Why Don’t More People Vote?

Yeah, obviously I know that it’s more complicated than this, but do you think that it might have anything to do with the fact that you’re likely to head down to the polling station on your way to work at 9:30 in the morning and find out that they’re not open until noon? Maybe? Not having polling stations open when they’re going to be most convenient for some people, and then having them only open for 9 hours so that if you work in the evening and don’t live close to your district location, you’re fucked?

So, now I get to go back on my way home from work. I wasn’t the only one there and pissed off, and there were more cars pulling in as I left. I live in a very conservative district, so no this isn’t a Repubs screwing the Dems issue, but it’s still bullshit. In fact, I just found out that it’s the same for the whole area, so I can only assume that it’s a NY State thing. Seriously, noon? On a Tuesday? The dentist’s office isn’t that damn inflexible. I guess that’s what I get for not watching the local news.

We live in a country where less than half the population votes regularly and where only a tiny fraction of people bother to vote in the primaries. You’d think that politicians might have an interest in fixing that, but I guess it’s much easier to pander to the same old voters than to try to get new ones.

Firstly, voting days need to be public holidays. The end, non-negotiable. Secondly, the polls should be open for at least 12 hours, probably from 8a.m. to 8/9p.m., so that people still have a chance to vote even if they work early or late because their job is too shitty to give them public holidays off. Thirdly, I get the whole efficiency and nonexistant voter-fraud issue, but I feel like there really has to be a better way of doing things than assigning each person to one polling location and one location only, because people don’t always work where they live. And god knows that you have to fight tooth and nail to obtain your damn right to a provisional ballot. Really, I’m sure that we could work this out if we wanted to.

And there you go, my morning rant. How is your day so far?

0 thoughts on “Why Don’t More People Vote?

  1. Cara Post author

    EXACTLY. When I got out of my car, a guy who had just came out of the building asked if I was going to vote and told me that the polls weren’t open until noon. I looked at him in shock and said “you’re kidding.” And he laughed and was like THAT’S WHAT I SAID.


  2. Rachel

    In NJ, polls are open 6am to 8pm. And something changed recently so that any person can vote absentee ballot without question or specific reason. It’s kind of nice.

    I went and pushed a button this morning at 7:15.

  3. Sera

    Some of us don’t especially believe in voting. I know very well already that my area is going to Obama for the primary and the Democrat’s candidate for the election. If I thought there was any real danger, I’d go outside today and cast my ballot for the lesser of two evils, as I’d be sure to do again if I actually thought that Republicans might win the race.
    A recent article in the Boston Globe pointed out that a signifigant fraction of non-voters (26%) don’t vote out of disillusionment with democracy and politicians. I have certainly heard the argument that I should care more this time because “x-candidate is offering REAL CHANGE!” but the people telling me this don’t seem to understand that the reason I’m disillusioned is because everybody says that and nobody delivers. Getting promised the same thing we always get promised isn’t going to excite us “Irritables.”
    I tend to take it a step further and speculate as to whether or not voting acts in direct opposition to people actually getting anything positive done, since we’re so busy telling ourselves we already did our part at the polls.

  4. Cara Post author

    Indeed, Sera; I’m familiar with the mindset. I have a mother who feels this way, and I disagree very strongly. But I do think that a big part of the problem lays on the shoulders of politicians, who again, I don’t really think care.

    Maybe some people do rationalize inaction this way in their own minds; I’ve never had anyone express something like that to me, though, and I would be rather appalled if they did.

  5. Nat

    In Australia voting is compulsory ($50 fine if you don’t – although I have never met ANYONE who has actually been fined – my husband never votes) as a result we get 97% attendance, which means that when we get a result, it’s usually fairly representative.

    Being overseas is not a good enough excuse. You can go to your consulate in the country you are in or fill out a postal vote before you leave.

    If you are still in the country but away from your electorate, a certain percentage of polling centres have all the electoral roles so you are expected to attend one of these and vote on the day.

    Elections are always held on a Saturday and polls are open 8am to 6pm.

    If your shift at work goes for this entire time your employer HAS to give you time off to vote. If they don’t, they are breaking the law.

    I have 2 polling stations within walking distance of my house, they are always at local schools and local council chambers and town halls.

    As for not voting, I tell this to my husband all the time…it’s the only chance you have to have a say in the way your country will be run. It’s all they ask you to do. Get over it and contribute!

    In my mind, if you don’t vote, you don’t have a right to comment on the government of the day – because you didn’t do your bit in selecting it.

  6. jovan byars

    Pretty damn sad that state governments are too lazy to make voting a holiday. But, I can count my lucky stars that South Carolina had a Saturday primary last month, and most people don’t work on weekends.

    But still, I agree, voting needs to be a public holiday.

  7. Ran

    Sera: The question isn’t how your area will turn out, but how your state will — and even then, only in the winner-take-all primaries. Even if everyone else in your county votes the same way, your vote could (theoretically) make a difference.

  8. Sarah

    Cara, I agree entirely.

    How about not voting because I could not? I just moved to a state (Colorado) that has caucuses. Apparently I moved here too late to be registered in time to participate in a caucus; you had to be registered by early December and I moved here in January. And it’s not as if I could just vote in my previous state (not to mention that I haven’t lived there since August, as I was in Europe in between) – as soon as I got my driver’s license here I was registered to vote. But not able to participate in the caucus. Yes, I’m feeling rather disenfranchised. And according to my brother, even if you are registered in time, you don’t receive ANYTHING in the mail telling you how to participate in the caucus – you have to search out the information yourself. As if most people are going to take the time to do that. I think the caucus system is ridiculous in a country that claims everyone gets an equal say in the election process. Ha.

  9. Nat

    For everyone to have an equal say you need to make voting compulsory.

    You need a central electoral roll that is used for federal, state and local elections.

    If people choose not to vote, fine them (a nominal amount)so it can be a political statement in itself without breaking someone’s bank balance. Also don’t chase up these fines to heavily…use them to scare people into voting more than anything else.

    If an employer does not give them time to vote, charge them – and make the punishment something that will hurt, so they don’t do it again.

    Hold elections on a Saturday and have the polling booths open at least 10 hours. Have more than one polling station in each suburb.

    DON’T ask people which party they are registered with. This absolutely blows my mind.

    In Australia you can be registered without being registered to a party. When you rock up on election day you are asked your name and address. You are asked if you have voted anywhere else on that day. If you answer no you are given ballot papers and shown to a booth.

    Secret Ballot People!

  10. Cara Post author

    Nat, I agree with most of what you say, but I want to clarify: this was a primary election. It’s how we decide who will run for president from each party. In many states, only people registered with that party in the primary — the idea being that people who are registered are the most likely to give honest votes reflective of the party as a whole. You don’t have to be registered with any party, and large numbers of people aren’t. But for states with “closed” primaries, there does need to be someway to make sure that voters are voting in the right primaries. I just don’t think that this particular system I ran into is the best idea.

  11. Sera

    … but you just said that your own mother has repeatedly voiced this opinion to you. Is she nobody? Has it occured to you that your social circle might be awfully self-selecting, thereby ensuring that you meet a minimum of anarchists?

    See, I linked the article because it points out that in fact, 26% of people who don’t vote are disillusioned with politics and politicians. This is not a small minority of the population, especially when you consider how many people don’t vote.

    I certainly don’t think I’m rationalizing anything, as I am incredibly politically active for someone who doesn’t vote. Accusing me of “inaction” is just silly, as is assuming that I somehow don’t understand the decision I’ve made not to vote. I chose not to vote because I don’t want to vote. Really, there is no rationalization.

  12. Cara Post author

    Uh, no Sera. I was talking about how you said that voting is bad because people rationalize in their minds that if they vote, they don’t owe society anything else.

    So, I didn’t accuse you of inaction or of rationalizing anything. Even if I do think that you are, but I honestly don’t really care that much, it’s your business and am certainly not going to try to convince you of the error of your ways. Which is why I didn’t try to. And no my mother isn’t nobody, I never said she was, and she’s absolutely not an anarchist. I somehow doubt that the 26% of people who don’t vote because they are disillusioned are anarchists.

    And did you ever think that maybe your social group is awful self-selecting and you therefore know a disproportionate amount of people who are anarchists? Christ. Talk about your totally unprovoked defensive attacks. Not really in the mood this morning . . .


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