Yes, this is the same post that went up just before election day in 2014 and 2015. As I prepare to post it yet again, an article that’s somewhat at odds with mine has been getting some internet attention. It was written by Mike Rowe who I admire for his uncommon amount of common sense. Originally published by Mike in August, its recent appearance on some other websites is what brought on the latest attention. The original is here. I recommend reading it but will attempt a short and sweet summary. In the article, Mike declines to encourage everyone to vote for the same reason he doesn’t encourage everyone to own a gun. Not everyone is qualified. I get it and I basically agree. The two year old post repeated below could be interpreted as proclaiming any marking of a ballot, no matter how random, a good thing. I didn’t mean that and I doubt if anyone who read it thinks I did. For someone like Rowe, with a much larger and more varied audience than mine, that might not be the case. Mike isn’t encouraging everyone to vote “Because the truth is, the country doesn’t need voters who have to be cajoled, enticed, or persuaded to cast a ballot. We need voters who wish to participate in the process.”
We fought a war to get this country going then gave every land owning white male above the age of twenty-one the right to vote. A little more than four score years later, we fought a war with ourselves that cleared the way for non-whites to vote. Several decades of loud, disruptive, and sometimes dangerous behavior brought the granting of that same right to non-males a half-century later and another half century saw the voting age lowered to eighteen after a decade or so of protests and demonstrations.
Of course, putting something in a constitution does not automatically make it a practice throughout the land and I am painfully aware that resistance followed each of those changes and that efforts to make voting extremely difficult for “the other side” are ongoing today. I don’t want to ignore partisan obstructions and system flaws but neither do I want to get hung up on them. I meant my first paragraph to be a reminder that a hell of a lot of effort, property, and lives have gone into providing an opportunity to vote to a hell of a lot of people. Far too many of those opportunities go unused.
There are so many ways to slice and dice the numbers that producing a fair and accurate measure of voter turn out may not be possible. A Wikipedia article on the subject includes a table of voter turnout in a number of countries for the period 1960-1995. The United States is at the bottom. The numbers are nearly twenty years old and open to interpretation so maybe we’re doing better now or maybe we shouldn’t have been dead last even then. But even if you want to think we are better than that, being anywhere near the bottom of the list and having something in the vicinity of 50% turnout is embarrassing… and frightening.
In the title I claim to not care how anyone votes. That’s not entirely true, of course. I have my favorite candidates and issues. I’ll be disappointed in anyone who votes differently than I do but not nearly as disappointed as I’ll be in anyone who doesn’t vote at all. I’m reminded of parents working on getting their kids to clean their plates with lines like, “There are hungry children in China who would love to have your green beans.” I’m not sure what the demand for leftover beans is in Beijing these days but I’m pretty sure some folks there would like to have our access to ballots and voting booths.