Discord & Dissension – Part IV (b) – Voting & Voters

Only 67% of all eligible voters are even registered to vote.  That is only two out of every three adults.  In yesterday’s post, we looked at the reasons people gave for not voting, some of which were ludicrous, such as “forgot”, “weather”, and “too busy”.  But there are some legitimate reasons that people do not vote.  To understand these, I think it is important to look at some of the demographics of the non-voters.

Race

Among white voters, 73.5% of eligible voters did actually vote in 2016.  But minorities were much less likely to vote, with only 69.7% of African-Americans, 59.4% of Latinos, and the lowest group being Asians at 55.3%.

Age

Not surprisingly, the percentage of eligible voters who vote increases with age:

Age 18 to 24       58.5%

Age 25 to 34       66.4%

Age 35 to 44       69.9%

Age 45 to 54       73.5%

Age 55 to 64       76.6%

Age 65 to 74       78.1%

Age 75 or older 76.6%

But, after the February 2018 Parkland, Florida school shooting,  the percentage of young voters voting took a significant leap in the 2018 mid-term elections.

Education

There is absolutely nothing surprising in this set of statistics:

Less than high school graduate  50.5%

High school graduate      64.1%

Some college     75.3%

Bachelor’s degree            81.2%

Advanced degree            85.8%

Income

Again, no real surprises here:

Less than $20,000           63.7%

$20,000 to $29,999          67.1%

$30,000 to $39,999          71.1%

$40,000 to $49,999          72.6%

$50,000 to $74,999          78.2%

$75,000 to $99,999          81.9%

$100,000 and over          79.6%

While this one isn’t surprising, it is disturbing, for the very people who most need fairness from our government are the least likely to vote to make a difference.

Taken together, when we look at the demographics, look at who is and who isn’t voting, is it any wonder that we currently have a government that is “Of the wealthy white people, By the wealthy white people, and For the wealthy white people”?  They are the ones who vote!

All of the above statistics are understandable when put into context.  There are a number of things that have led to the disenfranchisement of lower income and minority voters.  Consider gerrymandering, redistricting states so that most minorities are grouped into as few as districts as possible so as to be given a much weaker voice than their white counterparts.  I have shared this graphic before, but it is still the clearest, most understandable explanation of how gerrymandering can change the outcome of an election:And then there are the various efforts by many states to make it more difficult for lower income and minorities to vote, such as shortening the hours that polls are open, and closing polling places in poorer or predominantly minority areas. Twenty states do not allow a person convicted of a felony to vote while serving a sentence or while on probation.  Two states, Florida and Virginia, permanently disallow convicted felons voting privileges.

In some cases, voter I.D. may be difficult to obtain.  Consider these cases:

A 96-year-old woman in Tennessee was denied a voter-ID card despite presenting four forms of identification, including her birth certificate. A World War II veteran was turned away in Ohio because his Department of Veterans Affairs photo ID didn’t include his address. Andrea Anthony, a 37-year-old black woman from Wisconsin who had voted in every major election since she was 18, couldn’t vote in 2016 because she had lost her driver’s license a few days before. – New York Times, 10 March 2018

In 1965, Congress passed, and President Lyndon Johnson signed into law, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, perhaps the single most important piece of legislation to come from the Civil Rights movement.  It eliminated certain barriers to voting, such as literacy testing and other requirements that denied many blacks the right to vote.  Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act precluded certain states and districts that had a history of disenfranchising blacks, from implementing any change affecting voting without receiving pre-approval from the U.S. Attorney General or the U.S. District Court for D.C.  But in 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Section 5 by a 5-to-4 vote, freeing nine states, mostly in the South, to change their election laws without advance federal approval.  Chief Justice John Roberts said, essentially, that times had changed and the Court believed racial discrimination was no longer the problem it was in the 1960s.  Almost immediately on the heels of this ruling, Texas announced new voter identification laws and redistricting maps.  Other states in the South followed suit.

Referring back to yesterday’s post, we looked at some of the reasons people gave for not voting.  When we look at the 6% who said they did not vote due to ‘registration problems’, or the 2.7% who claimed ‘inconvenient polling place’, or the 2.6% who said they had ‘transportation problems’, perhaps we can understand those reasons.  Consider the single mom who is not allowed to take time off work, so she goes to vote after work. The polling station in her neighborhood closed last year, so she now has to take a bus to her new polling place 45 minutes away from where she works.  Meanwhile, her children are home alone with nobody to cook their supper, or supervise them.  What would you do?

It is obvious that there are some people who do not vote with good reason.  We need to find solutions to the barriers for minorities and others who are truly disenfranchised.  We also need to find ways to inspire and motivate those who make excuses not to vote, to convince them that their vote is crucial.  And we need to make voting more accessible to all.  In Part III, we will take a look at some things that may contribute to increasing the numbers of people who vote.  There is no single panacea, but I believe there are a number of things that can be done at the federal and state levels, as well as by people like me and you, people who care about our country.  Stay tuned …

27 thoughts on “Discord & Dissension – Part IV (b) – Voting & Voters

  1. Pingback: Discord & Dissension — Table of Contents | Filosofa's Word

  2. Jill, you have done an excellent job here on all of this. Too bad you can’t get a guest post in a major publication. But the very disenfranchised people who don’t vote and don’t think it matters, aren’t the ones that read publications or watch informed news shows or are even aware that it does matter and an make a difference, especially if most of them turn out to vote.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much, Mary! Jeff and I are looking into publishing on some of the conservative websites, just to see if we can get our voices out to those who need to hear. Please keep your fingers crossed for the success of our project!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Discord & Dissension – Part IV (c) – Voting & Voters | Filosofa's Word

  4. I think that while we are working on combatting the various structural and political hindrances that diminish voting, the statistics on race, income, and education point us to a vicious cycle: segments of the population don’t vote because they see nothing to be gained by doing so, which makes it easier for politicians to ignore these constituencies. I’ve stated it backwards; it’s the decision making by politicians that discourages people from finding enough reason to vote. That’s why health care is such an energizer: people can relate it to their daily lives.
    The tragedy is that the Democrats passed so many bills that can actually improve people’s lives, but they’re stuck under Mitch’s heavy hand. I don’t know if anyone’s compiled lists of those bills for the public, but circulation of such a list—“Here’s what we can do to improve your life if you get out there and elect Democrats on all levels”—might be one motivator for disinterested voters.
    Jill: In 2018, most convicted felons in Florida gained the right to vote after serving their sentences. Then the state legislators imposed fees—back to the poll tax—but the basic right to vote advanced, I believe.

    Liked by 3 people

    • You’ve made a point that … perhaps we’ve been missing. When you said that is why health care is such an energizer, because people relate to it … it is something that will directly affect them and they can understand it, whereas perhaps things like foreign policy, taxation, the federal courts … don’t really have motivate them, for although it does affect their lives, it’s not in such a way that they can see it in their everyday lives. Thank you! You’ve given me something to think about here!

      And … you’ve also given me another idea! Yes, I actually dug a bit into that list and have made mention of a few of those bills in past posts, but never considered posting a list of them. Another idea for us … thank you so much, Annie!

      Yes, I had forgotten about Florida voting to make it possible for convicted felons to vote after serving their sentence, so thanks for the reminder.

      Liked by 3 people

  5. Given that the ugly head of racial discrimination has proved itself just as prevalent as it was in the 60’s I wonder why Chief Justice John Roberts never revisited his decision to strike down Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.
    Cwtch

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly! We have slid backward … if in fact we had ever moved forward, but that may have been only an illusion … and discrimination in all things is alive and well. Chief Justice Roberts was wrong to begin with and his decision is now having wide-spread ramifications. Unfortunately, it isn’t as simple as just reversing his decision. A case will need to come before the Court, but even if one did, you and I both know that with the additions of Gorsuch and Kavanaugh to the bench, nothing would likely change. Sigh.
      Cwtch

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    • I honestly believe that … if every single eligible voter, or even 90% of them voted, we could defeat the gerrymandering that put Trump in office. I’ve just about had enough of people telling me they aren’t going to vote because the government is corrupt! How the Sam Heck do they figure to change it if they cannot even be bothered to do something as simple as vote??? Grrrrrrrrrrrr. What it says to me, that voter suppression is a key part of the GOP playbook, is that they don’t have the ability to win a fair and honest election.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jill, true. The answer to those folks, is the government is not corrupt as portrayed. It is inefficient and bureaucratic at times, but there are a lot of hard working people doing needed things. The corrupt paintbrush is a defense mechanism, usually painted by people who don’t want you looking under their hood. Keith

        Liked by 1 person

        • You make good points. I, too, tend to believe it is largely corrupt, as our elected officials seem more concerned with their own fortunes than ours, but you’re right that there are many good people doing their jobs. And, my answer to those who use it as an excuse not to vote is to ask how the heck they plan to change things, to undo the corruption, if they sit at home and allow the same politicians to keep doing the same things. It’s rather like Einstein’s definition of insanity: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”

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  6. Reblogged this on On The Fence Voters and commented:
    Jill continues her take with Part B of her series detailing the barriers and deficiencies in our voting system. After what we’ve experienced over the last two weeks with a rigged impeachment trial, is it any wonder many people simply throw up their hands and say, why bother? Well, we cannot let that happen!
    Coming tomorrow, Part C from Jill explores some of the things we can do to make it easier to vote, as well as how to motivate the electorate. Thanks Jill!

    Liked by 2 people

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