If you choose not to vote and gripe about who your representatives are – save it.
There are many reasons why politicians win elections; greased palms, hard work, T.V ads, and perhaps the most novel – being voted for.
Americans have notoriously surrendered their right to vote. A Pew research study found that only 56 percent of the U.S. voting-age population cast ballots in the 2016 presidential election – only slightly better than in 2012. But, that still means 44 percent of eligible voting-age Americans decided to “sit this one out”.
Good job guys, you really showed them.
Compared to other developed countries, the picture is even more bleak. In the past 3 years, Twenty-five countries in the developing world showed higher rates of voter turnout than the U.S – including Estonia, Hungary, and Mexico.
In short – we are not being our best self.
I believe that historic levels of political frustration and news feed fatigue are likely reasons why so many folks decided to stay home on November 8th. But, there is perhaps an even stronger argument deconstructing low voter turnout.
People aren’t registered.
It may be that in the 2016 election, 56 percent of eligible voters voted, but an entire 21.4 percent of eligible voting-age Americans may not have even been registered!
According to a 2017 Pew research study “less than 20 percent of eligible citizens have been offered the chance to register at a motor vehicle or other government agency.”
That is a huge problem. If we expect our representative democracy to work well, we must remember that it runs on a voting citizenry.
Although, it may seem hopeless, there is a solution to this problem – automatic registration.
“Automatic voter registration (AVR) is an innovative policy that streamlines the way Americans register to vote. AVR makes two simple, yet transformative, changes to the way our country has traditionally registered voters.
First, AVR makes voter registration “opt-out” instead of “opt-in”—eligible citizens who interact with government agencies are registered to vote or have their existing registration information updated, unless they affirmatively decline. Again, the voter can opt-out; it is not compulsory registration.
Second, those agencies transfer voter registration information electronically to election officials instead of using paper registration forms. These common-sense reforms increase registration rates, clean up the voter rolls, and save states money.”(Brennan Center, 2018)
This would greatly decrease registration anxieties and likely increase voter participation rates across the country.
Yet, there still remain voter suppression laws/tactics that AVR would do nothing to prevent.
Cuts to early voting, voter ID laws, and purges of voter rolls all make it more difficult for the elderly, students, persons of color, and LGBT+ individuals to exercise their constitutional right to cast a ballot. But, AVR is a good first step.
Voter turnout depends on voter registration, but in order for our democracy to really work, we must get people to the polls. Here are a few tips I use to encourage folks to cast a ballot.
Most people decide not to vote because they don’t know enough about the issues or the candidates. I like to use the website Govtrack to help me understand the issues and positions of my representatives. Give your non-voting friends this resource to use as a straightforward was to stay informed.
Make it personal.
If someone feels that what is happening in the nation’s capitol doesn’t impact them – they need a wake up call. I like to talk about specific issues that directly involve their lives. For example, a person that utilizes Medicaid for their family might think twice about letting a candidate win who promises Medicaid rollbacks and healthcare repeal.
Although, we are are adults, peer pressure still works. If you and your friend group are open, honest, and excited about civic participation, others will naturally want to be part of the scene. You can express the obligation we have as a free people to participate in our democracy by voting.
Thousands of men and women weren’t killed or injured in battle so you could just stay home – vote.
We should do everything in our power to make voting easier – not harder. An active citizenry means a healthy government and a healthy government is made of accountable, transparent, progressive institutions – and that’s exactly what we’re after.
Now, let’s get registered and get to the polls.
Register to vote here
Check your voter status here
Find your representatives here
Find ALL upcoming 2018 midterms elections here