On Voters Not Voting – Part III: Solutions

In Part I of this project, we looked at the reasons people give for not voting, and in Part II, we looked at the demographics … who isn’t voting, and why.  When we put those two together, we see why some people aren’t voting, for the system is designed to make it difficult for them.  In this, the final part of the project on voters not voting, we will look at some ways to effect change.  There are actually two distinct groups of non-voters:  those who are at least partly disenfranchised, for whom the system has made voting a difficult task, and those who are either too lazy or apathetic to stir themselves to vote.  The solutions are different for each of these groups, so we need to look at them separately.  But first, a disclaimer.  There is no panacea, no simple, single solution that will all of a sudden solve the problem of nearly half the eligible voters failing to vote.  We must find a multitude of small steps that all contribute toward bringing us closer to the goal.

Registration

The first step in the process of voting is to register.  At present, the onus for registering lies solely with the voter. Every state’s registration rules are a bit different.  In 37 states, one can register online, but in the other 13, registration must be done in person.  For many, this means taking time off work, and possibly difficulties finding transportation.  Online registration is a great idea, but it needs to be made well-known to all, for many are not aware that it is possible, or how to begin the process.There are ways to remind people:  workplaces and churches could place posters reminding people to register and listing places, such as DMV as well as the website.  Schools could send home flyers reminding parents to register.  And to be really proactive, districts could mail registration forms to all homes in the district.  Another, even better idea is automatic registration, such as is used in countries like Canada and Germany where voter turnout rates are in the 90 percentile range.  According to the Brennan Center for Justice, “Eleven states and the District of Columbia have already approved automatic voter registration, and 19 states have introduced automatic registration proposals in 2018. In addition, the New Jersey Legislature passed automatic voter registration on April 12th, and the bill is awaiting Governor Phil Murphy’s signature.”

Registration may well be half the battle and some combination of the above ideas would likely have a significant impact on voter turnout.

The Disenfranchised

This group consists of people who are typically lower income or minorities, for whom just getting through the day and feeding their family is hard.  State regulations have made the process of voting harder for these people by closing polling stations in their neighborhoods, shortening the hours of polling stations, and requiring a driver’s license or other state-issued identification that they may not have.  The solution is simple, right?  But with the repeal of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, there is no longer a requirement for federal oversight, and the states are largely free to do whatever they want, within certain boundaries.  Section 5 needs desperately to be reinstated, but that will not likely happen soon, if ever.  Meanwhile?

With a republican majority in Congress, it is unlikely that legislation to help make voting easier for the disenfranchised would fly, for those it would benefit are more likely to vote democrat.  One partial solution is what happened in Pennsylvania recently, when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the state’s district map must be re-drawn in order to be more fair.  The ruling was unsuccessfully challenged by republican lawmakers, and the map has been redrawn.  While gerrymandered maps are not technically a barrier to voting, in the sense that they may cause polling stations to be farther from a person’s home or workplace and thus require greater travel time, the reality is that they can be a barrier.  I would like to see the Supreme Courts in every state follow the lead of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

One thing that many of us can do is actually help people get to their polling places.  There are many volunteers who spend the entire election day driving elderly people and others without transportation to and from the polling stations.  A reader of this blog left me this comment yesterday:

“I have a listing of homeowners and rental units in the town in which I live..and together with other “ladies” from the Resist Movement in OK, go door to door and hand out voter registration papers..we will offer to assist in filling them out, and we then offer a ride to the polling places on voting days. You’d be amazed how many do not vote because they thought they “weren’t allowed to vote” after having misdemeanor convictions!”

I just wanted to hug this lady!!!  She is doing something to make the world a better place, and to her, my thumbs are all up!

Other measures that have proven helpful in getting voters to the polls include:

  • Early voting, which allows any qualified voter to cast a ballot during a specified period prior to the actual election day.
  • Absentee voting, whereby voters may request an absentee ballot and return it either by mail or in person, with or without an excuse. Presently, 27 states and the District of Columbia allow absentee voting without needing an excuse, 20 others require an excuse.
  • All-mail voting, where a ballot is automatically mailed to every eligible voter (no request or application is necessary). Three states, Oregon, Washington and Colorado currently use all-mail voting.  Funny story about this … I periodically make comments to my girls about projects I am working on, usually unsolicited and out of the blue.  As I was working on this one, I asked the girls if they were aware that 3 states actually had all-mail voting.  Daughter Chris’ jaw dropped to the ground, thinking I meant “all-male” voting!

early voting map

Voter Apathy

Those who are simply either too lazy, don’t care, don’t like the candidates, or believe that it is a lost cause, may be the most challenging to get to the polls.  To do so will require a plethora of different things, starting with voter education, and involving large amounts of motivating and inspiring techniques.  Unfortunately, these constitute the largest group, some 65% of all the non-voters.  This translates into roughly 58.2 million people!

While I personally believed … still believe … that Hillary Clinton would have been a good president, I admit that she came with some baggage, and was not a particularly ‘lovable’ candidate, did not run an inspired campaign.  Thus, in 2016, it is understandable that many did not like either candidate.  But how to convince these people that it is better to vote for the lesser of two evils than to simply shrug their shoulders and stay at home watching television?

I think the starting point must be in education.  According to Donald Green, a political scientist at Columbia University in New York City, it is up to parents and teachers to stress just how important it is.  Common sense, yes?

I don’t know the answers, but somehow we must find ways to convince these 58.2 million people that their vote counts, that they make a difference, but not sitting home on their patooties.  Talk to friends who say they don’t care.  Join a volunteer group that is going door-to-door talking to people.  Sport a t-shirt with your favourite candidate (I still wear my Obama t-shirt!!!), put a bumper sticker on your car.  Help people to better understand the issues, the candidates.

A recent quote I saw in the New York Times seems apropos:

To many African-American voters in Alabama, Cecil said, “Donald Trump is the living embodiment of the idea that voting doesn’t matter.” Trump is profoundly unfit to be a president — a congenital liar and racist who lost the popular vote by 2.9 million votes. And yet president he is.

This is, I think, one of the biggest hurdles, and while I disagree with the thought process, I understand it.

Conclusion

Given our current system, we will not likely achieve 90% turnout, but I think we can damn well do better than 56%, especially given that those who voted in 2016 were a majority of wealthy, white people, leaving behind a large portion of the citizens, equally important citizens, of this nation.  Because of the results, we have all but lost our voice in our government.  Sure, you can write and call your members of Congress, but I haven’t had a personalized response yet, and I’m never even sure if they hear, but I’m sure they don’t care.  Until November 6th, and then they will care.  We must send a message, but in order to do so, we all need to speak.  Let’s help make sure more people vote this year.  Let’s all do a few things within our own circle of friends, family & neighbors:

  • Make sure they are registered. If they aren’t offer to help with filling out forms, taking them to register if they cannot do so online.
  • Help them understand the issues and what each candidate stands for.
  • Keep talking about how very important it is that everyone get out and vote, without necessarily pushing a specific candidate.
  • Volunteer to drive people to the polling stations on November 6th.

It is up to We The People, for we cannot rely on the government to work toward increasing voter turnout.  We need some new blood … let’s make it happen, folks!  And thus concludes this project on Voters Not Voting.  I hope you have found it useful.  Thanks for reading!!!

60 thoughts on “On Voters Not Voting – Part III: Solutions

    • Thank you, Opher!!! I think people not voting may be one of the biggest hurdles we face for the mid-terms. I will probably hit on this topic from time to time, just to remind people. 😉

      Like

  1. Reblogged this on The Secular Jurist and commented:
    This is an excellent three-part series which I highly recommend reading. I would also like to add that teaching civics in public schools is imperative for increasing voter participation and turnout even though it is a long-term solution. Currently in America, voter turnout rarely exceeds 60% in presidential elections, 40% in midterm elections, and 20% in off-year state and local elections. Democracy cannot survive, much less function, in this kind of environment.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Our town’s public library has begun online voter registration. Only half the state is set up so far, and thank goodness we were a “test” city! So now, we “friends of the library” are mobilizing with the resistance here and getting people registered to vote. The library also has a sign up sheet for those needing assistance on voting days..both with transportation and translation/blind or hearing impaired assistance. We also have a mobile library unit that had a laptop computer donated just for registration…and I kind of hope my old puter doesn’t die any time soon as my backup is now mobile! LOL So we are able to reach out to smaller towns throughout our library’s district.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Well done on these three posts Jill. Best wishes to all of you fighting for this right.
    “Those who are simply either too lazy, don’t care,”
    Simply time for some Tough Love.
    ‘If you are too lazy or don’t care’, then you are a traitor to your nation. No two ways about it. When ‘they’ come down to upset your world, don’t come whinging to me.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, Roger! It was such an important topic, yet not really contentious, that I didn’t think it would affect me so much, but at the end, I find myself drained, exhausted and depressed. Sigh. Time to start climbing back out of the rabbit hole …

      Liked by 2 people

          • Karlyn out of Patchwork says ‘Talk to bees or butterflies’
            I suggest a non-political radio station that broadcasts programmes about nature, gardening, cookery, fine arts, etc.
            I suppose training the Significant Seven, to do tricks is a non-starter?

            Liked by 1 person

            • And if it would ever stop bloomin’ snowin’ so that the bees and butterflies would come out of hiding, I WOULD talk to them, for I enjoy those critters. But they don’t like getting snow on their little wings, and who can blame them. More of the white stuff coming down as I speak! And as to the Significant Seven … they do tricks, alright … just not, perhaps, the ones I would like. I thought I was going to have to change it to the Significant Six a couple of nights ago, as Orange seemed to have a stroke or something, and we didn’t think he would make it through the night. But, by the next morning he had re-bounded and was back to his “normal” self, being ornery. At 18, it is only a matter of time, but … I was glad he rebounded, for I wasn’t ready to say ‘goodbye’ just yet.

              Liked by 1 person

  4. The bankers don’t want people voting. Heavens NO. They count on the apathy to force their candidates in. Who are their candidates? All of them. That is why they are so closely monitored by party central of whichever party. In Canada a Federal election; the last one, voter turnout was 57.1%. One imagines that the promise of legalized cannabis accounted for the Liberal party’s win? It certainly helped? That and the unpopularity of Stephen Harper and his and Conservative Party, methods.

    All wars are bankers wars, “War is a racket”~ Major Gen. Smedley Butler
    Cheers Jamie

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Hi Jill,
    While I do not believe in democracy, I am still willing to help. And the first problem I see is with the assumption everyone has access to Computers, the internet, and the knowledge of how to use them. Especially when it comes to the disenfranchised, there are probably millions of people out there who are afraid of technology, or who cannot afford such devices. As you said about families who are barely able to feed their families–these people probably do not have the “luxury” of a computer, and computers “are a luxury” to them, not a necessity like they are to others. Maybe even televisions are a luxury, especially with the cost of cable and satellite. There are also a huge number of non-church-goers out there, and families without children at home, how are you going to reach them?
    Then there are other groups who are not white, African-American, Latino, or Asian, in particular Aboriginal people, Muslims (many of whom are probably scared to vote due to the way they are treated), and what about the millions of homeless people (are homeless people even allowed to vote, given that they have no permanent addresses?)?
    Big questions: Are there polling stations on Reserves? In homeless shelters? In hospitals, particularly longterm facilities? Seniors’ housing? Anywhere that whole groups of people may have mobility issues?
    Why not?
    These are just some of the issues I thought about as I read your above post, and parts I and II. And what about Puerto Rico? Do the people there get to vote?
    And where did you get the information that Canadians vote in the 90 percentile. I would dispute that all the way to the polls. As voters we are often more apathetic than Americans, for which there are many reasons, with one of the biggest being that voting for a candidate in your region translates as a vote for two people, the candidate, and the leader of his or her party. Even if you like a particular candidate, if you don’t like the leader of that party, you don’t vote. The results are rigged, and a conscientious voter will not vote for a leader they don’t like, nor will they vote for a leader they like if the candidate for that party is not acceptable. I haven’t paid attention to the numbers of actual voters in elections lately, but when I did they were often in the 30-50% ranges. But they count things like that differently now, so probably it looks higher now, but that is because a huge block of non-voters are no longer counted. The US apparently hasn’t caught on to that trick yet.
    I have to stop writing now, I have forgotten a number of other things I wanted to say. If I remember them I’ll get back to you. But I think this should give you some things to think about. Be well, Jill.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Dear Jill,

    Thanks to you and all our blogging friends who are doing posts which help educate voters. But more needs to be done especially to counter the outlets with a high rate of falsehoods like FOX TV. It is frustrating to read a 2017 Dec. poll where 51% of republicans still believe President Obama was born in Kenya.

    I love the idea of automatic voter registration.

    Hugs, Gronda

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Gronda! Yes, much, much more needs to be done, and we must all jump in and do whatever our circumstances allow us to do. I’d like to see at least 80% turnout in November. Pipe dream? Maybe. I think the automatic registration is a no-brainer, and I don’t know why every state isn’t on board with it. Oh wait … yes I do … it might result in more African-American and Latino votes, in other words, more votes for democratic candidates! Hugs!!!

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Jill, the greatest accomplishment of President Trump is to galvanize a force of women and youth to get more involved. The significant number, diversity and quality of candidates running is quite impressive. These folks need to run there own campaign as they represent that community. Doug Jones is not Nancy Pelosi, nor should he have to be. Just like there are different kinds of people, there are different kinds of Dems and Reps. What seems to be working for the Dems is good, solid candidates in every race. Unopposed candidates do not serve us well as a country. Keith

    Liked by 3 people

    • You are right about that! I like to thing he will galvanize many to come out of their apathetic stupor and get themselves to the polls this November, but … I’m not holding my breath. We need to keep doing all that we can to educate and enlighten, methinks.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Reblogged this on It Is What It Is and commented:
    The only way … ‘It is up to We The People, for we cannot rely on the government to work toward increasing voter turnout. We need some new blood … let’s make it happen, folks! ‘
    This concludes a three-part,very educational and interesting post!!

    Liked by 3 people

  9. This really has been a brilliant expose, Jill, and I sincerely hope that it starts some of those ‘can’t be bothered’ people thinking.
    One thing that got me thinking was the choice of day. It’s Tuesday isn’t it? I wonder what would happen if election day were changed to a Saturday? I know a lot of people work weekends as well as weekdays but it might help some.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, dear Andrea!!! I actually intended to mention that, but after an almost straight 18 hours working on this series, my brain was fried. But yes, in Europe, most elections are held on Sunday when people do not work and have no excuse. Why Tuesday? Good question … I shall delve into it.

      Liked by 1 person

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