We Can Do Better

8ACDAA6B-E83A-4081-983B-75FBE0B3BEC8The following editorial was written by William Falk, Editor-in-Chief for the one hard copy magazine I still receive in the mail, The Week.

Falk’s message is that, when it comes to voting, America can do better. He points out that the US ranks “26th out of 32 developed democratic nations in turnout.” He notes that other democracies encourage citizen voting, while we seem to put obstacles in their paths. [And, if I may add my own two cents, one party is guilty of blatant voter suppression. Can you guess which party?]

So here’s what Falk wrote:

For a nation that prides itself on our pioneering role in democratic self-rule, we are not very good at elections. More than a week after the midterms, we still do not know who won several disputed House, Senate, and gubernatorial races. In this election, nearly half the eligible voters — about 115 million people — cast ballots, which is the highest-percentage turnout for a midterm since 1914. For this surge in enthusiasm, we can, of course, thank President Trump, who is demonstrating even to disengaged citizens why politics matters.

But compared with most Western democracies, a 49 percent turnout is pathetic. Based on the 2016 presidential election, we rank 26th out of 32 developed democratic nations in turnout. Belgium had an 87 percent turnout in its last election; Sweden, 83 percent; Australia, 79 percent.

Why the huge disparity? Those democracies actively encourage citizens to vote, rather than putting myriad obstacles in their path. If we truly wanted 80 percent turnout in the U.S., it wouldn’t be hard. Democracies with high rates of participation automatically register all citizens to vote. In the U.S., more than 50 million of our citizens — about 1 in 4 — haven’t registered and weren’t eligible to cast ballots on Election Day. Countries that believe in democracy don’t hold elections on Tuesday, when most people are working; they cast ballots on Saturday or Sunday, or make Election Day a national holiday.

Curiously enough, some Americans contend that we are better off if certain citizens do not participate in our democracy. Thomas Paine, a Founding Father and revolutionary advocate of self-rule, would disagree. “The right of voting for representatives is the primary right by which all others are protected,” Paine wrote. People who can’t vote, he said, are like “slaves,” whose fate is determined by others.

If we want to call ourselves a democracy, we can and should do better.

14 thoughts on “We Can Do Better

  1. Paula Light November 17, 2018 / 8:47 am

    From what I understand, college students believe that their test scores are more important than our governmental policies. If true, that is a fundamental educational failure. My daughters vote, but I nag the crap out of them.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The Haunted Wordsmith November 17, 2018 / 8:58 am

    One of the problems with comparing the US to other countries and getting people to vote, is that we are 29 times the size of Belgium (population wise) and because we live in a republic – not a true democracy- many people believe that their vote does not matter. In a way it doesn’t for many. With almost all states having a winner-take-all approach to the electoral college, the fact that 49% of the state voted one way and 50% of the state voted another way does not matter – all votes go to the “majority”. Another odd thing is how we view and define “majority”. Trump took six states without reaching the 50% mark and Clinton took 2 the same way. How can you say they won a state when less than half the population voted for them. I wish we would either go proportional votes in the electoral college for all states or institute on a 2/3 majority like we have in the legislative branch.

    There are so many suppressed votes that people give up as well. The poor, transient, homeless, inmates, former felons, students, military, senior citizens, new residents, independents, and those seen “unworthy” are often suppressed. We live in a country where a person can commit a crime, do their time, and never be allowed to vote again. That’s ridiculous. What happened in Georgia, North Carolina, and Florida is ridiculous and we should be ashamed of ourselves, but we won’t be.

    We are back to the feudal age where only those who will vote the way the candidate wants will be able to vote unhindered by rules and regulations. Many candidates do not want the younger vote because many have been raised on the Internet – a global community – and tend to favor socialism and socialist ideals. Hey, it works, and hey, it’s compatible with democracy and a republic because it is an economic system…not a political one. But it disrupts the status quo.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Fandango November 17, 2018 / 8:32 pm

      But there are steps we could take to increase turnout, like making it easier to register, making Election Day a national holiday, making polling places more accessible, and, of course, vote out the party that thinks fewer votes are better than more votes. And, do away with the Electoral College.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. rugby843 November 17, 2018 / 10:09 am

    It might help of whole groups of people were not denied the privilege or access to vote. I can’t believe it is thus century and still goes on.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Melanie B Cee November 17, 2018 / 10:22 am

    The issue may be wholesale apathy. Several generations now have been raised with a “meh” attitude towards voting. It was for squares or nerds, or people who had some kind of agenda. My own generation (70s) was not raised (at least not in Utah) with any real awareness of the political process, save we studied it when Nixon got impeached. I had a mother who was a real political animal (Democrat) and in Utah (Republican state, first, last and always) and I saw a lot of the perhaps seamier side of voting and what it might mean (nothing). there was a democrat who ran against (I think it was anyway) Shrub in his last bid for office and there was all that scandal about ‘who really won’ and were the votes ‘tainted’ (dead people voted, bums were paid to pretend to be those dead people, so they could vote thirty times)…nobody seemed to be paying attention. I got so disgusted that I admit I stopped voting for the next two elections (when Obama ran). When I came ‘back’ again, I found my politics had changed…I’m what might be termed a moderate (I suppose) because this time around (2016 election)…there were NO GOOD CHOICES. Which ever way you went with the popular parties, you were going to get someone you did not want representing the country and so it came to be. I’m disgusted with the whole damned thing frankly. I think many others are too. Perhaps that’s why we’re so low in our turn out rating. Those of us who’ve voted and tried in the past saw our efforts come to precisely nothing at all.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Marleen November 17, 2018 / 12:32 pm

    I know that citizens of Australia are legally required to vote (at least show up to vote even if any of them ruin their ballot). Interesting they only got to 79%.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Marleen November 17, 2018 / 12:38 pm

    Maine began a ranked voting method this time around.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Marleen November 17, 2018 / 3:43 pm

    Curiously enough, some Americans contend that we are better off if certain citizens do not participate in our democracy. Thomas Paine, a Founding Father and revolutionary advocate of self-rule, would disagree. “The right of voting for representatives is the primary right by which all others are protected,” Paine wrote. People who can’t vote, he said, are like “slaves,” whose fate is determined by others.

    I think some of those same Americans would be fine with other Americans being slaves, or a least “like” slaves. It’s half of a lot of their arguments for policy. It sunk in while I was reading this topic (the article you quoted and some comments), one aspect of voter suppression is putting more people in prison. On top of that, we need look into how to handle the fact Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act isn’t in place.

    I agree, If we want to call ourselves a democracy, we can and should do better.

    I’m very encouraged by what Stacey Abrams is now doing.

    Favorite paragraph and line:

    For a nation that prides itself on our pioneering role in democratic self-rule, we are not very good at elections. More than a week after the midterms, we still do not know who won several disputed House, Senate, and gubernatorial races. In this election, nearly half the eligible voters — about 115 million people — cast ballots, which is the highest-percentage turnout for a midterm since 1914. For this surge in enthusiasm, we can, of course, thank President Trump, who is demonstrating even to disengaged citizens why politics matters.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fandango November 17, 2018 / 10:18 pm

      Two relatively recent rulings of the Supreme Court have had a tremendously damaging effect on politics in the US. One was the Citizens United decision and the other was when the court took the teeth out of the Voting Rights Act.

      Like

      • Marleen November 18, 2018 / 12:49 am

        Yep.

        On June 25, 2013, the United States Supreme Court held that it is unconstitutional to use the coverage formula in Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act to determine which jurisdictions are subject to the preclearance requirement of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, Shelby County v. Holder, 133 S. Ct. 2612 (2013).

        About Section 5 Of The Voting Rights Act …

        http://www.justice.gov/crt/about-section-5-voting-rights-act

        ……..

        The effect of the Shelby County decision is that the jurisdictions identified by the coverage formula in Section 4(b) no longer need to seek preclearance for … voting changes, unless they are covered by a separate court order entered under Section 3(c) of the Voting Rights Act.

        ……….

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Sight11 November 17, 2018 / 8:15 pm

    So Americans think only about voting when they face dicks like Trump?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Marleen November 17, 2018 / 9:02 pm

      It’s motivating to some people — such as many who’ve been disengaged. What I also like about that sentence, though, is that politics matters [all the time].

      Liked by 2 people

      • Marleen November 17, 2018 / 11:26 pm

        There are so many details in our system (or probably in any system or in life) that we need to have almost everybody paying attention at least to some extent.

        Liked by 1 person

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