George W. Bush and Al Gore, or the 2003 recall of California Gov. Gray Davis that swept Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to power.

Sure, Whitman's voting record looks bad, said Christopher Beam in Slate, but "many economists have long argued that voting is, on the individual level, irrational. The main reason: Your vote does not matter"—statistically speaking, you're more likely to win the lottery thousands of times than swing an election. Whitman has apologized profusely, but she should "save her breath."

Yes, but for a different reason, said Ted Johnson in Variety. The latest justification from Meg Whitman's campaign for what she has called her "inexcusable" failure to vote was that the late Sonny Bono didn't vote, either, until the entertainer-turned-congressman entered politics. This approach "may backfire, and just as easily extend the lifespan of a story that may ultimately have little impact with voters."

Wrong -- this issue will "dog" Meg Whitman through her campaign, said the San Diego Union-Tribune in an editorial. "And it should." Voting is "the most basic test of citizenship," and she failed. So did Carly Fiorina, the GOP's hope for unseating U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer next year, whose voting record "isn't much better." Both former businesswomen have strengths, but their shared tendency to shirk civic duties is, "frankly, appalling."

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