I’ve never been able to understand low voter turnout. A 50% voter turnout means that half of the qualified voters actually voted. So, what is a “qualified voter”? It’s a legal term which every state defines by statute, based on factors such as age, residency, mental competency, criminal record, citizenship and being registered to vote. Looking at voter turnout figures, most presidential elections are at a little over 50% and most mid-term elections are at a little under 40%. So, what happened to that other huge chunk of qualified voters? Why did they even bother to register in the first place? I’ve never been able to understand that.
Oh, I can understand problems arising that prevent a person from voting, but 40 to 60 percent of qualified voters? I remember when the Constitution was amended in 1971 to lower the voting age to 18. Coming on the heels of the sixties, when student activism gave the illusion that young people really cared about their civic responsibilities, the thinking of that time was that lowering the voter age would increase voter turnout. It didn’t. Another attempt to increase voter turnout was keeping polling booths open longer — opening them earlier and closing them later — allowing folks to vote before going to their job in the morning or on their way home at night, after work. That didn’t change voter turnout either.
Then, most recently, the easy, convenient, no fuss, no muss method of voting by absentee ballot set forth new hopes of increased voter turnout. No change. Thus, the theory that low voter turnout was caused by the “difficulty” of finding time to go to polling places has totally been disproved. A rational mind must admit that qualified voters fail to vote for lack of motivation, not lack of opportunity. Ignoring that, and ignoring that those non-voters are already registered, our underhanded politicians gave us “motor-voter” laws. Going back to the disproved notion that we just need to make it easier to register to vote, they wrote laws that let us register to vote when we register our vehicles at the DMV.
I call those politicians underhanded because although motor-voter laws do nothing to increase voter turnout, they are getting more votes for themselves. Of course I am talking about voter fraud: non citizens who are registered to vote because all they have to do is lie about their citizenship on the registration form and no one ever checks. There is little effort spent by the government in verifying whether or not anyone is a qualified voter. That’s why in 2004 Arizona voters passed a law requiring voters show proof of citizenship when they register to vote. A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently struck down that Arizona law on a 2 to 1 vote. One of the judges voting to strike down the law was Sandra Day O’Connor, former Supreme Court Justice who was temporarily resurrected to fill in on the Ninth Circuit Court. The dissenting judge reminded us that the full body of the Ninth Circuit Court three years ago upheld the law. But I guess those two judges thought they knew better.
Voter fraud cavalierly brushed aside. Ballot stuffing ignored. Glitches in voting machines hushed up. Illegals voting. Dead people voting. People casting multiple votes. Uncounted absentee ballots. Ballots sent to wrong addresses. Apparently, not enough people care enough to do anything about it. Anyway, it’s an off-year election. We can’t vote for the President this time around, so who cares? Such is the rationalization of the no-shows, who ignore the direct impact of local ballot measures on their lives and on their wallets. Constitutional amendments, bond issues and taxes have a longer, staying influence on us than an elected official who only holds office for four years. The fact that so many people consistently don’t vote convinces me that they just don’t care that much.
Some refrain from voting because they don’t understand the issues or aren’t familiar with the candidates. But while civics may be boring, it’s not rocket science, and certainly not beyond the grasp of average intelligence. You simply have to care enough to make the effort to learn what you need to know. A few, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, refrain from voting because of their religious convictions … ok, whatever. It seems to me that if you choose not to vote, whether it is because you are too involved in your own areas of interest, or regardless of the reason, then why bother registering to vote in the first place? Is there some advantage to being registered to vote? I can’t imagine wanting to receive all those political mailings if you don’t plan on voting. Are there so many people out there that start off with good intentions, only to bail out in the end? Are there that many folks who are so busy, so forgetful, so irresponsible, so unreliable? I just don’t get it.