Why Americans Don’t Vote

There are both operational and existential reasons why people don’t vote. There is a problem with having elections on Tuesdays. In this country in order to vote on a weekday one must forgo work, using time off with and sometimes without pay. One must struggle through traffic to the polling place and then back, and in some cases negotiate very long lines very poorly managed at the polling places to accomplish voting. Management of polling places and vote counting are local affairs and sometimes notoriously corrupt and incompetent. Finally, and essentially, many people are not convinced voting makes a difference. Though the names of office holders may change, the system remains the same. The minuscule differences between the two major parties generate hysterical rhetoric on the part of die-hard partisans giving the appearance of choice, but denying actual change. When voting is inconvenient, causes a financial loss, and results in only counterfeit change, it will be hard to mobilize the people over time.

The electoral college which was a useful tool initially is now problematic. The disconnects within and between the branches of the federal government, the 50 states and numerous localities make for a crazy quilt of jurisdictions and interests, that result in no straight line between conception of a policy and execution of that policy. I propose that the government and Constitution need to be updated with the knowledge, experience, and technology we have today.
There should be a national electoral authority, a professional non-partisan body designed to bring free and fair voting to all people on a national holiday. Election of legislators should be at large by state, these same members should be both the state and federal legislators in unicameral legislatures. The number of legislators should greatly expanded, at a guess the current number of legislators plus lobbyists plus staffers is a good start. The state and national executive branches should be selected by these bodies and answerable to them. Under these circumstances voting becomes important and available.

Mandatory voting is not a change that I would advocate if that alone is the proposed remedy to apathetic voters. The countries mentioned that have it Australia and New Zealand, have parliamentary systems, allowing for a more directly observable, if imperfect, connection between voting and national policy. I suggest the way to get Americans to vote is make voting important in the conduct of government, and to put all voters on an equal footing, one man one vote on a national holiday.

We need a new government.


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