Why didn’t people vote this year?

This year’s midterms featured the lowest voter turnout in a federal election since World War II. Only 36.4% of the voting-eligible population cast ballots, which we’d be more willing to forgive if a sizeable chunk of our population were in Europe fighting the Nazis.

Seriously, why didn’t so many people vote?

Last week, Pew came out with some answers. In their post-election survey of eligible voters, they found a number of things.

Screen Shot 2014-11-15 at 1.56.46 PMWhile there isn’t a whole lot to go on in these numbers, it seems that the two-thirds of the non-voting American public can be broken down into two camps: those for whom non-voting was unavoidable, and those for whom it was totally avoidable.

Fofty-four percent of non-voters either answered that they were too busy/sick/forgetful to vote or that they made a conscious decision not to vote based on a lack of preference or information — not much can be done here. While there are some things that can be done on the margins to lower the percentage of citizens who fall in this camp, such as a more inspiring slate of candidates or better campaigns, there wasn’t much that could have been done on an institutional level to make these citizens more likely to vote.

But 45% of non-voters missed Election Day either due to work/school conflicts or missing a registration deadline/recently moving/not being able make it to their polling location. From the perspective of the state, this is a massive problem.

Keep in mind, this subset of non-voters is about the same size as this year’s electorate. There were as many people wanted to vote, but were unable to do so for lack of access, as there were people who voted in the first place.

There are a few obvious ways to fix this.

Opt-Out Voter Registration

Placing the responsibility of voter registration on the citizen, instead of on the state, is a relic of 19th Century disenfranchisement. Originally designed to make sure that a new influx of immigrants didn’t sway elections, registration laws also disproportionately affected working class citizens, who were (as one could guess) at work when assessors came by to register voters during the run-up to elections.

As other countries have industrialized and democratized, almost none have placed similar burdens on their citizens to opt in to the democratic process because such burdens don’t make any sense. We don’t register for our right to free speech; why should we have to register for our right to vote? To this point, 84% of European countries currently have some form of universalized voter registration.

Establishing a federal registrar and ensuring that every citizen is registered to vote, with the option of filling out a form to un-register, would boost voter turnout overnight. States with same-day voter registration — Minnesota, Wisconsin and New Hampshire, among others — have consistently higher levels of voter turnout than states with registration deadlines that extend to over a month before Election Day. Remove registration as a barrier to entry in the electoral marketplace and, as Pew’s numbers show, you’ve immediately expanded the market.

The Voting Week and Mail-in Balloting

As I wrote following the 2012 elections, “The decision to hold Election Day on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November was one of the biggest expansions of the franchise the United States had ever seen — in 1845.” Being an agrarian society, Tuesday was deemed the most suitable day to hold elections because it would allow farmers the time to make it into town without interfering with either the Sabbath (Sunday) or market day (Wednesday).

As with voter registration, this remains public policy for no other reason than the fact that we haven’t bothered to stop and think about whether it’s still a good idea (it isn’t).

Some states have opened avenues for their citizens to vote on days that are more convenient for them. Many states offer no-excuse early voting — in Iowa, voters begin casting ballots over a month before Election Day — and others have done away with the ballot box altogether and hold their elections exclusively by mail.

So why not mail every registered voter a ballot in advance of Election Day and let them choose whether or not to mail it in or cast one at their polling place during an Election Week? Coupled with the national voter registrar mentioned above, we would be more than capable of making sure that everyone’s vote was counted once and only once.

It’s no surprise that the more flexibility citizens have with respect to when and how they cast their ballots, the more citizens actually vote. Establishing a Voting Week and/or Mail-in Balloting would remove the work and school conflicts that accounted for 35% of all non-voting in this year’s election (multiplying that by the proportion of citizens who didn’t vote, that’s about 22% of the entire eligible voting population).

In any given election, there is a certain subset of the population that isn’t going to vote no matter what, so there’s no reason to set 100% voter turnout as a goal for any given election, especially a midterm. However, 36.4% is abysmal, and about half of the blame can be placed on the institutional framework we have established to conduct our elections.

That the solutions are so easy only makes action that much more important.

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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93 Responses to “Why didn’t people vote this year?”

  1. Bill_Perdue says:

    You’re a very uninteresting and boring troll.

  2. Denver Catboy says:

    You know, you’ll not get the last word. I may reply in 3 seconds, 3 minutes, 3 hours, 3 days, or even 3 weeks, and all on my time. You can’t win. Mind you, neither can I, but I’m not looking to win. I’m looking to keep being entertained by your … err, replies.

    And still, my point that your glorious revolution only plays into Right-Wing hands, while all you have to do is motivate a measly half of your fellow non-voters to voting in a Socialist, Green, or whatever other candidate remains unchallenged. I guess you’d rather try to shut me up and drive me off because you know that if you get into an argument on the facts, you’ll lose.

    How’s that strategy working out for ya?


  3. Bill_Perdue says:

    You’re a very uninteresting and boring troll.

  4. Denver Catboy says:

    Aww, what’s a matter, trolikins? I won’t let you have the last word?

    And in the spirit of your level of argument, I know you are but what am I. :)

  5. Bill_Perdue says:

    You’re a very uninteresting and boring troll.

  6. Denver Catboy says:

    I can’t be boring and uninteresting. You’re still replying to me!


  7. Bill_Perdue says:

    You’re a very uninteresting and boring troll.

  8. Denver Catboy says:

    If I’m so boring, stop replying. ;)

  9. Bill_Perdue says:

    You’re a very uninteresting and boring troll.

  10. Denver Catboy says:

    And yet you keep replying to me.

    You’re very interesting. Quite amusing, in fact. And you know what I like more than anything else? Trolling the trolls.

  11. Bill_Perdue says:

    You’re a very uninteresting and boring troll.

  12. Denver Catboy says:

    In the spirit of this silly schoolyard tussle, I give you this:

    “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

    And that you’re trying to tar me as a right-winger tells me that words hurt you just fine. :) TROOLLOLOLOLOLOLOL!

    Catch ya later!!! :)

  13. Bill_Perdue says:

    On Tuesday, the 8th of November, 2016 Vote socialist, Vote labor, vote for referendums for a decent minimum wage, write in Chelsea Manning or just sit it out as a protest vote. Whatever you do don’t vote for any Democrat, any Republican or any Libertarian. They’re the enemy.

    It doesn’t matter what right wingers like you pretend to support.

  14. Denver Catboy says:

    I try to give the benefit of the doubt to people. I mean, really, jomicur, Bill, and Nicho may just be really, really disillusioned with the system, and think they have no power. And calling them Right Wingers would only serve to push them further out of the system, solidifying the Right even more.

    But man, a simple statement that only 18% of the voting population give Team Red the win this time, and over 60% could have voted Team Anything Else — and if 19% of them could agree on who that Anything Else was, we’d see a reshaping of US politics like never before gets old Bill into a childish virtual playground tussle. And I’m the one getting called a right-winger for that idea.

    So, FLL, I’m gonna have to agree with you that at least one, maybe all three, are agent provocateurs planted here by those who benefit from Left Wingers dreaming of glorious revolution and staying home on election day….

  15. Denver Catboy says:

    Whatever you do don’t vote for any Democrat, any Republican or any Libertarian. They’re the enemy.

    Interestingly enough, I agree with this last line, fully. I’d qualify it with ‘look at the individual’, because there are a few diamonds in the rough (Diane Degette of Denver, Elizabeth Warren), but all in all? The vast majority of Team Red and Team Blue are jerks. Team Red is the more vocal of the jerks. Team Blue just covers for Team Red, using Team Red as an excuse about why We Can’t Have Good Things ™. This is why I say vote for Greens, Socialists and other pro-consumer groups. Put Team Red to Pasture for a long time, and if Team Blue doesn’t get with the program, put them out with Team Red. And if Team Green gets too comfortable with power? Replace THEM as well.

    Too bad Trolikins didn’t leave on that. We could have left in agreement on that point. TROOOOLOLOLOLOLOLOL!

  16. Bill_Perdue says:

    On Tuesday, the 8th of November, 2016 Vote socialist, Vote labor, vote for referendums for a decent minimum wage, write in Chelsea Manning or just sit it out as a protest vote. Whatever you do don’t vote for any Democrat, any Republican or any Libertarian. They’re the enemy.

  17. Denver Catboy says:

    Oh, but what about the Green Party? Or the Socialist Party? Are they the enemy? Why must we vote specifically for Chelsea Manning? She can’t sit any term except the state she’s in, and that assumes that they’d let her sit from jail.

    And here, I thought you were against personal attacks. A dixiecrat? Aww, trolikins, did I hurt your widdle feewings? :)

    Oh, and PS, I’m sorry for missing your last two posts. No, really, I’m not. It must be really important to you to get me mad.

    You are quite the amusing little trolikins….:)

  18. Bill_Perdue says:

    You lie. Period. Full Stop.

    Please don’t pretend that this is an arguement. It’s an increasignly hysterical series of personal attacks. You have no points. Worst of all, you’re a Dixiecrat.

    On Tuesday, the 8th of November, 2016 Vote socialist, Vote labor, vote for referendums for a decent minimum wage, write in Chelsea Manning or just sit it out as a protest vote. Whatever you do don’t vote for any Democrat, any Republican or any Libertarian. They’re the enemy.

  19. Denver Catboy says:

    I wonder if I hit it hard enough if it’ll stop skipping. :) Yes, I’m old enough to remember vinyl. One thing I am glad is in the past, except for Broken Record Bill here, that is.

    Psst…I lied when I said if you keep repeating it it’ll be true. ;)

  20. Bill_Perdue says:

    Please don’t pretend that this is an arguement. It’s an increasignly hysterical series of personal attacks. You have no points. Worst of all, you’re a Dixiecrat.

  21. Denver Catboy says:

    Hey, two can play this game!

    If you say it enough it’ll be true, trolikins.

    I see that you’re not only petulant but also stubborn as well. You insist on getting the last word.

    I don’t let the likes of you get the last word. I make it abundantly clear that I can strike at any time. Just out of the blue, I may point out to you that when you vote, you can affect change, but when you don’t, you are as meaningless as your contributions to this conversation is.It may be tonight. It may be in a week. It may be three months from now. Or it could be in 30 minutes. You’ll never know.

    You want to be in control of this conversation, and drive me off. It won’t work. I’ve dealt with plenty of your ilk in the past, people who know they’re wrong and have nothing but obstinate refusals, personal attacks (you know, what you accuse me of doing?), and misdirections. I’ll just circle right back around to the simple fact: You let 36% of the population dictate to you what government you have, just so you can bitch about it. That’s the simple fact right there.

    Be seein’ ya.

    Unless of course you decide it’s not worth it. I know, not bloodly likely, right?

    (PS: How did your great idea of glorious socialist revolution work for the women of Ohio? I thought you cared about women’s issues. Now Ohio Republicans, who netted no more than 24% of the vote really, will make it so that you can’t abort if a heartbeat is detected, as early as 6 weeks into the pregnancy. I.E. 4 weeks after conception, and 2 weeks after the first missed period!)

  22. Bill_Perdue says:

    Please don’t pretend that this is an arguement. It’s an increasignly hysterical series of personal attacks. You have no points.

  23. Denver Catboy says:

    If you say it enough it’ll be true, trolikins.

    I see that you’re not only petulant but also stubborn as well. You insist on getting the last word.

    I don’t let the likes of you get the last word. I make it abundantly clear that I can strike at any time. Just out of the blue, I may point out to you that when you vote, you can affect change, but when you don’t, you are as meaningless as your contributions to this conversation is.It may be tonight. It may be in a week. It may be three months from now. Or it could be in 30 minutes. You’ll never know.

    You want to be in control of this conversation, and drive me off. It won’t work. I’ve dealt with plenty of your ilk in the past, people who know they’re wrong and have nothing but obstinate refusals, personal attacks (you know, what you accuse me of doing?), and misdirections. I’ll just circle right back around to the simple fact: You let 36% of the population dictate to you what government you have, just so you can bitch about it. That’s the simple fact right there.

    Be seein’ ya.

    Unless of course you decide it’s not worth it. I know, not bloodly likely, right?

  24. Bill_Perdue says:

    Please don’t pretend that this is an arguement. It’s an increasignly hysterical series of personal attacks. You have no points.

  25. Denver Catboy says:

    Is that so? I guess I’ve got another one for ya, broken record. ;)

    But still. You could do your argument loads of good if you’d simply address why you believe that not voting is a good idea when only 18% and 17% of eligible voters voted Team Red and Team Blue. Your Glorious Socialist Revolution could be had within 10 years in a true bloodless revolution, maybe as little as two! What say you, petulant one? Or are you going to cry about personal attacks some more?

  26. Bill_Perdue says:

    You have no points, only increasingly hysterical personal attacks.

  27. Denver Catboy says:

    Lol. Of course. More projection.

    Keep on trolling on. Meanwhile my point about 64% vs 36% goes on unanswered….

  28. Bill_Perdue says:

    “So, who’s the right-winger here?” You, of course, and getting more hysterical with each post.

  29. Denver Catboy says:

    No, you know what the tactics typical of rightists are? Projection. Accused of being either a petulant teenager or a agent provocateur, your kneejerk reaction is to accuse me of being one. Not only are you petulant, you’re dull as well. :)

    But I find this extra amusing. It is a game to me, especially because your behavior is the behavior of a petulant child or an agent provocateur.

    It’s reasonable to point out that in a country where the victorious party won by 18% and the other party by 17%, the 64% that didn’t vote could have changed the direction of the country in amazing ways. But the petulant child couldn’t recognize that sometimes you have to not get all of what you want, and the agent provocateur can’t condone the idea of people actually turning out for the liberals, whether for the watered down Democratic Party, let alone people outside the system. The former will blabber on about revolution, led by the latter, who WANTS active Liberals to blabber about revolution instead of voting.

    Which are you? The petulant child who didn’t get what he wanted in the last election, or the agent provocateur?

    You sure fit the petulant mold. You’re right, and regardless of what facts are presented to you, anything that contradicts your view is wrong. But I doubt a petulant child would spend so much time on this. You’d have revolutions to organize and labor movements to involve yourself in. You’d give up on this very quick.

    But you are dogged determined to get me mad. Why might you try to go to personal attacks when presented with facts? With twisting your words like pretzels to mean different things than what they mean, clear as day? Hell, to bold-faced lie?

    Because you’re not a petulant child. Instead, your goal here is to deflect the discussion to your area of desire, incite people to violence, and keep them away from the polls where they could make a difference, perhaps without any bloodshed at all. Then when they finally DO snap and become what you’re trying to present yourself as, the Right-Wingers you claim to hate will use this as an excuse to crush dissent of any stripe.

    So, who’s the right-winger here?

  30. Bill_Perdue says:

    You lost the arguement, you make things up and now you get personal. Those tactics are typical of rightists.

  31. Denver Catboy says:

    Everything you’ve said about the Dems and the Repubs being tools? I don’t disagree with that.

    I just disagree with your statement that “all violence begins with the Right.”

    You, a Leftist (right?), are advocating for violence. Kinda invalidates ‘begins with the Right’, unless you’re trying the ‘they made me do it’ defense.

    In which case, I’ll treat you like a petulant child, because only petulant children believe it appropriate to blame other people for their actions.

    And not once have you addressed my statement that you can still vote even if you don’t believe in Team Red or Team Blue. Do you not get that 64% of you didn’t vote, and that 50% of 36% is 18%, so if you could have rounded up just a third of that 64% number (that’s 21%, to help you with the hard maths…), you could have put an honest to goodness Socialist (or Communist or Green or independent or Cthulhu Party, whatever the f*** you want, really!) in office? So, why didn’t you?

    I’m really starting to believe you’re just a petulant ‘F*** The Man!’ teenager who couldn’t vote anyway. It’s either that or you’re a provocateur for the Power Brokers, giving voice to the idea that voters are powerless to keep them from being shouted down. Which is it? :)

  32. Bill_Perdue says:

    All violence derives from the right, begins with the right, originates with the actions of the right. Here is the only kind of violence that Americans have to deal with.

    In the United States the right – the Democrats and Repubicans – are political tools used by the rich to create a police state which they need to offset the rapidly polarizing radicalizaiton that pits the new militant mass movements of workers, women, people of color, unions, immigrants, the LGBT communities and others agaisnt the rich and their toadies.

    Since the passage of NDAA, Obama’s campaign of murdering his Arab American opponents, Bush’s Paytriot Act, FISA and the commencement of massive internal espionage against the american people and above all the combination of militarizaion of the police and assigning the military to police the people with the activation of the(1) U.S. Northern Command the US is now a police state the US has become a police state. (All fascist states are police states but not all police states are fascist. All that’s really missing at this point is andAmerican version of the Nazi’s Enableing Act. (2)

    The increasingly violent and unconstitutional actions of local and state police in Ferguson (organized by Democrat Governor Nixon) are meant to be an example for future uprisings against racist violence. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard in advance of a grand jury decision about whether a white police officer will be charged in the fatal shooting of black teenager Michael Brown in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. Nixon said Monday that the National Guard would assist state and local police in case there is civil unrest when the grand jury’s decision is announced. http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/michael-brown-shooting/missouri-governor-activates-national-guard-ahead-ferguson-grand-jury-ruling-n250296

    (1) The U.S. Northern Command is a Unified Combatant Command of the

    U.S. military tasked with providing military support for civil authorities in

    the U.S. Wiki

    (2) The Enabling Act (German: Ermächtigungsgesetz) was a 1933 amendment to the Weimar Constitution that gave the German Cabinet – in effect, Chancellor Hitler – to assume dictatorial powers. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/186351/Enabling-Act

  33. Denver Catboy says:

    Really. So, reality is what you make it, eh?

    Funny. Ok, agitator. Like I said. Good luck with that….

  34. Bill_Perdue says:

    Your thinking is specious and not fact based.

    You must not be able to read – I said all violence comes from the right. It originates with the right. Woerkers, the left, people of color, unions, etc., do what they can to defend themselves.

    Your specious thinking and your unwarranted pessimistic is an excuse to abstain from the struggle agaisnt the violence of the rich and their political prostitutes. That abstention is probably the greatest favor you could do for the left.

  35. Denver Catboy says:

    If there’s specious thinking not backed up by facts? Well, I got all my ‘thinking’ from nothing more than your posts, Bill. Nothing here was added by me. It all stems from your comment.

    All violence comes from the right.

    Your exact words. You dispute this? It’s posted for world+dog to see, unless of course you decide to edit your reply and remove your words. :)

    The road to change is the growth of massive socialist and labor movements and movements of women, people of color, the LGBT communities, immigrant workers and others with militant, non-negotiable demands.

    Again. Your exact words.

    The first set of words is an unequivocal statement that the Right is the sole source of violence.

    Your second sentence, paradoxically, states that the only way things will change is for the Left (and a whole bunch of sub-groups whom I guess you assume will be Left-aligned) to grow into strength, with militant, non-negotiable demands. You’re calling for the left to use violence.

    And either you are calling amateurs at violence to take on professional users of violence, or you know you’re wrong and the Left is capable of violence in its own right, and you’re lying.

    The only unsourced claim I made was that the Left was capable of violence of its own. Well, if that is a problem? Well, I think you can find a few links there to tide you over. Besides. You made the claim that the Right was the sole provider of violence. You should support your claim….

    I get it. You are bitter about how the US is being run. Guess what? So am I! But you think that the answer is to abdicate your power in favor of some hairbrained scheme of GREAT SOCIALIST REVOLUTION. Your revolution will kill plenty of innocents who just want a roof over their head, a chance to make a living, and hope that their children will have it better than they do, and given the power the Right holds in this country, will probably only achieve you getting your fool self killed by a redneck with a chip on his shoulder. And if you expect more reasonable of us to sit down and shut up and let you drag the entire country into a civil war? We won’t. Your idea is a bad idea. Too bad you won’t see that.

  36. Bill_Perdue says:

    Specious thinking ot backed up by facts. Another series of excuses for allowing the right to triumph.

  37. Denver Catboy says:

    All violence comes from the right? Ok, for a moment, let’s pretend you’re correct. Let’s follow this logically, shall we?

    If all violence comes from the Right, it means the Right has to be both good at it and predisposed towards violence. They have practice.

    If all violence comes from the Right, and you consider yourself Leftist, then it follows that you are bad at violence, because you’re both not predisposed towards it and are unpracticed at visiting it.

    And you propose militant revolution. Militant. Means combative and aggressive in support of a political or social cause, and typically favoring extreme, violent, or confrontational methods. So, we’re right back to my statement. Good luck with that.

    You have also exposed an inconsistency. If all violence comes from the Right, and you’re a Leftist, you can’t be advocating militant resistance to the Right. So, either you’re a Rightist (I can hear the gnashing of teeth from here!), or violence is not the sole tool of the Right.

    I’m going to go with the latter. While I don’t care for the Right either, extreme Left-Wingers have been ruthless in their own right at suppressing dissent when they get power.

  38. Bill_Perdue says:

    All violence comes from the right. Examples are the wars of extermination against native Nations, the US invasion of Mexico, the KKK, LBJ and Nixon’s attack on Vietnam, strikebreaking cops, Bill Clintons murder of half a million Iraqi children and Bushes murder of almost a million more Iraqis, Obama’s reinvasion of Iraq, his escalation in Afghanistan and his attacks on Yemen, Bahrain, Palestine, Libya and etc.

    Unwarranted pessimism as an excuse for inaction enables attacks by the right.

  39. Denver Catboy says:

    Hmm…if the US is a banana republic, you enable it by not participating in the system, but you’re so invested in the Red vs. Blue you’ll never get that.

    And as for your militant socialist revolution? Good luck with that. How do you intend on countering your ideological opponents, who have hardons for guns and think you’re Satan’s spawn and therefore worth nothing more than killing with extreme prejudice?

    Your revolution may end up killing us all. Just sayin’…


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  41. Jim Olson says:

    Of course, if you make it easier for people to vote, they will, and then Republicans will disappear. That’s the point, isn’t it?

  42. Bill_Perdue says:

    The US is a banana republic ruled by the rich and administer by their lap dogs in the Democrat and Republican parties.

    The road to change is the growth of massive socialist and labor movements and movements of women, people of color, the LGBT communities, immigrant workers and others with militant, non-negotiable demands.

  43. Denver Catboy says:

    Yes, it isn’t. And it never has been. It always has been a Representative Democracy, which is different than Democracy, and I would say better in many ways.

    Oh, and as to your assertion that we have no voice? Of course we don’t. 60% of us have decided to not exercise our voice, probably over some conniption fit related to not getting everything they want. It’s too bad our society has become so instant-gratification based and so selfish that huge swaths of society decides they won’t participate because they didn’t get what they wanted. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, as the more you abandon your voice, the less voice you have, and the more those who retain their voices get.

    After all, the Kochs and the anti-Gays and the anti-Abortionists voices were loudly heard this election, and will get exactly what they want. Seems THEIR voices are well heard. Couldn’t have anything to do with them making sure to exercise their voices, right? Riiiight.

  44. Bill_Perdue says:

    The only reality that has to concern us is that this is not a democracy.

  45. jomicur says:

    Yes, at everyone. Not at you personally. To the best of my recollection I have never responded to you directly before this. Never. Quite frankly, someone who decides that a general statement is really just an attack on him personally has a really fascinating ego.

  46. Denver Catboy says:

    A simple factor of math blows your idea clean out of the water.

    So, Team Red and Team Blue annoy you, and >60% of the other voters out there. That’s fine. I don’t particularly care for my choices either.

    Team Red took in, what, just slightly more than 50% of the vote this year? And Team Blue took in less than 50%, with a small fraction going to other parties? That’s impressive…until you realize that 50% of 36% is 18%. What happens if half of that 66% votes for, say, Team Green? 33% > 18%. Team Red and Team Blue would be distant followers on THAT result.

    The reality is when you non-voted, you endorsed Team Red and Team Blue keeping control of the government. Mind you, your endorsement went along with millions of other endorsements, but at the same time. you and everyone else like you stayed home on ‘principle’ and allowed this false dichotomy we have to perpetuate.

    And you’re just part of that 66% that chose to stay home on ‘principles’. Many of them, the youngest in particular, couldn’t pull themselves away from Call of Duty and Halo long enough to research who was on the ballot and make their intentions known. THESE guys are the real problem. You’re just adding to it.

  47. Bill_Perdue says:

    First, don’t worry about insinuations. There aren’t any. There are criticisms and for my part they’re directed against all Democrats and all Republicans. I
    don’t think and never said that you’re a toady for Wall Street. Obama and
    members of both Congressional parties are in that grouping. I do think you just don’t understand the dynamic of the intensifying left-right polarization and radicalization in American society. You look at politics as a problem of techniques, I see it as a war between the left and the right.

    Secondly, voting vs. not voting is not the question.

    Voting for Democrats, Republicans or Libertarians – any of the right centrist
    groups that are owned by the rich – is not only a detour, it’s inimical to the
    real fight, which is to replace those parties by independent political action
    like that of the labor party groups in Ohio and socialist groups in a number of states.

    Voting for Democrats or Republicans is tantamount to support for wars, attacks on the Bill or Rights and union busting because that is the sum total of the politics and the policies of those two parties. That’s undeniable.

    Although they deny it, the political program of the Democrats and Republicans boils down to wars of aggression, wars against the standard of living of workers and attacks on Bill of Rights with laws like FISA, NDAA, the Paytriot Act and Obama’s assertion that he has the right to murder US citizens, an assertion denied by the ACLU and the CCR. http://www.commondreams.org/news/2014/02/10/aclu-obama-no-you-cant-just-murder-american-overseas

    The political divisions in the US are between rightists like Democrats and Republicans on the one hand and socialists, leftists and the growing labor left on the other. The goal of the left is to defeat the right and that includes Democrats. Democrats and Republicans will get upset about the goals of the left. That’s fine. All they have to do is convince working class voters to vote for them. That, happily, is happening less and less. Tens of millions of eligible voters regularly boycott elections and that number is increasing. That’s a good thing and a sign that the polarization is deepening and workers turn on the rich and begin to reply to their class war.

  48. karlInSanDiego says:

    So my friend expressed a laissez faire attitude about many things, while I argued a need for social responsibility. We were both entrenched but not intractable. I wanted to know more about his formative years, war, his volunteering to go after college, and so on. We talked a lot about foreign policy, and naturally my strong opinions were no match match for his extra life experience (I was 44 at the time). On hearing him say politicians never listen, and that he doesn’t see any point in politics, he admitted he didn’t vote, and when I asked you mean you stopped, he said, no he never voted. His seemed like it may be a clear case of being jaded very early. I argued on and off the rest of the day that politicians don’t just spring up out of the earth, that they actually hear from very few constituents and that if he won’t even take the time to vote every two years, he’s not helping to choose better ones. I really didn’t think our conversation would have an effect on him, but it seemed to.

  49. FLL says:

    Posting the “If you do vote” comment on Americablog can only mean that liberals who vote are responsible for… [fill in the blank with bad consequences]. That’s more of a line for Ann Coulter and the folks at Fox News.

  50. Jon Green says:

    “If you do vote” is directed at everyone who votes.

  51. jomicur says:

    Clever analysis, Skippy. 100% wrong, but clever.

  52. jomicur says:

    My comment was to nicho, not you. You think a comment directed at someone else entirely is about you? A tad petulant, aren’t we?

  53. jomicur says:

    LOL! And what would those progressive advances be, exactly?

    And who said anything about “a preordained revolution”? As long as people continue blindly supporting the status quo, no revolution, preordained or otherwise, can or will happen. The complacency and blindness of Boobus Americanus make that quite preordained.

  54. Houndentenor says:

    So now we’re getting somewhere. What was it that you said to your friend that finally convinced him? Was it really the nagging? Or did you make a case that voting was important? Often we see pictures of people in other countries so proud to have been able to vote for the first time ever and here we are at less than 40% participation. It’s embarrassing.

    Where Brand is wrong is that not only does the political class not care (unless it’s THEIR voters who stay home) but they know full well that all those negative ads decrease the likelihood off voters to show up. They aren’t designed to change anyone’s opinion. They are designed to disgust people who would vote for Candidate X from voting at all. So low turnout gets at least one party in any election the outcome they wanted. It doesn’t convince them of anything or convince them to change. (BTW, The Good Wife is dramatizing this very thing currently and doing an interesting job of it)

  55. FLL says:

    Now that you can see the pattern for voter turnout in midterm elections (usually about 39% during a president’s sixth year in office), let’s compare the difference between voter turnout for a president’s first run for office and voter turnout for his second run for office:
    Obama 2012 59% vs 2008 63%
    Clinton 1996 53% vs 1992 61%
    Reagan 1984 57% vs 1980 55%
    Nixon 1972 56% vs 1968 62%
    Eisenhower 1956 60% vs 1952 62%

    The clear pattern is that voter turnout is almost always lower in a president’s second run for office than in his first run for office. The only exception is Reagan. Bill Perdue’s “missing 30 million votes in 2012” is a fabrication. Bill claims that fewer people voted in 2012 than in 2008 because Americans weren’t kissing Bill’s ass sufficiently. In fact, it was only the statistically normal difference between a president’s first and second run for office. Will Americans ever kiss Bill’s ass sufficiently? Doubtful.

  56. karlInSanDiego says:

    Sorry it sounded like I was calling you a name, Hounderntenor. That wasn’t my intention. I happen to respect a lot of what Russell Brand says. I just abhor his resignation on voting. He has described a protest of not voting as a way to send a message to the powers that be. That in my mind will result in ridiculous results where an entire generation can skip the vote (which more or less happened in this midterm). I was confused by your wording that you were condemning that action and not relating to it. Apologies.

    BTW, I nagged a 60+ year old friend who had served in Vietnam and admitted to me he never voted. He’s a professional man and very learned. I nagged him for hours one day in the longest one-on-one discussion I’d had with anyone my entire adult life (6+ hours). He told me the next time I saw him that he started voting. It’s not futile to proselytize for the need for everyone to vote. Dick is proof anyone can be persuaded.

  57. FLL says:

    Now let’s look at a graph showing voter turnout throughout American history. Bill Perdue claims that voter turnout for midterm elections has been falling since 1840. Wrong. Voter turnout for midterms was quite high throughout the entire 19th century. Why has voter turnout been lower after 1900? I’m sure the reasons are complex, but I’ll bet that not kissing Bill Perdue’s ass is not one of those reasons. Here’s the graph:

  58. FLL says:

    The bar chart below shows the percentages for voter turnout in both presidential and midterm elections, beginning with the end of WWII. The very lowest voter turnouts are for midterm elections during a president’s sixth year of office, the so-called “six year itch” phenomena:
    Obama (2014 midterm) 36.4%
    Clinton (1998 midterm) 39%
    Reagan (1986 midterm) 39%
    Nixon (1974 midterm) 39%
    Eisenhower (1958 midterm) 45%

    The turnout for the 2014 midterms are typical, not atypical. Let’s take a look at Bill Perdue’s constantly repeated claim that there were untold millions of missing votes (due to people not voting) in the 2012 presidential race. In order to compare apples and apples, let’s compare voter turnout for all presidential races where a president was running for reelection:
    Obama 2012 59%
    Clinton 1996 53%
    Reagan 1984 57%
    Nixon 1972 56%
    Eisenhower 1956 60%

    Looks like Bill is trying to see if you’re all gullible enough to believe his fabrications. Voter turnout for Obama’s second run for president was actually higher than for any other postwar president except for Eisenhower, when voter turnout was a mere 1% higher than in 2012. Here is a bar graph, courtesy of FairVote.org (link here):

  59. BillFromDover says:

    We don’t vote cuz we are basically too Goddamn lazy to even give a flying fuck… nothing more, nothing less!

    And the minority that do are, obviously swayed by rapid-fire commercials (some even containing a grain of truth) brought to y’all almost exclusively by ka-billionaires.

    Let’s hear it for the Roberts Supreme Court.

    Your typical Joe Blow doesn’t stand a chance against this onslaught of advertisement money due to the willful ignorance of your average citizen too lazy to investigate an Internet tube or two.

    Basically, we’re hosed.

  60. FLL says:

    In his comment above your reply, jomicur is specifically addressing progressive/liberal voters. Why am I certain of that? Because he describes, as an unfortunate event, “the unceasing rightward swing of both parties.” Only liberals and progressives would regard that as a bad thing. Conservatives certainly would not. Clearly, jomicur’s comment is directed at liberal/progressive voters. Therefore, jomicur wants liberals/progressives to stop voting, the end result being that only conservatives would be voting. Why is jomicur pushing for a scenario in which only conservative voters determine election outcomes? Um… why do you think?

    We’re all different shades of blue here, no?

    No, we are not. You are operating on the assumption that Bill, jomicur and Nicho are being honest about their motives. Jomicur is only pretending to regard “the unceasing rightward swing of both parties” as an unfortunate event in the hope that this will dissuade liberals from voting. Sometimes, people misrepresent themselves. That’s just part of life.

  61. Jon Green says:

    I think the voters among us are willing to concede that a well-thought, principled abstention gives one the right to bitch if the non-voters among us concede that participation in a system doesn’t tie you to every outcome that system produces.

    You and Bill, among others here, have every right to boycott the vote if you don’t feel represented, but I don’t think the insinuation that I’m a de-facto wolf of Wall Street — made literally every time I write something about voting — is at all productive. We’re all different shades of blue here, no?

  62. Houndentenor says:

    My point is that there have been times in my life when I didn’t have the option off voting either before or after work. I suppose that in such cases I’d have tried to get an absentee ballot but when you are working 60 hours a week (and sometimes at multiple jobs and sometimes with long commutes) you don’t have the options that a lot of middle class people with one job that comes with benefits and paid time off take for granted. There’s a real lack of understanding sometimes for how over half the country lives and it’s aggravating and hearing such talk doesn’t help convince such people that they should make the extra effort especially when the political class ignores them anyway.

    And fuck you for comparing what I’m saying with Russell Brand. I do think it’s important to vote. I voted even though not a single person I voted for had any chance of winning (although a couple of ballot initiatives I voted for did pass). So fuck you some more. My point is that nagging people who don’t feel that their vote matters is not going to get you anywhere. And for the most part they are right because Democrats suck, just not as bad as Republicans and that’s hardly something to get excited about. Democrats need to run better candidates AND do a better job of messaging. Our campaigns are 99% bullshit with 1% substance IF we’re lucky. Stop making excuses for the bullshit and change it. Run better campaigns and better candidates and stop whining about how people don’t care when you haven’t given them much of a reason to.

  63. Houndentenor says:

    I had a couple of races with a Republican, a Libertarian and a Green. No Democrat even bothered to run. I had to research them all because you never know. And in one race the Democrat was a complete moron (and not going to win anyway) so I voted for one of the third party candidates to send a message (which the party will likely ignore because worthless). It’s really not that hard to get a sample ballot online in most places and go to the websites of the various candidates or look for endorsements (especially for judges who usually don’t do much campaigning) and find some discussion on the various ballot initiatives. But it does take some effort. I used to be one of those voters who showed up to vote for President or Senator and then discovered all this crap on the ballot I didn’t know much about. Oops. I don’t find that acceptable so I do my research now. Some of those other elections actually have more direct impact on our lives so we really should take them more seriously than most of us do.

  64. FLL says:

    If you do vote, you are responsible for perpetuating the status quo, i.e. the unceasing rightward swing of both parties.

    Sounds like the people who vote are responsible for bad things happening. No, I don’t think I’m putting words in your mouth at all.

  65. Indigo says:

    Oh that slippery slope . . . you’re sounding like a Catholic bishop there.

  66. karlInSanDiego says:

    Russell Brand, your abstinence is costing our country. No one is measuring your apathy as a watermark for a preordained revolution. You’re just making it easy for the old and crusty to turn back the clock on any progressive advances.

  67. karlInSanDiego says:

    I don’t dryclean at all, but if I did, I would never place it in higher regard or have it be comparable to voting? I’m pretty sure you’re saying that some things in your life at the time took precedence over voting. That should pretty much never be the case unless you get caught out of town in an emergency. It’s your job to vote just like it is to file taxes. Great deal of effort is a problem yes, but come on. Stop with the Russell Brand BS of voter apathy due to poor performance. Politicians letting you down is never a reason to be too lazy to vote.

  68. jomicur says:

    “bad or immoral people”??? You saw that in my comment? Really?

    Putting words in the mouth of someone you disagree with is a mighty feeble way to try to score a point. And accusing someone who makes a general statement of “getting personal” is not only feeble but…well, you can fill in whatever negative adjective you like.

  69. nicho says:

    You’re lucky. We didn’t have any Green candidates. All we had was R or D and, in one case, two Rs. Also we were not allowed to write in.

  70. Bookbinder says:

    I know a couple of Dems/Libs who didn’t vote because of the situations in Sanford and Ferguson in which it appears that those who were assaulted are/were being demonized and the thugs portrayed as victims. And Dems/Obama are blamed for this upside down Civil Rights situation.

  71. FLL says:

    Step #1 is indeed easy. You don’t have to kiss anyone’s ass just because they threaten to insult you if you displease them by voting. Step #2 is common sense, unless of course you harbor some delusion that freedom of speech will be outlawed by a one-party dictatorship. I’m not sure that Step #3 is feasible, but I will say that if you get a driver’s license, you are required to serve for jury duty, which is considered a civic duty. I’m not sure if the same logic would apply to voting. Maybe an incentive would be better, like getting a deduction on your income tax return.

  72. Bill_Perdue says:

    Voting or not voting is a side question in any case. It’s just not a big deal. For the 140 or so years since 1877 and the Great Betrayal, rightwing racist Democrats and right wing capitalist Republicans divided American politics among themselves and excluded the left. Since then voting or not has been secondary.

    I make it a point to vote for important referenda and to vote for none of above, a privilege we have in Nevada. When the radicalization finally gets here I’ll be able to vote socialist or labor like people in a growing number of states and use an electoral strategy not in some silly attempt to reform the greed of the rich but to organize workers.

    As that happens the right – Democrats and Dixiecrats, Republicans and Tea Partiers – will begin to whine and howl in earnest as they see the writing on the wall. Just like the Democrats in Seattle and Ohio. It’s time for Dixiecrats and Democrats to end thier churlish habit of blaming voters and start blaming themselves for being marginal.

    Neither party has the votes or the support of the American people. Obama won with less than a third of eligible voters in 2008 and 2012 and in 2014 less than 50 percent of eligible voters actually bothered to vote. “Election turnout is often cited as an indicator of the strength of the mandate of winning candidates, but it can be a misleading statistic: Turnout is usually measured as a proportion of registered voters rather than of those eligible to vote — and census numbers show that more than 70 million U.S. citizens of voting age are not registered voters.

    Turnout proved to be lower than previous years in all but 10 states, but the reasons for that decline are many: Some states lacked competitive races to draw voters to the polls; others cut polling hours or reduced early voting periods. And, in some states, new voter ID laws could have kept some voters away. Public opinion polls such as the one released by Gallup earlier this week suggested that fewer Americans cared about this election than in previous years.

    Turnout in midterm elections measured by participation of registered voters has fallen since 1840, according to the Pew Research Center. Voter turnout in 2010 rose slightly, but 2014 turnout is a return to the declining trend.”http://america.aljazeera.com/blogs/scrutineer/2014/11/5/why-the-real-electionturnoutwasfarlowerthanreported.html#alabama

  73. Max_1 says:

    What could go wrong?
    … Let the State decide what we choose.
    Want Freedom?
    … Better hope the State chooses the Freedom you like.

  74. Max_1 says:

    Why people don’t vote?
    In my district, there were 19 positions up for election… 16 ran unopposed.
    Give the People someone to vote for…

  75. Bill_Perdue says:

    That’s not a ‘dark take’, that’s science.

  76. FLL says:

    Shut up? Or else what? Or else you’ll insult all the bloggers who suggest that people vote, which would be all the bloggers on this site, including Gaius Publius. OK. The moderators are very tolerant, but it’s a two-way street. Please don’t whine later about the “lack of civility” on the Internet, not after telling people who vote to shut up.

  77. FLL says:

    People who vote are bad or immoral people? That is rather personal, don’t you think? I remember Bill often whining that I get too personal when I question your motives for not wanting progressives to vote. But you’re getting personal too. People who vote are bad people? That’s exactly what your saying when you say that people who vote are perpetuating bad things. Well, maybe you just think that analyzing personal motives makes a blog more fun. OK. Let’s have fun. I’m sure the moderators won’t mind.

  78. jomicur says:

    Do you also think the way to stop drug addiction is to become a user?

  79. jomicur says:

    Exactly. People who whine that if you don’t vote, you have no right to complain have it exactly backwards. If you do vote, you are responsible for perpetuating the status quo, i.e. the unceasing rightward swing of both parties. If you choose to participate in that, you have no right to feel morally superior to people who don’t.

  80. Houndentenor says:

    There were clear differences between the candidates in every race on my ballot that was contested, which sadly wasn’t most of them. Unfortunately it was hard to get excited about voting for people who weren’t even going to get 40% of the vote. I did it anyway. Fortunately in my town there were a couple of interesting ballot referendums that got people interested so we had decent turnout, but it was depressing looking at all the Teavangelicals running unopposed. I’ve never voted for so many Green Party candidates before.

  81. Houndentenor says:

    In some cases that’s a sorry excuse, but in other cases not. I’ve had periods in my life when I left the apartment at 7 am and got home at 8 pm at the earliest. It was hard enough arranging to pick up my dry cleaning much less figuring out where/when to vote. In fact for the primaries this year it took a great deal of effort to figure out where the Democratic primary was for me. (No, there wasn’t even anything online and the people who should have known kept sending me to the wrong place.)

    But what is bothersome is how no one wants to take any responsibility. Everyone votes. Not caring enough to go to the polls is in a way a kind of statement. That the majority can’t be bothered ought to be sending a message to the political class that they aren’t doing a good job. If they are so clueless or tone-deaf that they aren’t getting that message then things will continue the same way.

  82. Indigo says:

    That’s a very dark take on current events and not necessarily entirely factual. It’s persuasive to those who are disposed to pessimism, though, and especially persuasive to people looking for an excuse to slack. The fact fact remains that the solution is to hop on board and participate in the process. That’s what it takes for the public to begin to marginalize the plutocrats. The way to lose the republic is to fail to participate.

  83. nicho says:

    No, if you vote, shut up. If you vote, you have endorsed the outcome as the right outcome. That’s how it works. If you cote, you can’t complain. You can be disappointed that it didn’t go your way, but since you participated in the system, you can’t complain.

  84. nicho says:

    Yes, yes, yes. Doing away with choice is the answer. Next stop — abortion.

  85. Bill_Perdue says:

    The bottom line is that the US is a plutocracy, not a democracy, and that voting or not voting changes nothing. Your vote, unless it’s about some referensum, is not counted. The rich and the political protitutes who service them do whatever they want and don’t give a tinker’s damn about what workers want.

    “A new scientific study from Princeton researcher Martin Gilens and Northwestern researcher Benjamin I. Page has finally put some science behind the recently popular argument that the United States isn’t a democracy any more. And they’ve found that in fact, America is basically an oligarchy.

    For their study, Gilens and Page compiled data from roughly 1,800 different policy initiatives in the years between 1981 and 2002. They then compared those policy changes with the expressed opinion of the United State public. Comparing the preferences of the average American at the 50th percentile of income to what those Americans at the 90th percentile preferred, as well as the opinions of major lobbying or business groups, the researchers found out that the government followed the directives set forth by the latter two much more often. It’s beyond alarming.

    As Gilens and Page write, ‘the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.’ In other words, their statistics say your opinion literally does not matter.” http://www.truthdig.com/eartotheground/item/new_study_finds_the_us_is_not_a_democracy_so_what_is_it_20140417

    That being the case the dictum “Vote or shut up!”, which is valid in unions and movement groups, has absolutely no bearing on politics in the banana republic.

  86. Indigo says:

    That’s a rationalization with more truthiness than I’d like but the bottom line doesn’t change. Vote or shut up!

  87. Indigo says:

    I’m not entirely persuaded that the “i-had-to-work” story is valid. There’s an element of truthiness there, yes, but the fact is that absentee ballots are available . . . for people who go through the process of asking for them. And although the early voting polls are not entirely convenient, they exist. People who are damned serious about voting, do in fact vote. That we have a population who aren’t committed to voting is an invitation to require it by law.

    Step # 1: we don’t coddle the “i-didn’t-vote-because” community any more.
    Step # 2: enforce the folk-wisdom law, if you didn’t vote, don’t complain
    Step # 3: pass laws and fine the good people who don’t vote.

    Yes, it is that easy.

  88. douglas01 says:

    ‘Didn’t have time’ is a bullshit response. In my state we vote by mail and it takes only a couple minutes in the privacy of your own home, lick a stamp and you are done. Only about ⅓ of voters voted in my state. It’s disgusting.

  89. vickif says:

    Illinois also had mail-in voting and early voting but since I live close to my town’s library which is also my polling place my son and I went to vote at the library. He went before work but I went later in the morning and our polling place was very busy most of the day.

  90. nicho says:

    Don’t be fooled by what people tell pollsters. They very often say what they think makes them look better. Many people aren’t going to say that there’s so little difference between the candidates that they just didn’t give a shit. Some did, but I’d bet that more would if you drilled down.

    Yes, people are busy. I’m busy. You’re busy. We’re all busy, but if there is something we care about, we make time.

    On our local ballot, there was only one office I cared about in the least. For most of the others, it was Tweedledum abd Tweedledee.

  91. Bill_Perdue says:

    People don’t vote because they have no one worth voting for. Both parties are right wing and becoming more indistinguishable by the day.

  92. iamlegion says:

    What makes you think that the kind of people who didn’t vote this year would take the time to honestly answer a poll like this?

  93. Houndentenor says:

    I looked for stats on various states with different methods and their voting turnout and only found an article from 2012 but the states with the highest turnout seemed to be places like Oregon (which has mail-in voting) so that would give credence to your suggestions that making it easier would improve the number of people who vote.

    it would also help if both parties worked harder to give us people worth voting for. Holding your nose while pulling the lever is no fun. Some of the candidates this year were embarrassing, not just as an American, but as a homo sapien. We have to do better. And we need to make campaigns about issues more than personal attacks. it seems we are given far more reasons why each candidate is a horrible person than we are information about what they would do if elected. I think this is rather unique (or at least worse) here. Part of that is due to the idiot culture of our cable news media, but most of it is in the ads so that’s not really the media’s fault.

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