WASHINGTON, November 4, 2014 — What’s wrong with America, voters and elections? Let’s start with voters. Voter turnout in San Diego, is expected to be the lowest in a non-presidential election in 30 years. Only 37 percent of eligible voters are likely to cast a ballot. Same in Shenandoah County, Virginia. In Colorado, under 40 percent and in Massachusetts, around 20 percent. 30 percent in Madison County, Alabama. The State of Nevada, about 25 percent. And so it goes pretty much everywhere in the nation.
Many election experts blame low turnout as typical in ‘off-year’ elections, but even given that as a customary factor, the numbers are extremely soft.
Demographics offer more data but don’t answer the underlying questions. Turnout for Whites and Blacks is higher, but markedly lower for Latinos and Asians. The youth vote (18-29) is significantly lower – up to 20 points than over 30’s. In most age brackets, women vote more consistently than men.
And there is a wide gap between the upper middle class and the working class and the poor – about 35 percent.
But these only show differences between segments of the voting population, looked at individually. Collectively, voters are not engaged. Here is where America stacks up compared to other industrialized nations:
The United States ranks 120th of the 169 countries for which data exists on voter turnout, falling between the Dominican Republic and Benin, according to a January 2012 study from the Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance.
So why are American voters disengaged? For an answer to that, we must look at elections through the eyes of the non-voter.
Howard Steven Friedman, Professor at Columbia University, believes that for a lot of potential voters, the two-step registration process is just too burdensome. He suggests that if government simply used existing citizen databases, as do governments in Austria, Canada, Germany, France and Belgium, and mail out invitations informing the resident where the polling place is, participation would increase at least incrementally.
That covers the convenience issue, but even with the incorporation of streamlined registration such as ‘moter-voter’ laws, there is still a large segment that are turned off to voting. Studied observers of our political system, mainly point to one overarching affliction that has a variety of symptoms – voter disillusionment. Some of this stems from a sense that a single vote won’t impact the outcome.
Making it difficult to blunt this perception is the existence of so many states in which a single party dominates the political landscape. California, Illinois, and New York, are states that most often come to mind when the subject of one party rule comes up, but USA Today, found that the situation is more widespread than ever:
Beginning in January, 46 states will have one-party control of their legislatures, the highest number since World War II, and in many of those states the majorities are now big enough to sweep aside any objections from the other party.
In 38 of those states, the ruling party will also control the governors’ mansion, creating opportunities for activists to press ambitious and highly controversial measures through the state government.
For an election year that failed to provide a sweeping mandate in Washington, 2012 did produce a state legislative map of deeper blues and richer reds. One-party dominance is at a high-water mark — the last time parties shared power in only three state legislatures was 1944, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Republicans feel adrift in Democratic run states and Democrats feel powerless in GOP controlled states. Voting seems an exercise in futility.
Voters are also discouraged by corruption, influence peddling, and a wide gap between not only the promises made by candidates and their non-delivery of those promises, but the lack of qualifications of office seekers, other than political experience. There is a perception that incumbents are nearly impossible to unseat. This is a perception that is mostly based in reality.
Until recently, to challenge a sitting House member, a candidate had to raise between 1.6 and 2 million dollars. A Senate race – 10.4 million. But in 2014, those numbers are going up and will continue trending upward. This makes insurgent type candidates typified by Jimmy Stewart’s iconic Senator Jefferson Smith, essentially mythological:
And the rest could be summed up by a collective sense that we’ve lost control of Congress, the White House, our state legislatures and even county and local offices to the ruling class and their influence machines. Many are realizing that we don’t have a two-party system in America, but rather, a ‘dual party system’. The Democrat and Republicans operate along the lines of a national crime syndicate, with behavior and tactics that the Gambino’s and the Genovese’s would applaud.
Democrats tell blacks that they will represent their dreams of opportunity and upward mobility and Republicans promise their voters, smaller, less suffocating government and lower taxes. Neither deliver the goods.
Democrats claim that they will reform the financial markets, while taking enormous sums from Wall Street. Republicans pledge to secure the borders, while they champion ‘immigration reform’ that rewards large employers and craters the wages of the working and middle class.
The corporate media colludes with the Democrats and Republicans to deprive us of even an opportunity to hear from third party and independent candidates. Throw in voting fraud and negative campaigning on steroids and it all adds up to a huge turn off. Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama obey the Constitution when it suits them and ignore it when it doesn’t. Bureaucracies have a life of their own and the electorate sees no progress being made to rein them in.
Polls here in November, appear to signal a change in the balance of power in Congress, from the Democrats to the GOP. The few that are voting, are voting with the uneasy sense that, as in times past, in comes the new boss same as the old, and the one thing they can count on is that politicians will take care of their patrons and throw us some stale crumbs.
Old habits die hard though. My ballot is in the mail and local elections are your best opportunity to initiate reform. The real heavy lifting starts on November 5th.