Focusing on the Vote
With the familiar lament over declining participation in American politics, it is always remarkable to me how little attention anyone pays to the issue between presidential elections. Once presidential elections are over, the media, politicians, and interested citizens quickly turn their attention to policy (to some extent), scandal, and character issues.
Trying to tackle the question of how to boost voter turnout (even though there are obviously some increases such as what occurred in 2004) is absolutely central to the health of our democracy. This was one of the great messages of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, which not only struggled to win the right for African-Americans to vote but also focused on how to get newly enfranchised citizens into the voting booth.
While I don’t agree that we should hold the nineteenth century up as a standard for voting participation, there must be an ongoing effort to increase the number of people who turn out to the polls for presidential and congressional elections.
This is an issue that transcends party lines. Republicans and Democrats share equal blame. All kinds of proposals are occasionally floated, such as changing the day when Americans vote or easing registration rules. Yet in “normal times” most concern about this issue vanishes. There is minimal public discussion on the issue. Most politicians don’t care. Few Washington-based or grass roots organizations devote themselves to engaging disinterested citizens. Indeed, if active citizens and politicians devoted as much energy and passion to this issue as they do to problems such as Iraq, Tom DeLay’s ethics, or regulating popular culture, we might end up with a much larger and more vibrant electorate when the next election comes around.
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John H. Lederer - 8/25/2005
"Trying to tackle the question of how to boost voter turnout (even though there are obviously some increases such as what occurred in 2004) is absolutely central to the health of our democracy."
Why? If only 10% of the electorate voted, and that 10% were representative of the electors would government suffer?
Would it suffer if only the more informed voters voted?
What is the positive effect on government of more voters?
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