Third Party & Independents Archives

How Many Will Vote?

Another national election is right around the corner. In November of 2006, we will go to the polls to vote in national, state and local elections. 2006 will be a busy election season in other countries also, as there are 30 presidential elections and 35 legislative or parliamentary elections across the world.

The idea of voting is very appealing to those who live under a different system of government. Many people living under the rule of dictatorships and totalitarian governments long for the ability to choose their government and have the same basic rights and freedoms we enjoy in this country.

The rights and freedoms we have come by at a great cost. It is no overstatement to say that many men and women have died to achieve, uphold and protect our right of self-determination and the ability to vote for one's representatives and leaders.

Why then does the United States have one of the most mediocre voting records in the world relative to voter participation? Over the last 20 years, the United States has an average voter turnout (including both presidential and non presidential years) of 45%. What does it tell us when the most powerful country in the world cannot get half of the eligible voters to the polls to vote? Have we gotten so cynical that we believe our vote doesn't count or matter? Or, have we gotten so content that we believe that things are going relatively well no matter who is representing us?

It's ironic that in the most recent election in Iraq, the people voted at a reported percentage of about 70-75%. This is phenomenal voter turnout, and all the more so because the people going to the polls did so at great peril. Imagine this country having a national election with the threat of a bomb or other type of attack. What do you think the participation level would be? Without a doubt, the people of Iraq deserve our praise for their courage. It would be a great thing to see the enthusiasm of the Iraqi voter infect the American voting populace.

While we seem to have a consistent level of voter participation in the United States, it's nothing to write home about. Research from the Federal Election Commission reports the following:

- During the last six presidential elections, participation of eligible voters averaged 52.9%. Largest voter turnout was the last presidential election in 2004 where 55.10% of the voters participated. The smallest turnout was in 1988 with 50.10% of the eligible voters participating. All in all, this is relatively strong participation compared with the off year voting statistics.

- During off year elections which are those national elections that do not include the election of the president, the voting record since 1982 is an anemic 37.4% of eligible voters. The largest turnout in the last six elections was in 1982, with 39.8% of the eligible voters participating and the smallest turnout was in 1986 and 1998 with 36.4% of the eligible voters participating in both years. A minor uptake of .6% occurred during the elections of 2002, which is surprisingly low considering the terrorism events of the previous year and the state of the economy during 2001 and early 2002.

As a comparison with other countries the US falls right in the middle of the pack relative to voter turnout. In 2005 for example, there were approximately 53 national elections for either presidential or parliamentary and legislative offices held across the world. According to CNN's World Election Watch web site, during the 2005 election year, voter participation ranged from a low of 22.9% for Egypt's presidential election to a high of 93.23% for Tajikistan's parliamentary elections. Overall, voter participation during these elections in 2005 can be divided into 4 quadrants and illustrate the following:

- In the range of 0-25% voters participating there was 1 country in this category (Egypt's Presidential election);

- In the range of >25-50% had 4 countries this category (Poland gets both lowest and highest, with the Presidential elections achieving 49% participation and the parliamentary elections garnering 40.56%);

- In the range of >50-75% had 21 countries in this category with the highest in the range being Kyrgyzstan's presidential election with 74.97% participation and the lowest being Croatia's presidential election with 50.57% turnout.

- In the range >75% or higher had 16 countries with the highest participation being Tajikistan's parliamentary election with 93.23% participation and the lowest being Kazakstan's presidential election being 76.8% participation.

There are two questions I would like to pose to the reader. Do you think there will there be an increase in voter participation in November of 2006? What can we do to increase voter participation?

The next election will be one of the most significant in many years. We are at war, and by the time the election in November 2006 rolls around, we will have been at war longer than the US was during World War II. Certainly, the war on terror and the occupation of Iraq will be front and center to many people, but it's not the only issue out there. Health care cost, growing deficits, continued fluctuation in the job market driving many jobs overseas are just a few issues the people of the country will be facing during the months before the election. What will be the driving issue that motivates someone who has not voted before to go to the polls?

I would love to see voter participation in the next election equal that of the participation in the most recent Iraqi election. It would be a great gesture to the Iraqi people that we take our democracy as seriously as they do. Let's make it a goal to get the voting percentage up. We don't have to dodge bullets or bombs to cast our votes folks, so we should be able to do better than we have before.

Posted by Dennis at December 24, 2005 5:42 PM
Comments
Comment #107210

Dennis, that’s something I’ve tried to work on locally as for some reason my county in particular turnout is dismal especially in the primary elections. Followed by large numbers of those complaining about who ends up being the candidate.

I admit while it is understandable to feel apathy towards some of the candidates I can’t understand why more people don’t vote. I could not wait to be old enough to vote. Three of my children who are now 18 were the exact same way. For our family it is one of those important rites of passage into adulthood. Yet I know adults who have never voted, nor even registered.

Forced voting will of course not work, because if someone doesn’t care enough to vote they are not going to care enough to become informed. People should not have to be rewarded to vote either, so I share your hope that we do have a better turnout but I hope for a well informed voter turnout.

:-)

Posted by: Lisa Renee at December 24, 2005 8:04 PM
Comment #107225

Building on what Lisa says (hope she doesn’t mind) It doesn’t bother me if people don’t vote as long as they have the right to vote.

I vote in most elections but I don’t vote in every race on the ballot. If I don’t know enough about what is going on, my vote is just random noise or actually harmful.

If people don’t take the time to think about who they are voting for, it is better if they just stay home. When people have something to vote about, they come out. The fact that so few do indicates that they are mostly satisfied with the current situation and the judgment of their fellow Americans. They probably also enjoy complaining. Sort of like the fat guy who doesn’t like the program, but can’t reach the remote without leaving his Lazy Boy chair.

Posted by: Jack at December 24, 2005 9:51 PM
Comment #107232

No Jack, I don’t mind, I welcome you adding on to what I wrote Especially since I do agree with you that I’d rather have people who don’t want to take the time to become even remotely informed stay home too.

:-)

Posted by: Lisa Renee at December 24, 2005 10:26 PM
Comment #107255

Here’s a side issue that I find quite interesting, while we are on topic of ‘informed’ versus ‘uninformed’.

In the election of 2004, there was an issue on the ballot (state of Florda) that was to make sure that a parent or guardian has to be notified if a teen under seventeen has an abortion. Now my response was the obvious that this shouldn’t be the case so I’d vota against it. Now on the ballot there was a question that was in such legal-ese and bureacratic overtones I had absolutely NO FREAKIN’ IDEA which side was mine. So I voted ‘NO’ on it. Now here’s the ass-kicker the ‘NO’ side was the pro-notification side and the ‘YES’ side was the anti-parental/guardian notification side. This is pandemic that an issue on the ballot is in three paragraphs of such governmental legalese that you don’t know in the least which side is yours. Why isn’t this stuff looked into? Is there clarity or representative clarity on an issue presented on the ballot? Or can it be easily understood the way it was represented on the ballot sheet (that you get a week or so before, was represented so that the answer from my perspective was ‘NO’. But obviously that wasn’t the case. It was such a simple question that the stetes turn backwards for what benefit and I wasn’t the only one I’m sure.

Posted by: Novenge at December 25, 2005 1:02 AM
Comment #107259

Novenge, that is a good point, and one Ohio experienced as well with the attempt to reform elections. The amendment information was so confusing and so full of legalise rather than plain language anyone who had not researched it beforehand would not have had a clue. It’s easy to see why the groups that spent so much money trying to defeat the measures won. Even I had a hard time trying to wade my way thru what it all meant and I spent time studying it.

Posted by: Lisa Renee at December 25, 2005 1:59 AM
Comment #107282

Dennis, I will relate a couple things I have learned about reasons Iraqis turn out in far greater numbers than Americans.

First, in Iraq, each election is a national holiday. Except for emergency services, everyone takes the day off to vote and celebrate the vote. Contrast that to America where our governments intentionally schedule voting on Monday through Fridays, usually on Tuesdays, when almost half of our population must work, and we as Americans are reluctant to voice how we voted, rather than celebrate how we voted.

This is significant, because in the US we are a commuter nation. My wife for example works almost 50 miles from home. For her to take time off from work to vote, she would have an hour drive time to her voting station, up to an 1 hour wait in line for parking and to vote. And another hour drive time back to work. 3 hours away from work to vote. My wife is salaried in a right to work state. Her company has no policy of telling its work force to go ahead and come into work up to 3 hours late so you can vote. Therefore, she has no express permission from her company to go vote. In a right to work state, one does not elect time away from work without the company explicitly encouraging its employees to do so.

The fix is simple. Move voting to Saturdays and Sundays. No big deal. Except our government does not want to encourage voting by the working class. Never has, still doesn’t, and likely never will unless voters take it upon themselves to declare national elections a holiday as in Iraq. Think about it. That would be something to celebrate, wouldn’t it?

Because so many workers try to vote AFTER WORK, there is a congestion problem at the polls which is extremely discouraging to voters, with waits as long 3 or 4 hours to get in to vote. Add inclement weather, and needless to say, a large percentage of voters who otherwise would vote, don’t. This too is part of the design of our local governments to insure that workers don’t vote.

Spreading voting out over both Saturday and Sunday, would virtually eliminate all of the behavioral obstacles to voting in America, leaving but will and desire to determine who votes and who does not. But local governments will have none of that. Voting is a threat to incumbents. The fewer people who show up to vote, the safer incumbents are on election day.

Second is the psychological intimidation of voters by way of ballot design. Yes, this is very intentional and a great deal of time and money is spent to obfuscate and mislead voters with the ballot itself. There is a reason mid-term elections (those without a presidential race) accrue the vast majority of non-candidate issues on the ballots, like bond issues and policy inititatives. Many of them would not pass with high voter turnouts. So, they are scheduled for mid-term election periods when it is predictable voter turnout will be the lowest.

We all know you catch more bees with honey than with lemons. In other words, it is natural for humans to be motivated to vote FOR something, than AGAINST something. So, those responsible for the design of the wording of ballots very often reverse the language on a policy initiative or bond issue forcing the voters to against something to pass it, or vote for it, to defeat the measure.

This has the effect of making ballots confusing, and there is a high price to pay in voter turnout when folks show up to vote and are made to feel ignorant or stupid by not understanding what is written on the ballot. Voters are motivated to show up by the argument that their vote matters, a thing of importance. If however, a voter shows up and doesn’t understand the wording of an issue up for vote, the effect is they are afraid of making the wrong choice. A cognitive dissonance is established which leads a number of voters to vote once in their lives, and the experience leaving them feel inadequate to make the right choice, they don’t show up to vote again.

Example: A Gay Marriage Initiative is placed on the ballot by Gay proponents. They write the ballot question in reverse. “A proposal to disallow civil unions for purposes of government recognition and extension of legal provisions currently extended to couples of traditional marriage.” The responses on the ballot are Yes and No. To vote for gay marriages, the voter must vote NO to the ballot initiative. To vote against Gay Marriage the voter must vote Yes.

This kind of psychological exloitation of voters is intentional with the full intent and design to psychologically influence the voter. This kind of ballot initiative typically recieves the fewest votes of all issues on the ballot. Why, because voters are confused by and choose not to vote on that issue for fear of voting the wrong way.

The solution is simple. A rule requiring all new enactments to be stated in the affirmative. And a rule requiring that the descriptive language of the proposal be summarized in the local vernacular attached to the initiative.

Using the same example above using these two rules would result in a ballot question being written as following: “A yes vote here will permit government services to be extended to two adults as if they were married though this couple may not be a man and woman bound by traditional marriage. A yes vote will allow gay and lesbian couples to be regarded and treated as husband and wife couples are by the government.”

But the power of local Republican and Democratic parties is sufficient to prevent such common sensical and honest rules being implemented. A voter once intimidated by a ballot is far less likely to show up in the future to vote.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 25, 2005 4:05 AM
Comment #107310

There is no doubt there are many issues to overcome as described above. David, you make an excellent point on the incentive vs. disincentive aspect of this issue. I believe it is important that we get vocal and active about these matters. Novenge is right regarding example of the confusing ballot initiative. We’ve got to change the culture here. Certainly the entrenched power has no interest in doing so. Who does? Well, I do and I would believe many others are tired of the sub-optimal process we have now.

I think this gets repaired finally by our youth. Lisa, I’ve got 3 kids, one who is 18 and will be able to vote for the first time in his life this year. We talked about voting recently and I was amazed at his foundation of beliefs regarding what he thought a candidate should support. He told me many of his friends had become suspicious of the current government and felt change was in order. Now, I must tell you this was a major surprise to me because he always seemed more interested in sleeping than keeping up with politics or government. It seems to me that if we are going to improve our situation it will take an infusion of new voters who take this more seriously than their parents have…

Posted by: Dennis at December 25, 2005 8:49 AM
Comment #107312

Novenge, what you describe is an exercise in power and its intent to retain it.

I love your idea of sending out ballots to registered voters a week before the election so voters have time to research and study the options. Won’t happen in America though. Such an act would preempt incumbent exercise in power through ballot confusion. They spend a lot of money getting those ballots that confusing.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 25, 2005 9:25 AM
Comment #107319

I believe most reputable newspapers show an example of the actual ballot in the edition prior to election day. If not, they should.

Voting stations could be installed in major colleges and universities to make it easier for the 18-24 year old eligible voter group.

Absentee ballots can be made much easier to obtain for people/students who are not residing in their home states during the election.

Same situation could be established for voter registration.

While education of voters is important, I would rather put forth the effort to educate a registered voter than one who is not.

Posted by: steve smith at December 25, 2005 10:06 AM
Comment #107341

Vote by mail. Works in Oregon.

Merry Christmas!

Posted by: phx8 at December 25, 2005 11:58 AM
Comment #107370

I live in Oregon. Vote by mail work great! I also think that election day should be a holiday. We take a day off of work to honor George Washington’s birthday, wouldn’t George be better honored by a day that expresses the value of democracy. I am a Social Studies teacher and I believe the entire week of an election should be based on ballot issue education, building to the holiday that is VOTING DAY. I would love some societal backing when I tell my students voting is essential to a vibrant democracy and it is your responsibility and obligation to inform yourself and vote. Sure there are those who still would not vote, but the number would be less, and at least there would be a model of what it looks like to inform yourself on political issues. Having done this with 12 different teachers (or 11 or 10 based of your state’s curriculum) would give students a variety of perspectives and balance out a biased teacher here and there.

David, your power against the worker voting theory is interesting. Just your own ruminations or is it based on something. It seems to me that workers still can vote, they just need to care and put forth effort. It seems more based on an opposition to change than any kind of oppression. Why would existing voters want more people to vote, making it a significant political issue. All that does is reduce their small piece of power. A few care, the majority don’t, so no politician makes it a central issue and the parties don’t care. That said, voting is easy for me. I just sit at the living room table, put a stamp on the envelope and it is done.

Oregon Rocks!

Posted by: Cross at December 25, 2005 2:33 PM
Comment #107400

Cross, research it. There is a wealth information about the history and money poured into efforts to obfuscate ballots and subtly, within existing laws, prevent workers and the poor from voting, dating back across the last 100 years and further.

Do you really think all those who supported poll taxes and literacy tests just a few decades were magically converted by the passing of a law? Human behavior doesn’t turn on a dime like that. They just shifted their tactics to insure they can’t be busted.

I agree, a mailin system like Oregon sounds like a fine solution. What problems arose in the last election with your system?

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 25, 2005 8:41 PM
Comment #107481

I see a lot of interesting comments on these important issues, and can’t resist tossing out a couple of my own.

Back in the day, we had to be 21 to vote. One of the first things I did when I hit the big two-one was go to the county clerk’s office to register. Forty-plus years later, I still have that same level of excitement when given the great opportunity to voice my opinion in writing (or electrons or chads or whatever).

Perhaps it’s because of that background that I do not understand why anyone wouldn’t take democracy seriously enough to expend any extra effort to support it. And the approaches to fix this apathy are even worse, in my opinion.

People are too self-absorbed to take a few minutes off work to journey to a government office to fill out a form or cast a ballot. We “solve” that by spending tons of tax dollars to build and staff more registration facilities everywhere from supermarkets to burger joints. If they can’t bother to vote, we spread voting over a few days or talk about changing the law so they can vote on a weekend or holiday. If that’s still too inconvenient, then just send everyone a ballot in the mail and let them mail them back at their convenience.

My local polling place opens at 6:00 AM. My wife and I are almost always near the head of the line, just as we’ve always done everywhere we’ve ever lived. It isn’t about our convenience; it’s about our country, our state, and our community.

Seems to me that the solution isn’t in making the process any easier (and more open to fraud), if that’s even possible at this point. I don’t know if today’s schools address the responsibilities of citizenship to any great extent, but they certainly need to. Good citizenship should be the cornerstone of our education system. Too many people just have no idea what they’ve got. At the high school level, registering to vote should be as mandatory as registering for the draft, even though neither registration may ever be needed.

Those who don’t want to vote, or who can’t be bothered to study the issues and candidates (both national and local), shouldn’t bother voting. They just muck it up for the rest of us.

Our county clerk mails out sample ballots, with a brief overview of each ballot initiative (including what a “yes” or “no” vote actually means) to registered voters before every election. The same information is published in the local papers and is also located on the county clerk’s website.

And people still can’t be bothered to vote because it’s too complicated or too inconvenient? The solution isn’t to make it easier. The solution is to just get over ourselves.

OCO

Posted by: Owl Creek Observer at December 26, 2005 9:13 AM
Comment #107485

OCO, sounds like you live in a district that has some good policies. I live in a rural district of Texas 30 miles north of the San Antonio City border. Did you consider the fact that other adults have children to get off to school at 6AM and therefore are not available in the morning as you are? And how about right to work states where keeping one’s job requires not taking time off to vote if the boss doesn’t encourage it?

We don’t get sample ballots. We don’t have a newspaper for our area. Until recently, registration could be accomplished by traveling to the County Courthouse in a town I otherwise have no reason to visit. Everyone’s situation is not the same as yours. I commend your loyalty to the voting system, it is almost identical to my own experience.

But, saying folks should have been brought up the we were, is not going to solve the problem. Iraq’s high turnout has many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that voting day is a national holiday.

If voting is so damned important to democracy, why is it scheduled on weekdays when parents are otherwise occupied, instead of weekends when vastly greater numbers of Americans are free to shedule their time for voting without deference to school and jobs?

Fact is, the powers that exist do not want to make voting accessible or easy in America. The electorate of this country is still viewed by the incumbent politicians and political parties as a threat to their careers. The fewer that show up, the more manageable the threat. This is also why there are only two parties in America, and why Democrat and Republican Parties go into uproar mode everytime an independent candidate runs for President. More parties consitute both a greater voice for American voters and greater threat to incumbents and the duopoly party system.

The voting bureacracy is now full of rules and procedures to minimize the risk of challengers posing a threat to incumbents from outside the Democratic and Republican parties. Not surprisingly, this same bureacracy is populated by Republicans and Democrats on the Federal Elections Commission, Commission for Presidential Debates and a host of others similarly fashioned all the way down to county and city governments. It is a rigged system to deny voice to any who won’t buy the Democrat or Republican ticket.

One big factor in low voter turnout in my county is the fact that 1/2 of the county’s population is Independent, and therefore are excluded from the primary process. That one bureacratic exlusion of half the county’s population megaphones the message home, we don’t want you to vote and your vote doesn’t matter. Only Democrat and Republican votes matter here.

Fact is, America has not had government of, by, and for the people for many decades now. And that is just the way incumbents and the duopoly party system designed it and want to keep it, government of, by, and for the privileged and well connected, to hell with the people, they are just sheep in need of elitist leadership. You appear to have espouse this very sentiment yourself in your comments indicating most folks who don’t vote, shouldn’t anyway since they don’t know what’s going on. That is just the kind of self-fulfilling prophecy that has America’s election system in the dismal state it is in.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 26, 2005 9:42 AM
Comment #107531

I have always appreciated your comments, David, even when I disagree with some of them. And, by the way, you live in a part of Texas that I would pick if I ever decided to move back down there. I have called Illinois home for several years now.

I can’t say very much good about Illinois politics or politicians — not since Jim Edgar anyway — but there are some things that I do like. Foremost among those is that one does not have to register any party affiliation when registering to vote. Of course that’s both good and bad because during the primaries there is nothing to keep Republicans from voting for the Democrat they think they can beat in the general election, and Democrats and independents can do the same. I don’t know how much of that actually goes on, but the fact that it’s discussed in the news makes me think that it’s pretty common.

I didn’t say, nor did I mean to imply, that anyone (assuming eligibility, of course) shouldn’t be allowed to vote. I’m simply saying that there is no good reason for the citizenry not to be well informed on the candidates and the issues. Those who make the decision not to bother don’t do any of us any favors. With rights come responsibilities and I see making that effort as one of our major responsibilities.

I suspect that too many of us walk into the voting booth (or mail in our Oregonian coupons or whatever) with nothing more than one candidate on our minds. I further suspect that the candidate we’re thinking about is the one we’re against: Kerry is an arrogant blowhard so I’m voting for Bush. Bush hates black people so I’m voting for Kerry. Badnarik doesn’t want to allow the state to confiscate somebody’s land so I can put up some condos, so I’m voting for…whomever.

I’ve spent a good part of my life working for the federal government, both in and out of uniform. There are very few things that government does well. The best shot we have is to be fully informed on the candidates and issues and support those that we feel will do us the least harm.

Posted by: Owl Creek Observer at December 26, 2005 12:37 PM
Comment #107550
If voting is so damned important to democracy, why is it scheduled on weekdays when parents are otherwise occupied…

Because bought-and-paid-for politicians and people that abuse vast wealth to control government do not want to make it easy for the average American to vote. A mere 5% of the total U.S. population has 60% of all weatlh, and they control government by controlling the bought-and-paid-for politicians. That is also why none of them want campaign finance reform. Government is FOR SALE. Thus, 60% of the U.S. population, with only 5% of all wealth, has no voice in government. And to make things worse, the majority of voters are seduced into the clever circular pattern of partisan warfare, and have lost sight of the true purpose of voting. The majority of voters have voluntarily relinquished the balance of power between government and The People. The People, from one end of the wide spectrum have, unfortunately, grown too complacent, lazy, and disinterested, or disgusted, and resigned to despair and futility.

The voters (the majority) can:
(1) continue to vote for the bought-and-paid-for politicians, and continue to be seduced into the circular pattern of thought and behavior that empowers and emboldens politicians to grow increasingly corrupt, greedy, irresponsible, and unaccountable, and await the inevitable economic melt-down, continued decline, civil unrest, revolution, or worse.
(2) vote wisely to use the voters’ leverage wisely, by ousting bought-and-paid-for incumbents (and start recalls too), and do it repeatedly until those in office implement transparency and accountability, and finally decide the corrupt path is more painful than the fair and honest path. This may be the only peaceful way to restore a balance of power between government and the people, and put the nation on a better path. It is really the one simple thing voters should have been doing all along. Voters must understand the human tendency of humans to seek security and prosperity with the least effort, and learn to recognize the numerous and shifting schemes and methods used by those that succumb to corruption and scheme to reduce transparency in order to abuse others.
___________________________
Number (2) would be best because it is theoretically the easiest and most peaceful approach, and has the required leverage.
But, I fear Americans will ignore #(2) and continue to do #(1). While there is some historical precedent for anti-incumbent voting, there does not seem to be any precedent that it was long lived or extremely effective at reducing corruption. It’s a pattern that history has shown us many times. But, wouldn’t it be fantastically encouraging if voters learned how to wisely use the leverage of their votes to repeatedly oust irresponsible incumbents and peacefully force politicians to be accountable? The voters have the power, if only they could learn to avoid the brainwashing that makes them believe they have to continually vote along party lines, to continually empower incumbents to be irresponsible and unaccountable, and to continually be seduced into the distracting petty partisan warfare that keeps us from adequately addressing the many serious problems that threaten the future and security of the nation.

Personally, #(1) doesn’t seem to be working.
#(2) seems like the better approach to strive for.

Posted by: d.a.n at December 26, 2005 1:20 PM
Comment #107563

There are excellent pooints in this thread. IMO if we change the voting day, add a voting day (or lengthen the time the polls are open, etc) We would most certainly have to banish media reporting on progress to date. Far too many people will be influenced by early returns. Any advanced voting such as from absentee ballots, mailed in ballots, etc. must be secreted in terms of results and trends from the public.

Posted by: steve smith at December 26, 2005 1:56 PM
Comment #107595

Steve, excellent point. We have witnessed in the last election, a voluntary media restraint on forecasting until polls for a state are closed. But, that obviously is not sufficient to address the problems you raise.

Legislation would probably be required. I have no clue as to how probable such legislation would be to pass. But, the more immediate fact remains, that the powers that be, have shown virtually no interest in any substantial election reforms, preferring instead the predictable status quo that currently exists.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 26, 2005 4:52 PM
Comment #107747

Excellent suggestion; or on a weekend day or better yet for the entire weekend including perhaps a late Friday evening. What the hell is this Tuesday crap anyway? It’s like a one day political A.D.D. problem to get results sooner.

David, actually in the State of Florida they did give out a mock ballot. Everyone gets one, perhaps not in Texas (where I am assuming you are from) but in Florida they did. The problem was that was confused too. the obvious Yes’ were No’s and then you had judges with very little available background and ofcourse things like Mosquito commissioner which ofcourse goes to whoever has the ‘woodsier’ sounding name (I went with someone named ‘Buck’—just sounded like a Caddyshack character who could kill some skeeters).

But the whole means of bringing in resolutions and propositions is just back-asswards for no good reason what so ever. This is really a larger problem especialy in poor urban areas.

Posted by: Novenge at December 27, 2005 12:00 AM
Comment #107807

Thanks, Novenge. What I hope readers are taking away from our observations is that the election system in America is NOT accidental. It is designed intentionally as it is, and it has the effect of subtly and not so subtly discouraging potential voters from voting.

My response is, screw em’, I am voting anyway and I am going to vote against every incumbent in office until it changes. And I am encouraging and persuading family and friends to vote the same way. I am proud to say my sister Carol is the latest family member to jump on the Vote Out Incumbents for Democracy wagon just this week.

We want our democracy back in America, the Democracy that was stolen from us by these institutionalized incumbents who are far more concerned about appeasing their big campaign donors, their lobbyists’ special interests, and themselves, than the majority of voters in this country whom they are charged with representing.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 27, 2005 2:22 AM
Comment #107824

David,

I agree and I don’t, although very hot on the ditching of incumbents movement.

the other problem has to do with state pork-barrel, and yes I concur with the lobbying problems etcetera. Let me illustrate what I mean by state waste at a federal level. In the city of Miami you’ ve probably heard about the build-up of anti-terror initiatives (and no doubt the name Police chief timony) as I assume most liberals are following the civil liberties issues etcetera.

What Miami did was they just got loads and loads of dollars from the federal government, not only to protect a non-target, Miami, but blowing up suitcases abandoned along the roadside (AS seen on CNN recently).

They are so gerrymandered in there and are getting funding on every dumb thing under the sun. Yes largely a regeim change in the White House is needed. But it is just waste as a bogus attempt to protect/provide for their own districts in this case Dade County and districts thereof. But the districts are happy that this spending is going to them to some extent or so it is presumed. Turning them around will be a hat trick and a half, it’s the federal level that is giving all this uneeded spending to these issues. hopefully so everything that Bush presents will pass without objection (another issue).

Will anti-incumbency kill lobbying OR will corporate lobbies just find new meat on the hill? The problem is pretty ubiquitous. the best means of fighting the corporate lobby may not be through anti-incumbency but creating a press aparatus by which when you see or investigate corporate politican shilling you send out press releases to anyone and everyone who has a media outlet. The politicians are almost entirely reliant on public opinion. So an embarrassment would serve MORESO to pulling them out of office as it can be utilized by their opposing candidate in an upcoming race.

These things can even be followed smartly on state levels too as with governor’s races and state house races if you want to get that technical. It’s all a matter of sending out press releases to media and laying out a smart PR game to expose corruption. In some ways although very tedious is more effective than the anti-incumbent voting. I think the idea is great as a first step but you remember the anecdote about All politics being local, they are and to hurt them in these races it may need more of an apparatus than anti-incumbency as digramatic of how to vote. Although I do definitely see the need, question being how long before the newbies to congress get bought off too?

I do think however as a point of activism to apply pressure it’s amiable and could be a tool, it may take a bit more muscle to have an effect, such as hurting them on their HOME TURF (districts & states).

I have actually tried about ten or more sites to see if they’d carry the Voidnow link, no response other than from the Pacific Green green party (oddly a campus site somewhere) who referred me to the Green party (no idea there were two—my bad). Later on I’ll toss around a few more e-mails, but closer to election-time when it becomes more of a topic. I’ll do what I can.

Posted by: Novenge at December 27, 2005 3:02 AM
Comment #107878

Novenge, directing media actions, IMO, is a far more difficult task than moving voters to anti-incubency.

A small but significant anti-incumbency vote (significant in that it changes outcomes of races), will force incumbents and freshman alike, to look to the voter’s as their first and primary source for how to vote on legislation.

That is the beauty of a anti-incumbency movement. It does not require the impossible, like a Constitutional Amendment for term limits, or directing media to act in non-profitable ways, or even any changes to lobbying or campaign finance laws.

An anti-incumbency vote that alters the outcome of races between Democrats and Republicans is a hugely potent force. Here’s the deal, the nation is split, and that means a number of races are going to be close, 51% to 49% or thereabouts. In such races, a 2% anti-incumbent vote alters the outcome of the race and makes future races for both parties predictable. Whoever is the incumbent will lose, UNLESS, the anti-incumbent voters get what they want. And what does this anti-incumbent voter movement want? A far more bi-partisan government which places greatest good for greatest number of Americans as the standard for legislation and policy and a huge increase in accountability, responsibility, and transparency in government.

The Power of Small Numbers is awesome. It is time Americans made use of this awesome power.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 27, 2005 5:20 AM
Comment #108205

Yep,

The math is interesting.
Voters are drastically split up.
That is the goal of incumbent politicians.
They divide the voters, and seduce them into one of the main parties, and the circular pattern of petty partisan warfare, so that no majority can ever exist to understand and oust those that are the most irresponsible and unaccountable.

If only a small percentage started doing what they were all supposed to be doing all along, and started voting out irresponsible and unaccountable incumbents, we might start to see some progress.

If not, we can all wait for it to continue down the path history has shown us many times.

The consequences of decades of fiscal irresponsibility is approaching like a train wreck. Only many decades of fiscal irresponsibility can have the possibility to impact our economy significantly.

Posted by: d.a.n at December 27, 2005 8:55 PM
Comment #108243

Just another thought on why folks don’t vote. A company I worked for in Virginia “informally” told me that if I registered to vote I would get called for jury duty (jury lists were called from voter registration) and thereby jeopardize my job.

I registered anyway (kept it secret, they were serious) and got lucky for as long as I worked there (didn’t get called for jury duty), but I wonder if this kind of “unofficial” policy exists elsewhere?

This was a lose/lose situation, one I could not have fought and won, and one which I couldn’t afford to fight. I later found another job, but to the best of my knowledge, no one at that company was a registered voter.

Posted by: womanmarine at December 28, 2005 12:31 AM
Comment #108820

womanmarine, I believe the jury selection system is ubiquitous throughout most of the United States. We certainly have that system here in Texas.

In the 12 years I have lived in this County, I have been called only twice. I got an exemption as primary caregiver when my daughter was 5. Last year I was called again. Showed up, but the case was postponed and I was dismissed.

That is an excellen point about folks shying away from registering to vote due to jury duty. I hadn’t considered that as a factor. Government intimidates a lot of folks, for no other reason that it has the power to incarcerate for infractions of its rules, and most folks would freely admit, they don’t know what the government’s rules are. Makes folks kinda nervous about government, subliminally, if not outright.

I grew up to adolescence at a time when adults around me had immense confidence and faith in our government, the 1950’s. Thus I was taught that to serve on a jury or registering to vote was both and honor, rite of adult passage, and a duty to serve.

A couple of my younger siblings were raised in the 1960’s. They have a very different mindset. Though in my age, I have joined them in being suspicious, and skeptical about government, though my values on voting and jury duty have not diminished one iota.

The opportunity cost of bad government is immense and can span decades or even generations for these and many more reasons. It is so vital that voters force politician’s to act in a manner which unites our people more than it divides, solves more problems than it creates, and endears more citizens to allegiance and voting than it alienates. The fact that mid-term elections don’t garner even 50% of eligible voters is a hugely damning statement about American democracy and our nation’s progress as a whole.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 29, 2005 3:18 AM
Comment #108902

In my view voting and jury duty while not mandatory are among the most worthwhile and responsible things to do as a citizen wishing to play a role in the “system”.

Unfortunately, both are actions that must be taken during the average person’s normal work schedule. Each generally involves “permission” from the employer.

With regard to voting, I do not think that the primary reason 50% of the age eligible voters refrain from voting involves employer related conserations. Especially since the age group of voters most guilty of not voting is the 18-24 year old group.

While election reform is needed to resolve a number of procedural inequities, reform to add a day, create a holiday, etc. will not fly IMO. (On a personal note, I would favor that change).

It would be great to have voting numbers like Iraq 70-75%. Of course they had some motivations that we don’t have. I think about the indelible ink finger to show that a person voted. They displayed this with pride. Also it helped eliminate duplicate voting, etc. but, I wonder if it also became a way to intimidate those who did not vote, was the ink mark the Scarlet Letter of voting?

We have to know why these people are not voting.It falls to us to make it easier to register and to vote. We must educate people on what the ballot is really asking and, it is absolutely essential that we educate the voters on the candidates platforms as relates to the prioritized issues of the day.

VOIDnow.org is seeking volunteers to help undertake tasks such as this.

Posted by: steve smith at December 29, 2005 11:06 AM
Comment #108983

Steve Smith:

I totally agree, we need to know why these people are not voting. I sometimes wonder if it shouldn’t be a requirement somehow. Laziness and apathy will kill America, as sure as some of our government’s political stances.

I surely don’t know the answer, I have voted since I was eligible and did it proudly.

Posted by: womanmarine at December 29, 2005 3:10 PM
Comment #109521

Steve, while you are quite correct that the youth vote is the biggest no-show at the polls, they are the fastest growing segment to show up as of the last two elections. And, the other age groups show 40 or more % no shows.

So this leaves the entire age range of our population as a target for efforts to get folks registered and to the polls.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 31, 2005 6:03 PM
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