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On Voting … And Not

vote

By Lee H. Hamilton

The campaigning for next year’s elections is starting to draw more attention, and with it comes a focus on voters and their mood. Which is all well and good, but it leaves out of the equation one large bloc of citizens: people who are eligible to vote, but don’t.

Over the years, a fair number of people I’ve encountered have confessed that they do not vote — and I often surprise them by pressing them on why they don’t. They give a multitude of reasons.

The most common is that they’re too busy, or that voting takes too much time. Plenty also say they’re turned off by politics, politicians, and anything having to do with government. “What difference does it make?” they’ll ask. Or they’ll argue that money has so corrupted the political system that they want no part of it.

There are also legitimate reasons: people are ill or disabled, they didn’t know where to vote, or their polling place was hard to reach. Sometimes they didn’t meet their state’s registration deadline — which might be a month ahead of the election — or they ran into ID requirements that stymied them. On the whole, it didn’t take much to keep them away from the polling place.

Which, for many policy-makers, is of little concern. Some don’t worry about low voter turnout; they’re more focused on making sure voters are informed. Others are pushing to make it more difficult for eligible voters to vote, since their chief concern is to protect the integrity of the ballot and reduce fraud.

Still, plenty are deeply concerned about falling rates of voter participation — the 2014 elections saw the lowest turnout rate since 1942, according to the United States Election Project, which found that a mere 35.9 percent of the voting-eligible population cast ballots. They’re concerned because voting doesn’t just put office-holders in place and push policy in one direction or another. It also affirms the electoral system. When people don’t vote, they undermine the legitimacy and effectiveness of our representative democracy. The vigor of our system depends on the vote of each citizen.

So what do we do about it?

My first recommendation is actually a note of caution. Generally speaking, Democrats have emphasized making ballot access easier; Republicans have focused on ballot integrity. Both need to be addressed if we’re to build the legislative support necessary to achieve needed changes in our electoral system. We have to make it easier to vote and harder to cheat.

We need to modernize the system. Democracies like Australia and Canada invest serious money in their election infrastructure and conduct widely acclaimed elections. Ours, by contrast, is fragile and uneven. We’ve already had one presidential election decided by courts on a question of failed infrastructure. More embarrassing cases will certainly occur.

We also need to recognize that the days are long past when it was okay to place election administration in the hands of partisan state or local politicians. They will contest for power and use the system to influence the process. It’s time for election management across the country to be in non-partisan hands.

The aim of reforming the system is to make voting convenient, efficient, and pleasant, to make sure the mechanics work as they ought, and to ensure that disputes are handled fairly. This means that state governments, not localities, should be responsible for the accuracy and quality of voter lists and for educating the public about voting. Often, local governments have neither the expertise nor the funds to do this effectively.

Finally, there’s the question of voter ID. It’s legitimate to ensure that a person presenting himself or herself at the voting site is the same one named on the voting list. But requiring an ID needs to be accompanied by aggressive efforts to find voters and provide free access to the voting booth. Instead, a lot of states that have instituted ID requirements have dismissed the idea that this imposes a responsibility to reach out to voters and make IDs available to those who can’t afford it. They’re subverting representative democracy.

One Comment

  1. Alfonso Garrido says:

    Ten important and good reasons to vote for Bernie Sanders, in the remaining Democratic primaries for President of the United States in 2016 as the only alternative to have two real options in presidential elections next November:

    Apparently people have been voting in large metropolitan areas and large cities of the lasts presidential Democratic primaries had do it by family tradition, loyalty to the opposition candidate or simple particular interests. I think they have not yet realized the historical magnitude and transcendental of these Democrats primaries 2016:

    1. This is the only opportunity for the voters to choose between two clearly different alternatives, in November will have only one, the one of the establishment, represented by two “different” parties.

    2. This is the only chance will have the elector, anytime soon. to choose, as its President, a person who is not a millionaire, who has always acted in favor of the most vulnerable, disadvantaged by society in favor of minorities racial, blacks and Hispanics and against the establishment, demonstrated throughout his life for his social and political activism that has led him numerous of police arrests.

    3. This is the unique opportunity to choose a person of this high moral caliber, demonstrated by his incorruptible character, sincerity in his words, uprightness and honesty in their actions, which have been consistent in their lifetime.

    4. This is the last time the American voters will hear phrases and words such as redistribution of wealth, allegations of political, social, and economic informative corrupt system for any candidate who does not have their hands tied by pending federal investigations or acts corrupt, or money received from corporations, to change what is wrong and, currently, injures 99% of the US population.

    5. He is the only candidate who does not believe in the “fracking” and openly and fundamentally opposed to this dangerous chemical and industrial practice, highly dangerous to human health and ecology in the world and will eliminate those harmful practices by federal law of E P A agency.

    6. He is the only US presidential candidate who believes that health care and education to university level are human rights and wants all citizens have access to these services regardless of their economic or social condition to move up the social economic scale in our competitive country economically and to occupy positions of power and leadership in our society.

    7. He is the only presidential candidate who wants to offer a living wage to live without being poor, forty hours a week, $ 15 / hr through the federal minimum wage law imposed in all states and territories.

    8. He is the only candidate with better diplomatic and international experience, demonstrated its firm belief in the past and opposition to the costly mistake of incurring the Persian Gulf War and Iraq with the aftermath of effects and consequences that are still suffering in terms of human lives, budget deficits for essential services offered by the federal government, including in the services provided to the same soldiers who have the fortune of been back home alive, although sometimes wounded and permanently disabled, of the battlefront, giving the best of them and leaving the most precious thing are their homes and loved ones.

    9. He is the only candidate can guarantee us an environmentally safe and healthy lives for our health future generations, does not receive money from Monsanto and other food and animals genetics experimentation companies and can guarantee a lasting peace without perpetual wars such as those that are living and suffering provoked by interventions and occupations, in violation of international law, which does not receive money from large arms manufacturers and foreign governments.

    10. He is the only presidential candidate that gives us confidence for his record of activism for noble and just causes and guarantee that their proposals are not merely advertising political “slogans” produced in large advertising agencies or “Hollywood” that never will be accomplished out, they are just false election promises to the masses of corporate media distortion and massive distraction customers and get many votes. Bernie Sanders is the only presidential candidate who has the will and earnest desire to confront the “establishment” and obtain the necessary resources, much of them diverted to tax havens such as Panama and other countries from millionaires and selfish, greedy and unscrupulous companies who only think about getting richer against the best interests and the middle and working classes of this great nation called the United States of America . God bless and enlighten to make a free, informed decision, and truly democratic in these vital and very important remaining primaries to reach the presidency to victory with truth and our free consciences. If you are agreed we this message share it.

    Reply

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