Monday, November 24, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Voters Who Don't Vote

I have written about this before, but there is always an
occasion when someone misuses the fact that a number of
eligible voters don’t actually cast a vote.

In this case, the misuse was by the president of the United
States who held a press conference after the November 4
election, and declared that while he heard the message
from the 36% of Americans who voted, he also heard the
message from the 64% who did not vote. This presumably
enables Mr. Obama to try to claim he and his policies were
not clearly rejected at the polls. as if the 64%  had a different
message in mind.

My notion is that there are always 100% of the voters in a
representative democracy who, one way or another, vote. I
am not saying, of course, there is a 100% turnout, but I am
saying, since voting in the U.S. is universal and voluntary,
the percentage of voters who don’t actually show up to vote
in reality are casting a vote to accept the winner, whomever
that turns out to be.

In other words, voters who choose not to cast a ballot are, in
effect, accepting the vote outcome by default. It might be the
most passive act a voter can make, but it is still a choice.

There used to be excuses made for and by voters who don’t
vote, including outright discrimination, illness, disability,
work conflict, etc., but today those impediments have been
all but eliminated. Absentee ballots are easily available, and
now often no excuse need be given to obtain one. Voting now
takes place over weeks, not just on one day. Some states
don’t even require voters to go to the polls --- they can mail in
their ballots. Same-day registration is available; minimal I.D.
requirements are made. In short, voting is now easier than
going to the grocery store.

The 2014 national midterm election was a nationalized vote
on Mr. Obama and his administration, just as the 2006 national
midterm election was a nationalized vote on George W. Bush
and his administration. Mr. Bush had the grace to admit that he
and his colleagues had received a “thumpin’,” and he moved on
to try to make his final two years as president the best he could.

Hopefully, Mr. Obama will now try to do the same.

U.S. voting patterns suggest a wide variance in turnout. More
voters understandably vote in presidential election years than in
midterm years, but turnout is essentially the domain of the
political parties and their candidates. From the point of view
of the the republic, however, the turnout is always 100%. It is
up to the individual voters whether or not they want their votes
to be counted.

Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

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