Thursday, February 23, 2017

Why do people in the USA not vote? & how to address this?

Millions of people in the USA who are able to vote do not vote. Why?

I’ve been researching online, and every article seems to have a list of different reasons, plus I've heard some first-hand from people that don't vote that aren't on those lists. So I threw them all together here. This list excludes people who are prevented from voting by law because of a conviction.

The reasons millions of people in the USA who are able to vote but don't include:
  • they don’t have the identification needed by law to register, and they either don’t know how to get that proper ID, or the fees and work hours to get the proper ID gets in the way of obtaining such, or the hassle just doesn’t seem worth it
  • even if they have the identification needed, the hassle of registering to vote doesn’t seem worth it, or they don’t understand how it works
  • the lines to vote are too long before and after work, they can't get off work to vote, or to try to maneuver a long line with children in tow is too difficult.
  • they don’t have transportation to a polling station
  • the hassle of getting an absentee ballot doesn’t seem worth it or they don’t know how to do it
  • they think they will be more likely to be chosen for jury duty if they register to vote (they won't be, however, as juries are drawn from driver's license holders as well)
  • they get sick on election day or have a family emergency
  • they don’t care about politics; they have no motivation to care
  • they don’t like any of their choices
  • they think voting really does not matter
  • bad weather 
I think that all but the last four bullets can be addressed by education, personal assistance and/or absentee ballots. And that should give you hope. And motivation to get involved to change things.

Another thing about this list, as noted by The Guardian: the obstacles to voting disproportionately affected black Americans.

Non-white Americans have typically had much lower turnout rates than white Americans. The Census Bureau asks eligible voters who don’t turn out to vote why they didn’t. Their responses show that white Americans are five times more likely than black Americans to say they didn’t vote simply because they “did not like candidates or campaign issues”. Meanwhile, black voters are more likely than white voters to cite obstacles to voting, such as “inconvenient polling place” or “transportation problems”.

According to the Center for American Progress,, “poll closures and limited voting hours disproportionately affect black voters”. And looking at early voting data, they found that trend was particularly noticeable in North Carolina, where there were 158 fewer early polling places in counties with large black communities and African American voter participation was down 16%.

Another reason, “registration problems”, was chosen by about 7% of eligible black voters and 5% of eligible white voters when explaining why they did not vote in the 2012 presidential election. Voter ID laws, which disproportionately affect black and younger voters according to a report by the Government Accountability Office, are often the reason for this.

So, now what?

Please get involved in efforts that help people register to vote. Contact your local Democratic Party HQ (or the party of your choice), the nearest League of Women Voters, any Black Lives Matter affiliates, the local chapter of the Urban League, etc., to find out how to join a register-to-vote effort. Ask your friends and family if they are registered to vote and, if they aren't, help them do so - many states allow people to register online. Make a goal: that you will, personally, register five new people to vote in 2017. You will register five more in 2018.

Help people get the identification they need to vote if they don't have such. Again, those aforementioned organizations may have such an effort but need more volunteers to help with it.

Look for efforts to help to get people to the polls. There are local elections and voter referendums in 2017 all over the USA, maybe in your city or county. Find out by asking any of your city council representatives (you can email them). Consider taking a vacation day on voting day so you can drive people to their polling stations. Or help people apply for and submit absentee ballots.

Except for filling suddenly vacant seats, the next elections for national Senators and Representatives in November 2018. It is vital that there is a huge voter turnout for these November 2018 elections, and the work has to start NOW for that to happen. Consider taking a vacation day on voting day so you can drive people to their polling stations or help with child care for someone needing to vote. Or sign up with the aforementioned organizations to help people apply for and submit absentee ballots - a great idea for people that have transportation, work or child care issues that might prevent them from being able to vote.

And one last thing, to those that say they don't vote because they don't like the choices: get over yourselves, buttercups. It is the height of white privilege to have the right to vote, the ability to vote, the credentials to vote, the registration to vote, and then not vote. I voted for Bernie in the primary, but damn right I voted for Hillary in November. Because it was far, far more important to try to prevent what's happening now than to be selfish and think non-participation sends a message. Because it doesn't. Not when it comes to voting.

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