Sunday, May 21, 2017

Why Do More People Go To The Polls In Iran Than In The U.S. Nowadays?


In 2008, when Obama faced off against John McCain, turnout for an American presidential election was relatively high-- 63.7%. This past year it fell to 55%. France's voter turnout ion their presidential election earlier this month was also down-- to around 65%. Yesterday Iran voted. The voter turnout was around 70%, higher than turnout in any US election since 1900. Why is that? Well there could be a number of reasons-- some existential, but in Iran Election Day is a national holiday; people get off work to vote. (In 1860, the election that marked the end of the South's political dominance over the nation and gave us Abraham Lincoln, turnout was 81.2%)

Turnout has generally been falling in the western democracies since the 1980s, usually attributable to a widespread sense of disillusionment and futility that voting will make any difference. In the U.S. systemic efforts by the Republican Party to decrease election participation has also resulted in lower turnouts, particularly in states where the GOP has been able to enact its voter suppression agenda. Voter participation in Republican-controlled states like Wisconsin are considered responsible, at least in part, for Trump's presidency. In states that have the least voter suppression-- like North Dakota where registration is not required or in Minnesota, Idaho, Maine, and Oregon, where election day registration is permitted, voter participation is relatively high. Minnesota usually has the highest turnout and Maine, North Dakota and Oregon also usually hover around 70%. In the Scandinavian countries, France, and Germany all citizens are automatically registered to vote. Some countries even have compulsory voter participation, including Belgium, Australia, Brazil and Greece.

A report from PBS last November pointed out that "according to interviews with research institutions, advocacy groups and legislators involved in those efforts, restrictive voting laws in some states discourage the electorate from registering to vote. Additionally, they said gerrymandered districts cut across party lines reducing the number of competitive races and interest, and disgruntled citizens, fed up with the often contentious nature of politics, can choose not participate."
According to the United States Election Project, which tracks voting trends, only 36 percent of registered voters cast ballots during the 2014 election cycle, the lowest turnout in a general election since 1942, when many of the nation’s young people were out of the country fighting in World War II. Becker said only three of 10 voters participated in presidential primaries this year.

“A smaller and smaller slice of the electorate are making decisions that are important,” he said.

Voter participation also depends on the state where you vote. According to a Wall Street Journal analysis on state participation, fewer Americans vote when their states are less competitive in races between Democrats and Republicans.

Many of the states with the lowest turnout are dominated by the Republican Party in the South, where restrictive laws can hamper participation. But two states known to be solid Democratic Party supporters-- Hawaii and New York-- also fall in the bottom 20 percent of turnout.

In 2016 alone, at least 14 states installed restrictive voting laws around the country, including limitations on voter registration, photo ID mandates and narrower time periods for early voting, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.

...Since 2012, New York State Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh has pushed for legislation that could address some of those issues, such as early voting, extended registration deadlines and updated technology at polling places, but so far few of them have received broad support, he said.

“Lines are often too long, poll workers are often confused, administration of polling sites are often challenging,” Kavanagh said. “I would say there’s no magic bullet. But New York has systematically failed to have an election system to keep up with election practices.”
We asked some of the candidates running for Congress in the 2018 cycle. Tim Canova, running for the South Florida seat occupied by a poster child for sleaze, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, told us that "There's no doubt that making Election Day a national holiday would result in much higher levels of voting. Too many people simply have little time to vote in between the demands of working, commuting, and taking care of family. A national Election Day holiday would also reinforce the civic ethic of voting not just as a right, but as a solemn duty of all citizens in a democracy."

Katie Hill, who's running against a knee-jerk Republican right-winger in Southern California, knows the difference in her district is going to rest with voter participation. When there's higher participation, Democrats tend to win. When more people abstain, Republicans win. "We need to do absolutely everything we can to ensure the highest possible voter participation if we want a government that truly represents the people it's supposed to serve," she told us. "Automatic voter registration and making Election Day a national holiday would be important first steps, but we should do more. Everyone should be able to vote by mail, and I would even like to see us move towards voting online. If we can verify someone's identity enough and with enough security to complete our taxes or mortgage applications entirely online, then surely we can figure out how to make it possible for people to easily exercise their most fundamental right as an American citizen."

We reached David Gill in Springfield, Illinois yesterday while he was participating in PrideFest. He's running for the swing district seat occupied by GOP backbencher Rodney Davis and he told us that "Being a democratic republic, it would be very appropriate for election day to be a national holiday here in America. We should take any and all steps possible to increase citizen participation in the selection of their elected officials, including designating election day as a national holiday. Any other approach is a slap in the face to the founders of this country, who believed so ardently that men should be permitted to rule themselves. And particularly with an economy that has been rigged against the vast majority of working people, an economy in which many people are forced to work more than one job to simply keep their heads above water, designating election day as a national holiday would allow for greater voter participation and would serve as a meaningful step toward improving the health of our democracy."

Geoff Petzel is running in the suburbs west of Chicago, a blue district held by Ryan ally Pete Roskam, Geoff understands how important it is to encourage voters. "Election Day should be a national holiday," he agreed. "I have been lucky enough to implement that concept at my company. All of my employees work only a half day on Election day.They are encouraged to use their time off to vote. One of the greatest freedoms we enjoy as Americans is the ability to elect our leaders in a democratic fashion. We should celebrate that right we have and encourage participation in the voting process by making it a national holiday."

Berniecrat Tom Wakely is running for the Austin-San Antonio corridor seat currently held by Trump extremist Lamar Smith. This voter participation problem is something he has been talking about for a very long time and he sent us this statement this morning:
Voter turnout is a huge problem. When people look at Texas they see a red state but we are not. We are a no-vote state. Let me give you an example of what I am talking. Two weeks ago we had an election here in San Antonio for city council seats and for mayor. Of the one million plus registered voters in the city barely one hundred thousand voted and that vote was split between fourteen candidates for mayor. The top two vote getters are now headed to a runoff. Their combined vote total was less than 8% of my city's registered voters and that ain't good. The same miserable voter turnout goes for both state and federal elections here in Texas.

I was at the VA hospital last week for a dermatology clinic checkup. I spoke to a bunch of vets in the waiting room and then to the two doctors I saw and guess what, none of them had voted in the election. Not one of them. I asked the doctors why and they gave me the same answers the vets in the waiting room gave me. They were too busy, they had to work, something came up; it was one excuse after another. So it didn't matter if it was a professional, a doctor who didn't vote or a retired auto mechanic who didn't vote, their reasons for not-voting were the same. So what can we do?

I believe the solution to the problem of voter turn-out is not one solution but multiple solutions, the first being national elections should be a national holiday, either a Friday or Monday, giving people a much needed three-day holiday weekend. I also think we should look at paying people to vote in national elections. Give everyone a hundred dollar tax credit might work but waiting until the following year, filing your taxes, then waiting for a refund-- but not be as good as just handing everyone who votes a pre-paid Visa debit card. As far as state and municipal elections go, same thing could apply, holiday and pre-paid Visa card.

But as good as an election day holiday and paying someone to vote may be, it doesn't really address voter apathy or voter suppression both of which are part and parcel of why people don't vote. I believe we should have same day voter registration and do every thing possible to make it easier to vote, not harder. We should move away from the old method of standing in line for hours to vote to a vote by mail system. Everyone, should be able to vote by mail. It leaves a paper trail and it is certainly more secure than electronic voting could ever be.
Goal Thermometer These aren't the kind of ideas you're going to be hearing from the establishment, let alone from dull and unimaginative careerists like Wasserman Schultz, Steve Knight, Rodney Davis, Pete Roskam and Lamar Smith. If you'd like to help progressive Democrats willing to go out on a limb for new, progressive ideas, please consider helping Tim Canova, Katie Hill, David Gill, Geoff Petzel and Tom Wakely win in 2018. If you'd like to contribute to their campaigns directly, you can so do by tapping on the Blue America ActBlue congressional thermometer on the right. Remember, there is no contribution that's too small, not in the kinds of grassroots campaigns these candidates are running to take back Congress and put a stop to the destructive and toxic Trump/Ryan-Republican Party agenda.

UPDATE: 2 More Progressive Candidates Weigh In

Tom Guild is running in the Oklahoma congressional district with the best chance-- by far-- of flipping from red to blue. The DCCC has no intention of helping him displace right-wing nut Steve Russell but his grassroots campaign is chugging along nicely. The aforementioned Brennan Center for Justice has endorsed him, as has Blue America. He just called in with his take:
Low and in many cases declining voter turnout and increased partisan efforts to suppress voter turnout by placing legal obstacles in the way by discouraging or in some cases prohibiting participation are particularly alarming. It tends to impact Americans of modest economic means, who may not be able or may not feel that they are able to take time off from work (although employers are often legally required to give them time off). Dependence on public transportation, which is important but often more time consuming, disproportionately negatively impacts the working poor and Americans of modest incomes. Access to reliable transportation may also be difficult for senior citizens and those outside metropolitan areas who lack public transportation systems. Essentially there are millions of Americans who are effectively denied the fundamental right to participate in our elections, thus skewing or even changing the results in many important elections.

Making Election Day a national holiday would make it possible for millions of disenfranchised Americans to vote on a regular basis. This and other measures could make our representative democracy more representative and more democratic. Access to health care doesn’t mean you can afford to purchase insurance. The right to vote doesn’t necessarily mean that right can be easily or practically exercised by many Americans. We should remove obstacles to participation in our elections. The problem isn’t that too many Americans are voting, but that many feel and are practically or legally excluded from exercising the voting franchise. Thus, regrettably millions of citizens don’t have their voices heard or their votes counted in the results on election day. Making Election Day a national holiday is a good step towards restoring health to our ailing representative democracy.
And the final word on this goes to Jenny Marshall, the intrepid North Carolina Berniecrat running for the Piedmont seat held by fringy Republican Virginia Foxx: "The vote is the most powerful tool we have in our Republic because it levels the playing field between moneyed interests and the citizens. The Republicans are using calculated precision to disenfranchise and discourage people from voting in an attempt to control the outcomes of elections. If you can't win on your message then you just change the rules. I, on the other hand, would like to see expanded voting locations and times to meet the needs of the voters, expanded same day registering and voting opportunities, open primaries and making election day a national holiday. There are many professions that do not have flexible hours to allow voting on election day. Even with the option of letting employees take time off to vote, many work positions that are just not feasible to do so. Making election day a national holiday would be a step in the right direction making it easier for voters to access the ballot box."

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At 8:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe voters still feel like there is a reason to vote. The US elections are always a choice between a terrible corrupt corporatist and a horrible neo-Nazi racist.

A lot of voters say picking the terrible over the horrible is a good and holy choice.

A lot of voters see no point. It's awful either way.

And just to hedge, both parties have stripped, flipped and caged in order to win.
IF too many minorities turn out, they close polling places. And computerized voting can be and has been hacked.
And, of course, courts don't like the idea of actually counting all votes either.

So what's the point?

Just let the fortune 500 CEOs select our dictator and ministers for us. It would be easier and no less horrible.


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