01 November 2010

The New Silent Majority

There is a silent majority in the United States. The majority that doesn't vote in mid-term elections. They are more liberal by almost every measure than those who do vote. If they voted consistently, American politics would be transformed.

According to an analysis by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, there likely will be more non-voters this year than voters. Indeed, turnout in midterm elections typically is less than 40% of the voting-age population.

The survey shows that those who choose not to exercise their franchise likely will be younger, less educated and more financially stressed than those who call themselves likely voters. . . . just 31% of non-voters call themselves conservative compared with 46% of voters. On issues, 52% of non-voters said they favored government providing more services, compared with 61% of likely voters who said they preferred a smaller government that provided fewer services.

On social issues, about the same percentage said they supported immigration reform coupled with stronger enforcement, 44% of likely voters to 43% of non-voters. Of those supporting same-sex marriage, likely voters were at 42% and non-voters at 43%. But likely voters by 50% to 45% outweighed non-voters in opposing same-sex marriage.

From the Los Angeles Times

Probably the single greatest tactical mistake that Democrats have made while in power is their failure to take decisive steps to increase voter turnout.

There are proven steps that can produce higher voter turnout:
* Providing postage with mail-in ballots.
* Allowing election day voter registration.
* Having the government pro-actively registering people to vote.
* Allowing people on parole to vote, a step that increases voter participation not just for those directly affected but because those who have prior criminal convictions are confused and incorrectly think that the ban on parolee voting applies to those who have completed their sentences.
* Shortening the ballot so that people are less intimidated by it and so that it takes less time and effort to cast an informed ballot.
* Using P.R. resources to remind people of election day.
* Some countries, like Australia, actually fine people for not casting a ballot (although those ideologically oppposed to voting can spoil their ballot).

It isn't the place of the government to tell people how to vote. But, there is nothing wrong with encouraging people to vote.

This doesn't have to be done nationally to have an impact. State and local governments can act, and they can do so without constitutional amendments, or changes in federal law. The American system of government was designed to balance out different levels of voter turnout in different states. Turnout in one state doesn't change its number of electoral votes for the President, its number of Senators or its number of Representatives in Congress. But, higher turnout does make it more likely that those people really represent their entire constituencies.

Higher voter turnout also increases faith in government, and loyalty to government. Voting strengthens ties to the government even in one party states like the former regimes of the Soviet Union and Iraq where there was only one candidate and hence, no real choice. The ties strengthen even more in systems where people have a choice, and those stronger ties are good for society as a whole.

As it is, the American electorate is systemically more liberal in Presidential election years, and systemically less liberal in midterm elections. Do Yo-Yo politics make sense as a way to run a country?

If you haven't voted yet, be sure to turn in your mail-in ballot today or tomorrow, and to show up to the polls tomorrow to vote if you haven't gotten a mail-in ballot. In Colorado, mail-in ballots must be received by election day to be counted; it is to late to mail your ballot now.

If you aren't registered to vote, you've blown it this cycle, but you should register to vote today, so that you can vote in the next election. In Colorado, this can even be done online if you have a state ID.


Maju said...

It's clear that the system asking you to register prior to election doesn't encourage voting. Here we are all registered via residence register, and we duly get a card with details on voting place each election.

However typically there are no options to vote either. Or they are trying to gain the center (that is the not-so-far-right) or they have no meaningful chances at all (it can happen in a semi-proportional system too) or they are directly outlawed. They system defends itself: its conservative roots. It is technically possible for "liberal" (lefty) options to make inroads in some semi-proportional or double round systems but not often, really. And when that happens it's time for a military or semi-legal coup (a la Hitler)... :(

The power is not in voting but in being actively organized. This may translate or not at election day but it's not the central issue.

Norma said...

Or we could let dead people vote. It works well in Chicago.

Anonymous said...


The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

Elections wouldn’t be about winning states. No more distorting and divisive red and blue state maps. Every vote would be counted for and directly assist the candidate for whom it was cast. Candidates would need to care about voters across the nation, not just undecided voters in a handful of swing states.

Now 2/3rds of the states and voters are ignored — 19 of the 22 smallest and medium-small states, and big states like California, Georgia, New York, and Texas. The current winner-take-all laws (i.e., awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in each state) used by 48 of the 50 states, and not mentioned, much less endorsed, in the Constitution, ensure that the candidates do not reach out to all of the states and their voters. Candidates have no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or care about the voter concerns in the dozens of states where they are safely ahead or hopelessly behind. Voter turnout in the “battleground” states has been 67%, while turnout in the “spectator” states was 61%. Policies important to the citizens of ‘flyover’ states are not as highly prioritized as policies important to ‘battleground’ states when it comes to governing.

The bill would take effect only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes–that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538). When the bill comes into effect, all the electoral votes from those states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

The bill uses the power given to each state by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution to change how they award their electoral votes for president.

In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided). The recent Washington Post, Kaiser Family Foundation, and Harvard University poll shows 72% support for direct nationwide election of the President. Support for a national popular vote is strong in virtually every state, partisan, and demographic group surveyed in recent polls in closely divided battleground states: Colorado– 68%, Iowa –75%, Michigan– 73%, Missouri– 70%, New Hampshire– 69%, Nevada– 72%, New Mexico– 76%, North Carolina– 74%, Ohio– 70%, Pennsylvania — 78%, Virginia — 74%, and Wisconsin — 71%; in smaller states (3 to 5 electoral votes): Alaska — 70%, DC — 76%, Delaware –75%, Maine — 77%, Nebraska — 74%, New Hampshire –69%, Nevada — 72%, New Mexico — 76%, Rhode Island — 74%, and Vermont — 75%; in Southern and border states: Arkansas –80%, Kentucky — 80%, Mississippi –77%, Missouri — 70%, North Carolina — 74%, and Virginia — 74%; and in other states polled: California — 70%, Connecticut — 74% , Massachusetts — 73%, Minnesota — 75%, New York — 79%, Washington — 77%, and West Virginia- 81%.

The National Popular Vote bill has passed 31 state legislative chambers, in 21 small, medium-small, medium, and large states, including one house in Arkansas (6), Connecticut (7), Delaware (3), The District of Columbia (3), Maine (4), Michigan (17), Nevada (5), New Mexico (5), New York (31), North Carolina (15), and Oregon (7), and both houses in California (55), Colorado (9), Hawaii (4), Illinois (21), New Jersey (15), Maryland (10), Massachusetts (12), Rhode Island (4), Vermont (3), and Washington (11). The bill has been enacted by the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Washington. These seven states possess 76 electoral votes — 28% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.

See http://www.NationalPopularVote.com