This post from 2014 is making its fourth appearance. Last year a pre-election post by Mike Rowe got a lot of attention and caused me to rethink my own post. I used a line of Mike’s to end last year’s preamble: “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.”
Besides talking about needing only “voters who wish to participate”, Mike’s post speaks of the need for voters to be qualified. It’s possible to see the results of last year’s presidential election being partially due to the participation of unqualified voters. It’s also possible to see it as the result of non-participation by qualified voters. That non-participation is doubly troubling when it is the result of folks being denied their vote by those in power. I’m closing this year’s preamble with a line from an image that has appeared at the end of each of my pre-election day posts: “Bad politicians are elected by good people who don’t vote.”
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.