Midterm Primaries: Changing Voter Apathy in America

One of the biggest reasons this website decided to get active again was to help get people energized for the vitally important midterm primaries in 2018. As most of us know, midterm elections historically just don’t excite the troops enough to get America to vote, and it’s even worse for the midterm primaries. Even in the Presidential elections, the turnout in this country leaves much to be desired. According to a study this year by Pew Research, over 44% of eligible voters didn’t bother to vote in November 2016 and while some of that can no doubt be attributed to the glaring flaws of the two top candidates, that reasoning won’t explain away all of it. The census bureau estimates that in November of 2016 there were 245 million eligible voters but over 87 million of them stayed away from the polls. The U.S. might be number one in a lot things but when it comes to electing politicians, we trail most developed countries.

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The midterm elections in 2014 though were much, much worse, in fact, it was the lowest turnout in seven decades. As we watch the members of the House vote for garbage legislation like the Tax Scam Bill, let’s not forget how we got there. We got there because the people that fill those seats and take up oxygen in Washington, oftentimes run election and re-election campaigns where they are pretty much unchallenged, or if they are, not enough of the right voters get involved. According to the United States Election Project barely over 36 percent of eligible people voted in the 2014 midterms, and while some states actually were successful in GOTV (Getting Out The Vote) campaigns, many others states saw dramatic decreases. This includes my own home state of Washington, which saw a decrease of over 27%. Data is hard to come by for midterm primaries, but there’s a general consensus that those have even lower numbers than the midterms.

Chart courtesy of http://www.electproject.org/2014g

What causes this seemingly apathetic attitude towards such important issues like voting? Well for starters, younger people don’t take as much interest in politics as their older counterparts. But that’s just the beginning, as you can see from the screen grab below from Fair Vote, there are several factors at play here.

Of course the type of election has a great deal to do with how involved people care to be, for an example let’s look at mayoral races. In 2013 a study of 340 mayor’s races showed that in the years 1996-2012, not quite 26% voted for their city’s mayor and in some cases the turnout was in the single digits, even dropping as low as 5% in the 1999 race for Dallas mayor. The same year, San Antonio didn’t do much better with a dismal 7.5% showing up to cast ballots.

A good portion of us now spend a lot of time on social media and see some of our friends, relatives and acquaintances posting all day long about how “Woke” they are now.  I’d like to believe this to be true but we’ll see how “Woke” everyone is when it comes time to vote in the midterm primaries. Running around like our hair is on fire every time The Donald says or tweets something stupid, while entertaining for some people, is not going to get us anywhere if we want to solve the biggest issues facing us as a country if that’s all we are doing. Far be it from us to tell others what they should be doing with their free time but keeping a good portion of our attention on the terrific opportunity we have coming up this year seems to be a better way to channel the rage many of us feel.

How do we get people to start caring? I’m not talking about the people that are completely turned off from the system screaming that your vote doesn’t count. To me that’s a cop out and we are unlikely to change many of those minds, plus they are in the minority. I’m talking about the ones that don’t have a full grasp yet of how we make changes. Those are the ones we need to reach, because there’s a lot of them and with the right kind of GOTV campaigns they can be swayed to spend a little bit of time and make their voices heard. Universal Registration should also be mandatory, in that when someone turns 18 in this country they are automatically registered to vote. Early voting seems like a great idea as well but in some instances it’s been shown to actually decrease turnout, although I think we need to give that more time as more people get used to that process. There’s another group of people that are extremely valuable to this movement though, people that are in fact wide awake and looking for a way to get more involved and it’s our job to show them how to spend their time wisely and be as effective as possible.

After Bernie’s run, a number of progressive organizations have come forth to identify progressive candidates, a few of those being Our Revolution and Justice Democrats as well as a whole bunch of Facebook groups and pages. These are just suggestions on ways to get started though. It can be a daunting task for a lot of folks to figure out where to even start, so getting your feet wet in almost any way is better than doing nothing at all. Not finding what you want? Start asking friends or start putting together your own list of progressives running in your area and then get involved with those local campaigns. Search for Facebook groups in your area, or make your own local Facebook group and invite like-minded people in your area to join it. I mentioned “Woke” people on social media a few paragraphs ago and while social media has it downfalls, it has become one of the most critical pieces to the grassroots organizing puzzle and that won’t be changing anytime soon. Social media is even more critical to the unknown progressives that don’t have the money or the media backing that other candidates do. We are seeing that play out right now in a Wisconsin primary race for Paul Ryan’s seat and although Cathy Myers certainly has an uphill climb to catch Randy Bryce, without social media she would be completely out of it.

Finally, with millions of people like us now interested in the political process, each one of us should try to bring at least one new person into the mix and create a wave, as the new ones will reach out to others as well. The ball is in our court and we’ve literally NEVER had a better chance to take the power away from those that seek to do so much destruction.

 

 

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