We suck at voting

REUTERS/Emmanuel Foudrot

We, the people of the United States of America, suck at voting.

Please don’t take that personally. If you read MinnPost, I suspect you vote regularly and do your civic duty in other ways.

But perhaps, intoxicated as we are with our self-image as the leader of world democracies, we don’t acknowledge often enough how lousy our voter participation rates are compared to others. I’d say we are the worst, or among the worst, in the democratic world, depending on which elections you count. Personally, I would count them all.

We do our best – and even that is pretty lousy by comparison to other nations – in presidential elections. In 2016, 55.7 percent of the voting age population cast a ballot, about the same as in 2012. Those turnouts were basically within the normal range for presidential elections over the past century or more. (Long-term comparisons are greatly complicated by the fact that for much our history only white males over 21 could vote. But, since about 1920, our participation rate in presidential elections has always been between 49 and 62 percent of the eligible population.)

Although a great many changes have made it easier to vote (things like same-day registration, early voting and no-excuse absentee voting), our overall participation has not gone up and has, if anything, drifted down a bit from the 1950s and ’60s, when it was generally around 60 percent in presidential elections.)

Here is a chart of comparative turnout rates for the 35 developed nations, all democracies, that make up the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. We come in 26th out of 35. The leader is Belgium, with 87.2 percent. (Belgium is small, compared to the U.S., with a population of 11.5 million. But 11.5 million is comparable to many U.S. states, and we don’t have a single state with a voter participation of 87 percent.

Minnesota, which, you will be happy but perhaps not completely surprised to hear, often has the highest voter participation rate of any U.S. state, clocked in at 74.2 percent participation rate in 2016 (which was the best of the states by a very substantial 4-percentage-point margin over runner-up New Hampshire), That’s great, by U.S. standards, but if we were compared with the 35 OECD nations, we would come in 8th.

But, of course, all of the above statistics do the United States the kindness of focusing on presidential elections when, by a very large margin, we vote at much higher rates than we do at midterms (when only the entire the U.S. House, a third of the Senate, and many governorships are also on the ballot).

The election just four weeks ahead is a midterm, which, if history is any guide, means we will be doing well to crack 40 percent turnout nationally. In 2014, the most recent midterm, the national voter participation rate clocked in at an embarrassing 36.4 percent, the lowest in 70 years.

So forgive me for repeating myself: We suck at voting.

Of course, we have other elections, primaries in even-numbered years; municipal elections in odd-numbered years and, to our shame, those numbers are all much lower than any of the numbers above. For example, Pew Research Center reported an overall national turnout of 19.7 in the most recent round of even-numbered-year primaries, which were held to choose nominees for statewide offices and the U.S. Senate (in some states) and the U.S. House (in all states).

19.7 percent.

If that figure sounds a tad pitiful, you should know that Pew praised it as an impressive surge compared with the similar primary season four years earlier, when 13.7 percent of registered voters participated. (And, by the way, those figures just above are not expressed as a percentage of all eligible voters but only of registered voters. So the portion of the total voting age population would be significantly lower.)

Some of you are perhaps thinking our poor numbers in some of these matters are all about nasty voter suppression tactics, which certainly do occur in many states. Republican-controlled states are the chief culprits here, and poor and non-white citizens are the chief targets. I don’t have at hand a figure that might estimate how many potential voters were prevented from or discouraged by tactics in this category, but it would be an exaggeration of that phenomenon to assume that it is the biggest reason our voter participation figures are so bad.

I’ll close with a couple of words from former President Barack Obama who, whenever he would inspire an audience to boo by talking about what he considered some tactics or false arguments employed by his opposition, would reply: “Don’t boo. Vote.”

He expanded on that notion recently while being interviewed for a recent episode of “The Wilderness” podcast, hosted by his former speechwriter, Jon Favreau. Said Obama:

“My message in this upcoming election is very simple: It’s vote. It’s not that much to ask. … Democrats could and will do even better if every one of your listeners not only votes but makes sure that all your wishy-washy, excuse-making, Internet-surfing, TV-watching, grumbling-but-not-doing-nothing friends and family members get to the polls. Vote.”

Comments (67)

  1. Submitted by Curtis Senker on 10/10/2018 - 09:11 am.

    The problem is, we have too many clueless people running around. There is no virtue casting an uninformed vote, in fact it’s a very bad thing. Unfortunately, we have a political party (*coff* Democrats *coff*) that depends on getting as many uninformed people into the booth as possible.

    I know it can’t happen, but FWIW, I think the best way to ensure both high turnout and high involvement is to limit the franchise to folks who, as they say, have skin in the game. A tax return showing a net contribution to the treasury would be a great place to start.

    When they’re talking about spending your money, people pay attention.

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 10/10/2018 - 10:31 am.

      I’m wondering if your proposal would also prohibit the uninformed from holding office. Because that would be it for Trump. In reality, its Republican voters that are uninformed. Actually, misinformed is more like it. Fox News watchers (the core of Republican) support are consistently the most ignorant of basic facts. The Republicans elected a president who lies constantly. Just this week, Trump claimed that Democrats were pushing an open borders bill, which is a complete fabrication. Its only the existence of so many uninformed Republican voters.

      But even though so many Republican voters are ignorant, I still would not try to bar them from voting. Everyone of voting age should be able to vote without impediment.

    • Submitted by Ray Schoch on 10/10/2018 - 10:36 am.

      It’s an interesting governmental and linguistic theory: having a say in your own government is a privilege, not a right, and it’s a privilege reserved for those affluent enough to “…show a net contribution to the treasury.” Perhaps this is the time to point out that Mr. Trump fails that latter test, as it seems reasonable to assume that he has paid no taxes, at least to the national treasury, in some time.

      The theory makes the term “democracy” seem pretty hollow in Senkerland, and much of the rhetoric of the founding documents of the United States is rendered irrelevant, since those documents are based on the radical notion that people should be able to govern themselves. We certainly have people – aside from Mr. Senker – who subscribe to the idea that, both literally and figuratively, the affluent should call the shots. They’re largely Republicans, or people even farther to the political right. Or they’re the products of privilege (Mr. Trump being an obvious example in that context.).

      Either way, it’s an odd way of viewing the concept of “government by the people” that’s the foundation of the United States.

      • Submitted by Curtis Senker on 10/10/2018 - 12:08 pm.

        “…and it’s a privilege reserved for those affluent enough to “…show a net contribution to the treasury.”

        That’s *another* problem, right there, Ray. People should not have to be “affluent” to pay their fair share. Leftists like to speak of “the commons”, which relates to our shared responsibility to pitch in for the common good. Personally, I think everyone should pay in *something*, but certainly *no one* should receive a refund for taxes which were never paid in, in the first place.

        Currently, only 41% of working age Americans pay federal income tax; and that percentage is shrinking. I don’t understand why leftists can’t understand why that’s unsustainable.

        I’m aware of the reason leftists abhor the idea that everyone should pay something. Their campaign plan relies on offering people free stuff. People don’t want “free stuff” when they suddenly realize they are paying for it.

        In any case, as has been pointed out, poll taxes are unconstitutional. I realize this, it was just an opinion.

      • Submitted by Julie Moore on 10/10/2018 - 01:57 pm.

        You are assuming the affluent are informed and the not so affluent are not?

        • Submitted by Curtis Senker on 10/10/2018 - 03:01 pm.

          Not a universal truth, yet knowledge / lack thereof is certainly one reason some people succeed and others do not.

    • Submitted by Pat Berg on 10/10/2018 - 10:38 am.

      Oh, so now you’re advocating for an unconstitutional poll tax. (Why am I not at all surprised?):

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poll_taxes_in_the_United_States#Judicial_challenge

    • Submitted by richard owens on 10/10/2018 - 10:45 am.

      Today’s news: Heidi Heitcamp faces a new voterID law that was not in effect when she was first elected to the US Senate. The SCOTUS just decided that the North Dakota voterID law, which requires every voter to have a physical address, not a P.O. box, will take effect this year.

      The Republican court majority decision (it sure looks like a partisan platform not a court) allowed the older law for the primary this year, but will not allow it for the main election. RBG wrote in dissent that voters will be blind-sided because their ID was okay in the primary. The Majority needed a little help to win the important seat to protect McConnell and his rules..

      Although the new requirement affects more white people than Native Americans, Heitcamp’s victory was by a mere 3,000 votes, about the number of reliably Dem voters on the reservations where physical addresses have not been used. The effect should win the seat for Republicans, since many people are expected to show up and not have legal papers to vote.

      So when you say “we” suck at voting, you should acknowledge the fact that it works! Minority parties cannot win with high turnout elections, and can easily win beyond their percentage with creative voting laws like this.

      Many Minnesotans voted over a week ago by mail with no hassle and no cheating. The ads that are being run by the Republican pacs sure make Democrats (even heroes and veterans) look like monsters.

      They don’t have much of a platform other than destroying the opponent’s reputation- their specialty.

    • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 10/10/2018 - 10:57 am.

      As a frequent reader of Mr. Senker’s posts, I would respectfully submit, based on his expressed facts and opinions, that he is an uninformed voter. OK, just kidding; but, it is shocking to hear someone as informed as Mr. Senker suggesting a qualification test to vote. So, if you are in school you are not eligible to vote? Retirees on SS, no voting for you either! Disabled? nope! Hmm… Maybe Form 1040 is not the way to do it…. I got it! If we are trying to some how quantify economic contribution, and economic contribution can be associated with having a little walking around money, we get back to:

      A POLL TAX!

      Unbelievable….

      My daughter works with a company that matches political campaigns with ad venues. They were meeting with a GOP special interest group on their needs and a, little too eager, staffer wanted to show them their voter suppression strategy and tactics. Pretty abhorrent to most of us, seemingly a great idea to Mr. Senker…

      • Submitted by Curtis Senker on 10/10/2018 - 12:32 pm.

        Nope. A 1040 would work fine for my plan. Plenty of students work; and even those who don’t while in school will eventually. Social Security is taxable income. Disability is a tough one though. I guess if someone can produce a documented physical disability (not including substance abuse) that would be a valid exclusion.

        The idea and premise of my suggestion is that it is not sustainable to have folks voting to give themselves benefits someone else pays for. Currently, only 41% of working age Americans pay federal income tax, and that cohort is shrinking every year.

        There is a limit to how big the welfare state can get before the system collapses; that’s just a fact.

        • Submitted by Brian Scholin on 10/10/2018 - 04:19 pm.

          Of course, if our income disparity were a bit lower – like only a few times what it is in most of the world – pretty much everyone would be paying federal income tax. There’s a straightforward solution I’m sure you will support, right?

        • Submitted by Brian Simon on 10/10/2018 - 04:55 pm.

          “The idea and premise of my suggestion is that it is not sustainable to have folks voting to give themselves benefits someone else pays for. ”

          Does this mean we can remove retirees from voting rolls? They’re living off of FICA taxes that I’m paying.

          Maybe you’re on to something here…

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 10/15/2018 - 09:03 am.

          Jared Kushner may not have paid any income tax last year. In fact, not paying taxes is commonplace among real estate moguls. Should they be barred from voting?

          I have long speculated that no tax liability is why President Trump has refused to release his tax returns.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 10/10/2018 - 11:16 am.

      One of the many ironic things about this post is that the “coughing” about low-information voters comes from a full-throated supporter of the man who rose to political prominence on the claim that President Obama was born in Kenya.

    • Submitted by Harris Goldstein on 10/10/2018 - 11:59 am.

      So your definition of skin in the game is money? That speaks volumes.

      • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 10/10/2018 - 08:35 pm.

        No, it’s not money. When conservatives talk about skin in the game in regards to voting, it’s the color of the skin that matters.

    • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 10/10/2018 - 12:37 pm.

      To read Senker’s comment, and to think about how conservatives are always yammering on about how liberals are elitists, it just boggles the mind.

      What could be more elitist than requiring a means test to choose one’s representatives? Sheesh!

      • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/10/2018 - 02:37 pm.

        Basically, Mr. Senker is calling for the repeal of the XIVth Amendment.
        And I: wonder if he could pass the naturalization citizenship examination?

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 10/10/2018 - 04:36 pm.

          Also the XXIVth Amendment.

          How would would the average Republican do on one of those literacy tests they used to administer down south to African Americans who wanted to vote?

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/10/2018 - 12:43 pm.

      Most people pay taxes.
      The Federal Income Tax is not the only tax.
      People who pay sales and property taxes also have ‘skin in the game’ (at least until you skin them). Same for payroll taxes such as Social Security and Medicare.
      And the Constitution grants the vote to all citizens — are you advocating throwing it out?

    • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 10/12/2018 - 09:53 am.

      I wonder how many more right-wing clichés Mr. Senker can use in his arguments. “Democrats get votes by promising free stuff,” “skin in the game.” I see implied resentment at people living off “hard-working taxpayers.”

      News flash: Democratic voters pay taxes, too. My neighborhood is quite affluent, but it consistently votes about 80% Democratic.

      I also wonder who else Mr. Senker wants to take the vote away from. Is he including among those who are too poor to pay taxes and deserving of disenfranchisement the large number of low-income white people in northern Minnesota, many of whom vote Republican?

  2. Submitted by Frank Phelan on 10/10/2018 - 09:35 am.

    Sounds like Minnesota is the cream of the crap in voting participation. Nice job.

    But maybe it’s not that we’re bad at voting. Maybe we excel at voter suppression.

    Now, we’ll hear about three objections.

    First, if the gods had meant us to vote, they’d have given us candidate.

    Second, maybe people don’t vote because they’re happy the way things are.

    Third, we shouldn’t make it easy to vote, you should have to be motivated to vote. Which is bunk.

  3. Submitted by Pat Berg on 10/10/2018 - 10:40 am.

    Nice Community Voices article on this today:

    https://www.minnpost.com/community-voices/2018/10/thanks-youre-a-voter-now-what/

  4. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 10/10/2018 - 10:48 am.

    As a political activists, I see it as my job to persuade people, at least my people, to vote. I don’t necessarily care that much if the other side can’t get out their voters.

    But blaming voters for not voting is like blaming customers for not buying a business’s product, and only professional sports teams are allowed to do that. As I look around, I see political tactics that are specifically designed to reduce political enthusiasm and suppress voter turnout. For me, it’s the evening news show commercials that alternate between cancer commercials and horrendous and horrendously produced political advertising all about the devastation to be wreaked on humanity if the other party’s candidate wins. Even I flee to Netflix.

    The spectacle is appalling. I wish I had a solution. I do have sympathy with the significant portion of the population which would like nothing more than inflict a plague on both of our houses. But I would submit that it’s not voting we suck at, rather that at which we suck at to an immense degree is elections and politics themselves.

  5. Submitted by John Webster on 10/10/2018 - 11:01 am.

    It’s true that the voter participation rate in America is dismal. Maybe that’s a sign that things aren’t overall as bad as the histrionic people shown on TV news make it appear. If the state of the country becomes obviously bad, many more people will have the motivation to change what politicians are doing.

    Another reason, though, is what political scientists have said for many decades: the American structure of government makes informed voting much more of a challenge than most – probably all – other democracies. We have elections of one type or another every two years, not counting special elections and, in many areas, school board or municipal elections that occur other than November. And our system of separation of legislative and executive powers greatly increases the number of choices voters must make, while also making it hard for one side or the other to have full power and therefore full accountability for the results of their actions.

    All this is a major reason why I have long advocated for the British parliamentary system. You vote for one candidate in your district, and the party with a majority in parliament selects the Prime Minister and other executive officers. Most of the time one party has a clear majority, so they can’t point fingers at the obstructionists on the other side. You have the majority, you are fully accountable – your heads are on the block.

    The American system will never change, so we’re stuck with confused voters and low participation, along with not clear accountability for politicians.

    • Submitted by Hiram Foster on 10/10/2018 - 12:04 pm.

      If we want more people to vote, let’s stop grinding down the voters. After watching the ads on TV, it’s amazing to me that anyone wants to go to the trouble of voting.

      • Submitted by ian wade on 10/10/2018 - 02:44 pm.

        Last night I decided to watch a local newscast at ten. In the first break, there was no less than six political ads in a row (all paid for by Republican action committees) filled with some of the most egregious lies I’ve ever heard. Sure, I wanted to sling my remote at the TV, but even more, I want to make sure that I vote for every candidate that those ads slandered.

        • Submitted by Tom Anderson on 10/10/2018 - 09:07 pm.

          What news are you watching? I thought that the GOP was out of money which explained a lack of ads. Don’t even get me started on the DFL daily mailings…

          • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 10/11/2018 - 09:18 am.

            The really outrageous ads are from “independent” committees, including one that calls itself “America First.”

            They are technically independent, but the ads for the 3rd CD share the same tone as Erik “Don’t Look at my Record” Paulsen’s.

  6. Submitted by John Evans on 10/10/2018 - 11:08 am.

    The U.S. has always been very ambivalent about democracy. That’s the reason that there is no right to vote in the constitution. That’s the only reason we have the senate, a profoundly undemocratic institution. As conservatives love to point out, we have a democratic republic, not a democracy.

    For most of our history, the voting franchise has been restricted to a minority of the population, Initially it was only granted to white, male landowners, and the requirements varied from state to state. It was extended to white women only 98 years ago. Every extension of the franchise has been grudging and hard won.

    Democracy is a liberal idea. Conservatives do not believe in democracy, and try to frustrate our country’s democratic impulses whenever possible.

    To conclude that we just suck at voting is silly. We just need to make a decision about whether we want to be a democracy or not.

  7. Submitted by Edward Blaise on 10/10/2018 - 11:09 am.

    The fix is easy:

    1. Expanded absentee /vote by mail.
    2. Voting week: Monday thru Sunday
    3. Provisional voting: bring in your neighbor or ??, vote, validate later.
    4. A $100 tax credit for voting.
    5. More polling sites, workplace, mall: show your address, get your ballot.

    Trying to find a consensus on enabling more voting is hard…

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/10/2018 - 12:56 pm.

      Particularly when one party is dedicated to voter suppression.
      Oregon has mail voting exclusively, and as far as I know no problems.
      Personally I would favor online voting exclusively, with registration done on a national level (there are is a mature technology of online identity verification). Something like 95% of the population have Internet access now, and the few who don’t can have facilities made available through libraries and other public sites. For that mater, most cell phone devices have online capabilities these days.

      • Submitted by John Evans on 10/10/2018 - 02:52 pm.

        The hackability problem comes in here.

        • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 10/10/2018 - 10:44 pm.

          Vote on line, receive your completed ballot, printed on paper with return envelope. You sign and return for tabulation:

          Paper trail
          Reduced internet hacking potential
          Ballot security by mailing to valid location in precinct.

          Again, easy to fix and 50% don’t want a fix, they want more problems…

          • Submitted by Curtis Senker on 10/11/2018 - 10:06 am.

            Go to the polls, fill out your ballot and insert it into the box for counting. Paper trail never leaves the chain of custody.
            Internet hacking potential reduced to zero.
            Ballot security by physical custody at valid location in precinct.

            So easy to fix and 50% don’t want a fix, they want more problems…

            • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 10/11/2018 - 02:16 pm.

              Yes, and it’s your 50% that does not want to fix it. I’ve seen no backlash to paper balloting.

              And the more I think about my idea of:

              1. Vote on the internet
              2. Get a printed copy of your completed ballot, mailed to your residence.
              3. Sign it and send it on in the easy to use envelope.

              It has all the pluses of paper ballots and a confirmed known address.

              • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 10/13/2018 - 10:59 am.

                You’re assuming that everyone has access to the internet and an individual secure connection. That’s a pretty huge assumption.

                There’s no need for electronic intervention in the process of paper balloting other than to appear all high tech and fancy.

    • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 10/12/2018 - 11:04 am.

      I lived with vote-by-mail in Oregon for several years. Here’s how it worked in real life, at least up till 2003, when I moved back here.

      A few weeks before the election, every registered voter received the Voters’ Pamphlet in the mail. It contained a summary of every statewide candidate and ballot measure as well as every local candidate and ballot measure. The summaries of the ballot measures included the actual text of the measure followed by a plain language explanation of what its effects would be.

      The pamphlet was financed by paid endorsements. Any individual or group could pay $300 to write an argument for or against a candidate or ballot measure.

      The order of presentation was as follows:
      Candidates for a certain office, listed with their photos and personal statements
      Arguments for the various candidates in that race

      or

      Legal text of ballot measure
      Plain language explanation of its effects
      Arguments for and against

      Once I had decided how I was going to vote, I marked my ballot, placed it in a secrecy envelope, placed that in a second envelope, signed my name across the back of the second envelope to show that I had sealed it, and dropped it into the mailbox.

      People who missed the deadline for mailing had other options. They could hand carry the ballot into their county courthouse by 8PM on Election Day, put it into a collection box at their public library, or send a trusted friend or relative to do so. (Remember, each ballot had to be enclosed in a special envelope and have the voter’s signature over the seal.)

      It works, and Oregon consistently has one of the highest turnouts of any state.

  8. Submitted by John Edwards on 10/10/2018 - 11:23 am.

    The polls in individual states—where the election is determined—were on the whole very wrong (for the umpteenth time) because they underestimated Trump’s strength. (The Star-Tribune’s miss was among the worst.) If it were a national popular election, clearly Trump would have spent more time in California, which is where Clinton piled up her popular vote edge, Below are the results in key states using Real Clear Politics final poll averages against the final result:

    Pennsylvania
    Clinton 46.8 Trump 44.7 Clinton +2.1 Trump wins 0.7
    Wisconsin
    Clinton 46.8 Trump 40.3 Clinton+ 6.5 Trump wins 0.7
    Michigan
    Clinton 47.0 Trump 43.4 Clinton +3.6 Trump wins 0.3
    Minnesota Star Tribune
    Clinton 47.0 Trump 39.0 Clinton +8 Clinton wins 1.5
    Ohio
    Clinton 44.0 Trump 46.2 Trump +2.2 Trump wins 8.1
    Florida
    Clinton 46.6 Trump 47 Trump +.04 Trump wins 1.2
    North Carolina
    Clinton 45.7 Trump 46.5 Trump1.1 Trump win 3.6
    Nevada
    Clinton 45.4 Trump 46.2 Trump 0.8 Clinton wins 2.4
    North Carolina
    Clinton 45.7 Trump 46.5 Trump 0.8 Trump wins 3.6
    Virginia
    Clinton 48.3 Trump 43.0 Clinton +5.3 Clinton wins 5.4
    Arizona
    Clinton 43.0 Trump 47 Trump +4 Trump wins 3.5
    Iowa
    Clinton 41.3 Trump 44.3 Trump +3 Trump Wins 9.5

    • Submitted by Jim Bernstein on 10/10/2018 - 02:19 pm.

      It is worth noting – again – that public opinion polls are not intended to be predictive and should never be regarded as so. They are a sampling of opinion at the moment they are conducted and they always come with a built in sampling error. The polling data you cite was never “wrong” as you allege; they reflect a very close election with a small but significant percent of voters still undecided. What we now know is in the last hours of the campaign more undecided voters chose Mr. Trump.

      • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 10/11/2018 - 01:33 am.

        Even those “snapshots” can be highly inaccurate, even more so than the following apologetic rundown of sources of error:

        https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/howcan-a-poll-of-only-100/

        The sources of error are highly discounted by the pollsters themselves and the media, for whom polls seem to be mere propaganda vehicles.

        It is quite clear that these polls may be terribly misleading, even taken as snapshots. The so-called “margin of error” is an abstraction, a conceptualization, and nothing more. Their presentation as “here’s the way things are” is a false religion seeking believers.

  9. Submitted by Terry Beyl on 10/10/2018 - 11:54 am.

    Couple thoughts…………..

    1. Voters are often asked to make a terrible choice between two terrible major party candidates representing the major parties. I often go into a voting booth and don’t feel like voting at all. If people do vote third party, they are vote shamed, smeared or attacked for supporting one or the other of the major party candidates. Forcing people to make a pre-determined choice at the ballot box is as undemocratic as not voting. Because of this, some choose not to vote. Rather than whining, both Republicans and Democrats should work to open up our democracy and make it a multi-party system or at least implement Ranked Choice Voting.

    2. Also, there are other important ways to participate in a democracy above and beyond than voting. I have been impressed with the leadership of social movements to bring about change. Such orgs such as Fight for 15, Black Lives Matter, NODAPL, DSA to name a few have organized & protested to hold elected officials accountable and thereby make change happen. Do all these people vote? Maybe, maybe not. Would the same changes happen if they only voted, then went home? I doubt it. So they are making a difference on issues the two major parties ignore and are proof that social change in the United States does happen because of third parties and independent social movements.

    • Submitted by Solly Johnson on 10/10/2018 - 04:07 pm.

      Agree. After the election of 2016 establishment Democrats blamed, Stein, Sanders, Susan Sarandon, progressive comedians, Russia, and others rather than looking at Clinton’s ineffective campaign and her choice of a right wing running mate. Totally ignored was the vote total of Gary Johnson, who probably took away many more votes from Trump than any Clinton lost to third party candidates. Rather than make reforms the Democrats doubled down with Schumer and Pelosi continuing to lead in the Congress, Perez an establishment tool leading the DNC, and reversing positions to accept fossil fuel money after stating they would deny it.
      Without the social movements you mentioned no change will occur. The Populist movement of the late 1800’s forced the major political parties to promote change that eventually resulted in the 8-hour day, direct election of Senators, and other reforms. Simply voting without being involved will not result in any significant change.
      Also, election fraud is a serious problem in this nation, not voter fraud. The USA is one of the few nations that does not have a paper trail in elections. The fact that voting machines are owned and controlled by private firms allows manipulation of results. Still, neither party talks about this matter, since they are both beholden to corporate donors.

  10. Submitted by Dan Landherr on 10/10/2018 - 12:33 pm.

    I don’t think anyone should have to apologize for not voting in party primary elections. Most times the races are uncontested and even when they are contested the difference between candidates is often small (party line person A versus party line person B).

  11. Submitted by Alan Straka on 10/10/2018 - 04:18 pm.

    Of course Belgium leads in voter turnout, they have compulsory voting. To be honest, considering the intelligence of the American electorate, it is probably better we have low turnout.

  12. Submitted by Curtis Senker on 10/10/2018 - 06:40 pm.

    Leftists in California, in their zeal to register people, even people who don’t want to register or are ineligible to vote, has corrupted the integrity of their elections.

    Their “motor voter” scheme registered illegal immigrants, felons and other ineligible persons. It’s a disgrace.

    http://www.latimes.com/politics/essential/la-pol-ca-essential-politics-may-2018-california-secretary-of-state-rebukes-1539116457-htmlstory.html

    • Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 10/11/2018 - 09:02 am.

      It would be more accurate to say that the “motor voter scheme” registered 1500 ineligible voters by mistake which is being corrected. That’s just from what I could read above the pay wall. So it’s not “voter fraud”. It’s not a disgrace either.

      • Submitted by Curtis Senker on 10/11/2018 - 05:03 pm.

        Spin it as you like. It wouldn’t have happened if people went to the polls, presented an ID and cast a ballot.

        But that’s the point, isn’t It?

        • Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 10/12/2018 - 04:27 pm.

          Is it? If IDs were required, you could just use your driver’s license to prove that you were registered to vote. Which proves exactly what, if your big concern is that automatic registration leads to voter fraud?

          Maybe you meant to say no one would known if some “motor voter” registered voter who wasn’t eligible for some reason had voted. The point is that that never happened because the “mistake” as the California official who identified the problem also fixed it.

          If “voter fraud” was a real problem, there’d be plenty of available evidence of it. But even the “voter fraud commission” set up by current occupant to investigate the non-problem couldn’t come up with anything. Voter fraud is a fake issue that is used by right wingers to justify or maybe cover anti-democratic tactics like voting list purges, photograph IDs and other voter suppression practices.

  13. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/12/2018 - 08:54 am.

    Yes and no. American’s don’t pay much attention, are generally not well informed, lack critical intellectual skills, and have absolutely no idea what their government does for them on a daily basis. And that’s all reflected in turnout and results.

    On the other hand we’ve had a catastrophic crises in political leadership since the late 60’s. We have a two party system (i.e. duopoly) controlled by elites who live in bubbles for decades. Major crises in education, equity, wealth distribution, health care, energy and environmental policy, and infrastructure have sat on the table for decades while Democrats and Republicans have traded places controlling the government.

    You can blame voters but you can’t ignore the fact that our political system has stubbornly refused to provide candidates that promise to solve problems and deliver progress of any kind.

    Republicans are flat out delusional and disconnected from reality. You tell them we have a health care crises and they blame it on immigrants. Democrats refuse to consider most workable and basic policies and solutions that have been sitting on the shelf for decades because those policies are too “leftist” according centrist their doctrine.

    The last presidential election was absolutely the pinnacle of elite complacency and political malfeasance. The two party system gave Americans the most ridiculous unpopularity contest in US history and no matter who would have have won, they would have been the most unpopular president to ever step into the White House after an election.

    Well, if the two Parties can ignore catastrophic issues that have been destroying millions of American lives for decades, can we really blame voters for their sense of helplessness and dismay?

    Listen, just look at ONE issue- affordable housing and homelessness: Since the late 80’s homelessness emerged as a crises in America and in the Twin Cities. In 1989 shelters in MPLS and St. Paul were turning away a combined total of 1,200 people a night because they were full- and THAT was in the dead of winter. The problem has only gotten worse over the decades yet only NOW when a few hundred people plant their tents in the same place instead of spreading them out all over the city, are our politicians deciding we have a “crises”. And the “response” to that crises would be comical if people weren’t dying in those tents.

    I’ve been voting since 1980- homeless people have been dying in tents and river banks, and under bridges since the mid- 80’s. Who could we possibly have voted for and gotten different results? Was there a popular candidate on the ballot that had a collection of workable plans to deal with the various crises that are destroying American lives in a variety of ways? No… there wasn’t. We had a con man and a champion of the status quo to choose from, both historically unpopular and distrusted. How could we be BETTER voters under those circumstances?

  14. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/12/2018 - 09:30 am.

    Regarding primaries, we have/had two Parties ostensibly controlled by their respective elites. After decades of incompetent and derelict leadership both Parties finally faced populist uprisings, both parties resisted and marginalized their populist candidates. While the Republicans failed to suppress Trump, the Democrats succeeded in suppressing Sanders.

    It’s important to remember that both Parties have “machines” designed to apportion control to the their elites. In the case of Sanders everything from super delegates to closed primaries and a media that ignored his campaign with few exceptions; while repeatedly declaring Clinton the “probative” (I think that’s the term Eric Black used back then) nominee worked to suppress his nomination.

    The neo-liberal “wisdom” of the day back then classified Sander’s as a guy with some popular ideas who wasn’t electable. The political negligence of putting the most unpopular candidate in the country on the ballot at a time when Trump needed to be defeated is now historically obvious, but can we blame voters? And if so, are not the voters who made THAT choice more responsible for the catastrophe than those who didn’t vote?

    So I would agree, neoliberals and centrists suck at voting. The funny thing is they continue to believe they’re best voters in the room despite the catastrophe they’ve unleashed.

  15. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/13/2018 - 11:28 am.

    One bright spot in the last 40+ years was actually Obama. Obama ran on big solutions for big problems most American’s wanted fixed, and he won big considering the electoral map he faced. But he won as a liberal who wanted to enlist Republicans, not a centrist who wanted to descend to Republican non-solutions.

    So what happened? Obama turned out to be a neo-liberal centrist Democrat after all and democrats decided they’d wouldn’t let anyone deny Clinton her turn again in the future. So after a brief promise of competent and effective political leadership, we drifted back into political malpractice. To be sure, Obama was a decent president, he was surely on of the most competent presidents in US history. But that’s a basic requirement, not a sign of greatness. The fact that he stands out so much simply tells us how low the expectations have become.

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