Automatic voter registration in Oregon isn’t enough

Last week, Oregon passed the “New Motor Voter” law, which will automatically register all of its eligible citizens to vote and change the state’s registration system from opt-in to opt-out. While a number of states have same-day voter registration and one state, North Dakota, does not have any form of voter registration, Oregon will become the first state to transfer the burden of registration from the citizen to the government.

While liberals are cheering the move, as it removes a barrier to entry into the voting market — one whose origins lie in the Jim Crow era — it’s important to remember that simply removing barriers and saying “go” isn’t enough: there is still much work to be done in ensuring that citizens actually participate in the electoral process.

Statistically speaking, representative democracy is only representative if it encourages equal and open participation by its citizens. While the New Motor Voter law is a move toward more equal and open participation, as voter registration is an unnecessary and unequal hindrance on political expression, there are still a number of steps we should take on an institutional level that would increase participation.

This is especially true since registration is not the be-all, end-all guarantee of turnout. Following the passage of the National Voter Registration Act in 1993 — which allowed citizens to register to vote when applying for public assistance, updating their driver’s licenses or conducting other routine business with the government — voter turnout only increased marginally. To be fair, it still increased, but it also didn’t come anywhere near closing the massive participation gap between America and other industrialized democracies.

So, in light of Oregon’s move toward expanding ballot access, let’s look at what concrete steps we could take to convert registration into actual participation.

1. Move away from Election Days

Setting Election Day to be the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November was a revolutionary expansion of the franchise…in 1845. However, 21st Century lifestyles and economies make holding elections on one weekday – and not making that day a national holiday – absurdly outdated. Even if you’re registered to vote, it doesn’t mean much if your boss won’t give you time off to actually go to your polling place.

Freedmen at a voter registration office, via Shutterstock

Freedmen at a Georgia voter registration office in 1867, via Shutterstock

Going beyond giving workers Election Day off, establishing a voting week would give people the flexibility to vote on their own schedule. Of course, an additional and more effective step toward expanding ballot access would be to make voting by mail a national standard. States that have adopted this system consistently see higher levels of turnout than the rest of the country. Colorado, Oregon and Washington, which currently administer elections by mail, all have higher general election turnout than the national average.

In addition to expanding access, voting by mail is also far cheaper and efficient than taking the time and money necessary to administer elections in person.

Finally, if snail-mail seems too 20th Century for us, we can always try using some of our fancy new technology to help us increase participation. After all, if Estonia can administer online elections, why can’t we?

2. Voting should be compulsory, and citizens should be fine with it

On Saturday, with the Edmund Pettis Bridge in the background, President Obama traveled to Selma with John Lewis to honor the protesters who had, 50 years prior, endured the worst of America in order to win the right to vote. A lot has changed since then: Racism isn’t the (explicit) law of the land, but participation by those who are eligible to vote are at staggeringly low levels. The President was right to challenge all of us when he said:

Even if every new voter suppression law was struck down today, we’d still have one of the lowest voting rates among free peoples. Fifty years ago, registering to vote here in Selma and much of the South meant guessing the number of jellybeans in a jar or bubbles on a bar of soap. It meant risking your dignity, and sometimes, your life. What is our excuse today for not voting? How do we so casually discard the right for which so many fought? How do we so fully give away our power, our voice, in shaping America’s future?

When you don’t vote, your community loses out. If you own a small business and your local taxes are too high, but you don’t vote, you’re doing a disservice to the owner of another small business down the street who has the same concern. If you want a better school system for your kids, but you don’t vote, your neighbors who also care about better schools are that much less likely to get what you both want.

And even if you don’t want to vote for a Democrat or Republican, your fellow voters who aren’t affiliated with a major party lose their strength in numbers if you sit out. Communities need an accurate measure of the “none of the above” caucus. When dissatisfied voters abstain instead of voicing their dissatisfaction by voting for a third party or write-in candidate – or, if they live in Nevada, actually voting for “none of the above” – they inadvertently endorse the status quo by inflating the vote share of the eventual winner.

This being the case, we should follow Australia’s (and 11 other countries’) lead and make voting mandatory. As mentioned above, voting is a responsibility as well a right, and your whole community loses out when you don’t cast a ballot. Again, you’re more than welcome to vote for a third party candidate or write in Thomas Jefferson, but your community needs an accurate accounting of its preferences and so you need to show up.

What’s more, mandatory voting neutralizes the fringes, as parties no longer need to mobilize their base with wedge issues. In other words, it would take power away from extreme interest groups like the NRA and Family Research Council, whose members would turn out to vote for Republicans regardless as to whether they passed the ideological litmus test currently required to get them mobilized.

Oregon’s move to universal voter registration should be applauded, and I did take a moment to celebrate when I heard of the bill’s passage. But let’s not hold this accomplishment up as the be-all, end-all of voting reforms that will heal our body politic once and for all. Let’s continue the work of forming a more perfect union together – by seeking universal participation so we can finally hear the voices of millions of Americans who have remained quiet for far too long.

Josh is a data analyst with expertise in grassroots engagement for national and local politics and a particular interest in the behavioral psychology of voting and civic engagement. He spent five years working in northern and southwest Virginia for for candidates from Blacksburg Town Council to President of the United States. In 2013 he ran a campaign that registered over 3,000 Virginia Tech students to vote for state and local candidates and tested innovative messaging and communications tactics to persuade them to make their voices heard on election day.

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52 Responses to “Automatic voter registration in Oregon isn’t enough”

  1. Guest says:

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  2. Naja pallida says:

    The work is done by amateurs, and in many states it’s coordinated by blatant partisans.

  3. Naja pallida says:

    I think this is all missing one key point. This country isn’t moving towards more participation in voting, it’s moving towards less. We’re not even moving towards more interest in expanding voting participation, when millions of people got disenfranchised with voter ID neo-poll-tax laws, most of the country just shrugged. More states are restricting voting rights, and making it more difficult for people to vote right now, than are expanding them or making it easier to cast a vote. On top of that, with more money in the electoral system, each vote means less and less, which is actively discouraging voter participation.

    I’m not a fan of mandatory voting, simply because there’s no sensible method of enforcement, and it would require many other expansions of access first, to accomplish… and those expansions of access alone could dramatically increase voter turnout, much more so than telling people ‘vote or else’.

    I also think voter registration in itself is utterly stupid. There is no reason at all, in this day an age of information and technology, that we can’t do same-day identity and age verification, to allow almost anyone who turns up to the polls to vote. Or online voting, for that matter… but online voting would no doubt be a massive target for hackers, and people who just want to cause havoc. If you think they lose ballot boxes now, wait until they claim a whole server farm containing the votes for millions of minority community voters “crashed” due to hackers.

  4. toto says:

    ” . . . there is still much work to be done in ensuring that citizens actually participate in the electoral process.”

    A survey of Oregon voters showed 76% overall support for a national popular vote for President.

    Support was 82% among Democrats, 70% among Republicans, and 72% among independents.

    By age, support was 67% among 18-29 year olds, 68% among 30-45 year olds, 82% among 46-65 year olds, and 76% for those older than 65.

    By gender, support was 81% among women and 71% among men.

    A majority of Oregon Senators (16 of 30) have sponsored the National Popular Vote bill in 2015 (SB 680). The bill has also been introduced into the Oregon House (HB 3475)

    On April 18, 2013, the Oregon House of Representatives passed the National Popular Vote bill by a 38-21 margin.
    On March 12, 2009, the Oregon House of Representatives passed the National Popular Vote bill by a 39-19 margin.


  5. toto says:

    The National Popular Vote bill (Oregon HB 3475, SB 680) would guarantee the majority of Electoral College votes, and thus the presidency, to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in the country, by replacing state winner-take-all laws for awarding electoral votes.

    Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections. No more distorting and divisive red and blue state maps of pre-determined outcomes. There would no longer be a handful of ‘battleground’ states where voters and policies are more important than those
    of the voters in 80% of the states, like Oregon, that now are just ‘spectators’ and ignored after the conventions.

    The bill would take effect when enacted by states with a majority of Electoral College votes—that is, enough to elect a President (270 of 538). The candidate receiving the most popular votes from all 50 states (and DC) would get all the 270+ electoral votes of the enacting states.

    The presidential election system, using the 48 state winner-take-all method or district winner method of awarding electoral votes, that we have today was not designed, anticipated, or favored by the Founders. It is the product of decades of change precipitated by the emergence of political parties and enactment by 48 states of winner-take-all laws, not mentioned, much less endorsed, in the Constitution.

    The bill uses the power given to each state by the Founders in the Constitution to change how they award their electoral votes for President. States can, and have, changed their method of awarding electoral votes over the years. Historically, major changes in the method of electing the President, including ending the requirement that only men who owned substantial property could vote and 48 current state-by-state winner-take-all laws, have come about by state legislative action.

    In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided).

    Support for a national popular vote is strong among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent
    voters, as well as every demographic group in every state surveyed recently.
    In the 39 states surveyed, overall support has been in the 67-83% range or higher. – in recent or
    past closely divided battleground states, in rural states, in small states, in Southern and border states, in big states, and in other states polled.

    Americans believe that the candidate who receives the most votes should win.

    The bill has passed 33 state legislative chambers in 22 rural, small, medium, large, red, blue, and purple states, including Oregon, with 250 electoral votes. The bill has been enacted by 11 jurisdictions with 165 electoral votes – 61% of the 270 necessary to go into effect.


  6. toto says:

    Under National Popular Vote (HB 3475, SB 680), every voter, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in every presidential election. Every vote would be included in the state counts and national count.

    National Popular Vote would give a voice to the minority party voters for President in each state. Now their votes are counted only for the candidate they did not vote for. Now they don’t matter to their candidate. In 2012, 56,256,178 (44%) of the 128,954,498 voters had their vote diverted by the winner-take-all rule to a candidate they opposed (namely, their state’s first-place candidate).

    And now votes, beyond the one needed to get the most votes in the state, for winning in a state are wasted and don’t matter to candidates.

    In 2008, voter turnout in the then 15 battleground states averaged seven points higher than in the 35 non-battleground states.

    In 2012, voter turnout was 11% higher in the 9 battleground states than in the remainder of the country.

    If presidential campaigns polled, organized, visited, and appealed to more than the current 63,000,000 of 314,000,000 Americans, one would reasonably expect that voter turnout would rise in 80% of the country, like Oregon, that is currently conceded by the minority parties in the states, taken for granted by the dominant party in the states, and ignored by all parties in presidential campaigns.

  7. 2karmanot says:

    Well done Josh!—-some excellent and lively discussion.

  8. Don Chandler says:

    Yeah, sounds good on the surface….vote by mail. Computer voting is very scary since most people don’t properly deal with malware–it’s insidious stuff. When I think about voting from home, I imagine all these people calling you and showing up at your door….they can’t do that in the polling place because it’s public and against the law. Republicans are unscrupulous and could send their voting forms to people at home and with deep pockets, they could effectively fund such actions. It’s funny, i read these articles on SSN theft…so some of these numbers are used over and over. How does voter registration prevent people from having more than one registered voter name? Can’t even do that for SSNs. If you don’t have to show up at the polling place, people could buy the votes more easily. Guess I’m not too trusting.

    Insults are found on sites like politico…this place is civil by any comparison.

  9. WildwoodGuy says:

    I was unaware that OR’s info was online… and I lived there for nearly 30 years before moving to WA. Still, while I agree with you about those folks not having access to computers or internet, what I intended my broader point to be was I don’t think it is well publicized. And it SHOULD be! (And I guess that is obvious because I didn’t know Oregon’s info was online after living there so long!)

  10. therling says:

    Oregon’s information is online as well.

    But there are still people out there who may not have a computer or an Internet connection or are near, say, a public library. They may not be many, but their vote is no less important.

  11. emjayay says:

    Hey, good point. The big falloff went from about 1890 to 1925, a period of huge immigration – almost as much as recently, but a much larger percentage of the population, maybe another factor. But then it stayed around the same low level for some reason.

  12. FLL says:

    Maybe the lead up to the Civil War, then Reconstruction after the Civil War. Just a guess.

  13. emjayay says:

    Thanks, and I agree that internet voting would be prone to massive fraud. Just saying it would otherwise make total sense. So, mail/drop off.

  14. emjayay says:

    Nice work. So, what was going on from 1840 to 1890?

  15. WildwoodGuy says:

    Same here in WA. and if I’m reading the graph correctly here

    it looks like WA had about the same participation… though only about 3/4 of the population of the state are actually registered to vote.

    And an interesting aside, on our Access Washington website, when the election gets closer, all of the initiatives, referendums, candidate, for and against statements, etc., are all listed there and you can literally sit at your computer monitor, read the stuff and vote your mail-in ballot. I find it much easier to read all this online than in the voters pamphlets which are usually printed in far too small a font for my old eyes to read.

    By putting all the information online in an easily accessible format, (and pushing that out as a PSA in the weeks before an election!) I would think this also might be a way to increase voter participation. This is what that site looks like today:

  16. WildwoodGuy says:

    I am in agreement with Jon Green on mandatory voting and I think you may be onto something here, Mirth. I don’t know that I’d be correct in saying this, but wouldn’t this go against the first amendment rights of those who would choose not to vote?

  17. therling says:

    All voting in Oregon is done by mail. That’s one reason the turnout was some 80% in the last election. A couple of weeks before your ballot arrives, you receive a voters’ guide, which gives each candidate to explain who they are and what positions they favor. You can sit down, take your time to go over your ballot, read about who’s running and then submit your ballot either through the US mail or in a free drop box near you. You don’t need to take off time from work, figure out what to do with the kids, find where your local polling place is, etc.

    Oregon also has an easier path to putting a measure on the ballot for popular vote, for good or bad, but it does offer an opportunity for people to feel it’s worth more to vote.

    Make it easier to vote, more people will vote, that’s a pretty simple concept. As far as being more engaged in the process, like knowing more about the candidates and issues, I’m not sure what can be done. I do know that if you make it hard to vote, you’re less likely to vote, and you’re not going to even bother to look into who the candidates are.

  18. Max_1 says:

    Three day weekend…
    … Friday, Saturday, Sunday Vote Days.

    That Monday morning water cooler conversation will be exciting…

  19. Max_1 says:

    Everyone get’s the day off to go vote!
    Margaritas for the winner, sour limes for the looser.

  20. FLL says:

    If not a tax credit, then at the very least the voters are owed the convenience of a standardized, universal vote-by-mail option, as they now have in Colorado. The post writer on this thread notes that voter turnout is higher in states like that. Obviously, there is no substitute for addressing the actual substance of voter concerns. I’ve often noted the importance of substance over insults, whether in elections or in Internet discussions. ;)

  21. Don Chandler says:

    What’s wrong with the old fashioned way of getting people involved in the election process of a nation: responsive leadership by addressing the concerns of the voter. Giving them a tax credit for voting feels like you are throwing people a bone and not really addressing the disparity of wealth issue. The wealthy should take care of their workers or you have a corrupt system.

  22. Don Chandler says:

    ACA is a tangled web ‘they all’ wove.

  23. FLL says:

    Exactly. Vote-by-mail has been working well, and it’s the best idea of the lot.

  24. FLL says:

    Mr. Yazman, in your post you state that since the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, “voter turnout only increased marginally.” In her comment below, mirth directly asks you to “address WHY voter turnout continues in decline.” I understand that you included a time reference in your statement, whereas mirth did not include a time reference in her question, but it seems very possible that your statement might be at odds with her question. Well, I’m not just going to leave that on the table without asking for a little clarification. Did you really expect me to?

    Below I’ve attached charts with widely verified information concerning voter turnout. From the chart that begins with the year 1788, I do see voter turnout declining right after World War I. However, I sure don’t see a pattern of decline from the 1920s to the present day. The second chart, which begins with the year 1948, shows a very consistent pattern of turnout for midterm and presidential elections. One obvious piece of information in the second chart—well, obvious to most people—is that turnout is higher for a president’s first term than for his reelection. The voter turnouts for presidential reelections since WWII are: 2012 (Obama) 59%, 2004 (Bush) 61%, 1996 (Clinton) 53%, 1984 (Reagan) 57%, 1972 (Nixon) 56%, and 1956 (Eisenhower) 60%. Turnout for Obama’s reelection beats turnout for the reelections of Clinton, Reagan and Nixon; turnout for George W. Bush’s reelection and Eisenhower’s reelection beats turnout for Obama’s reelection by 2% and 1% respectively. So, Mr. Yazman, would you now like to address mirth’s question? Oh, go ahead. Take a crack at it.

  25. The_Fixer says:

    Count me among those who just loves the idea of voting from home on the Internet.

    However, I just got home from work an hour ago after battling an anti-virus program that seriously messed up a computer. And that was from a (supposedly) benevolent program, not malicious software.

    Windows is the most used home/business operating system. It is child’s play to break into and manipulate in ways unknown to its owner, and in the process, do the bidding of miscreants.. Many a server, no matter which operating system it uses, has been broken into and used to spread “drive-by” malicious software. There’s a conspiracy theory that claims Karl Rove had tried to manipulate the Ohio electronic vote tallying system twice and was thwarted by the hacker collective Anonymous on his second attempt. Whether this theory is true or not is not the point here: The point is that it is possible to do such a thing in our current computing environment.

    And we think that we’re smart enough to pull off Internet voting? No, I don’t think so. Actually, I know we aren’t capable of securely doing that.

    I am amazed at how secure the good ol’ U.S. Mail is. Yes, it’s snail mail in today’s world, but it is much harder to tamper with than its electronic counterpart. I presume that’s because it takes so much more in terms of resources to tamper with it on any large scale. In the computing world, that’s easy to do and requires minimal resources.

    I’m in favor of voting by mail. More secure, and has a measure of convenience that’s practical.

  26. FLL says:

    Your reply is thoughtful and acknowledges the complexity of any proposed fix. Your first point is that voting could “give validity to a an extremely flawed system.” That assumes that additional voters who could be lured into voting with a tax credit would vote for one or other of the two major parties to the extent that people who already vote do. I’m not so sure of that. The additional people who vote in order to receive a tax credit might be more inclined to vote for very minor parties, or even write in their own name (or their dog’s name) as their write-in candidate. That would make it more obvious to everyone that the system needs an infusion of new ideas.

    Your example of the recall of Gray Davis is insightful. The fewer people that voter, the potentially worse the outcome can be.

  27. mirth says:

    Of course it would be, which is only one reason why it must never happen, but it isn’t without precedent. It just depends on how anything deemed mandatory by the government is packaged and sold.

    Think: A federal law demanding and enforced by monetary penalty that citizens buy the products of private corporations. So far that one is working out pretty much okay.

  28. Don Chandler says:

    Giving a tax credit for voting would get some panties in a bunch;) For instance, if the system is truly gamed for the rich (and you, me, and everyone /including the founding fathers, know/knew the system is/was gamed for the rich) then tax crediting voters would reward people to vote in the gamed system…meaning it could give validity to a an extremely flawed system. So a legitimate consequence of no-vote: at some point, we will have a huge number of disaffected nonvoters outnumbering the actual voters…then the elected candidates stand on shaky grounds…and like Gray Davis in California, a recall can occurred because Gray Davis didn’t have a sufficiently large voter base. It’s fair to say that not voting is a protest or a sign of apathy…or even legitimate apathy … our system really does seem broken.

    Still, I just don’t buy that there is no difference between the dems and the gop. I think another republican president could move us much faster toward fascism. And while very imperfect, people way down below the 50 percentile are getting some help through ACA–that could never happen under the gop. And I know it’s begging for a fight, but Citizen’s United had massive gop influence…even if the dems voted for part iv. Maybe what I’m saying is that there is a point to where we can really slide down the abyss…if we are not there yet, the republicans can accelerate it.

    It’s complicated ;)

  29. pricknick says:

    What must they be dedicated to? Two political parties that don’t give a squat what happens because money rules?
    I’ll take the opportunists. At least they have new ideas.

  30. Indigo says:

    People who want to cast a ballot find a way. It’s not difficult even though it takes a little planning. Citizens who choose not to cast a ballot are also voting, the preponderance of them are staying out of the process on purpose. They often claim their vote would make no difference. Perhaps that’s true but also true is that their absence undermines the existing government structure. If we want to keep it, folks are going to have to start voting again. If we loose it, we did that on purpose by not voting. I’m not against an open revolution but if it comes to that, I would hope it’s the dedicated who participate rather than a fresh set of opportunists.

  31. Don Chandler says:

    would be a political nightmare passing or enforcing mandatory voting.

  32. mirth says:

    No, I am not surprised that you don’t agree with mandatory voting. I’ve read enough of your thoughtful, in-depth posts, and mostly agreed with their opinions, to have correctly guessed that.

    Where we might disagree is a government registering a voter without their beforehand request and they may then have to formally opt out and to what consequences. This scenario, btw, would make a very funny Portlandia episode.

    Additionally, along with the examples you give, another reason people don’t vote is that they generally see the whole election period as untruthful theater with players they neither like nor trust and do not want to give their approval by vote to any of it. It may also be their belief that if enough people opt out, top to bottom side to side of the country, we may eventually see some real hope ‘n change.

  33. Bill_Perdue says:

    I’ve posted that 9807 times. I don’t think it’s wrong for people to cast protest votes for the left or to sit it out when faced with the the rancid prospect of voting for the warmongering, union busting and racist policies right wingers like Democrats and Republicans.

  34. Jon Green says:

    Personally, I’m not on board with mandatory voting in the states (surprised?). I’m sympathetic to the argument that it marginalizes wedge interest groups, but that pro comes with a few more cons.

    For every Bill Perdue-esque non-voter, who makes a rigorously informed decision to not vote, there’s one non-voter who wants to vote but doesn’t have access. But then there are at least two who don’t vote because they either a) don’t care or b) know that they don’t know enough to cast an informed ballot. In other words, mandatory voting brings a lot of people who probably shouldn’t be voting into the electorate, and when two of those people say the same misinformed thing in a focus group, the candidates all have to take it seriously.

    We should do all we can to guarantee access for everyone who wants to vote — so opt-out voter registration and ballot access reforms, for a start — but I’d draw the line somewhere before mandating voting.

  35. Bill_Perdue says:

    If I’d have included all I that i have to say on the subject of delusional voting and forced voting it would have been ten times longer.

  36. mirth says:

    Sure, but is it valid enough?

  37. mirth says:

    Well, to prove you read the post and to stay on topic, what is your opinion of mandatory voting and, peripherally, what government agency should enforce the compliance.

  38. Jon Green says:

    Cool, so you’re, in general, on board with the idea of protest voting as being preferable to not voting at all. That’s really all I was asking.

  39. Bill_Perdue says:

    The point is valid for every discussion on the fake premise that people should vote, or should have to vote.

  40. Bill_Perdue says:

    I think it’s perfectly fine to sit it out because the science says ” ‘the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.’ In other words, their statistics say your opinion literally does not matter.” I’m surprised that you couldn’t figure that out. Scores of millions without degrees in polisci do all the time.

    For the 9807th (and this time for reals) my advice to voters is: “On November 8, 2016 vote Socialist or Labor, vote for good referendums and if there aren’t any left candidates write in Chelsea Manning or join the majority in sitting it out.

    It’s always better not to vote at all than to vote for our enemies, Democrats and Republicans.

    “It is better to vote for what you want and not get it than to vote for
    what you don’t want and get it.”
    – Eugene V. Debs

  41. FLL says:

    In recent years, vote-by-mail has become way more popular, here in South Florida and elsewhere in the country. It used to be considered “absentee” voting because people would generally do it if they knew they would be out of town. Now it’s a big convenience, and also a response to recent Republican-sponsored restrictions on early voting. I disagree with your suggestion to fine people for not voting. You can just turn that suggestion on its head and give people an IRS tax credit for voting. Carrot rather than stick.

  42. Jon Green says:

    Given how Bill’s comment was making a point specifically addressed in the article, and was nothing more than rote repetition of comments he’s made before, I honestly didn’t think he had bothered to read the article before deciding that “It’s about voting, so it must be bad.”

    So yeah, apologies if that wasn’t gracious, but I didn’t think it was over the line.

  43. mirth says:

    Yes Jon, while you are a post writer I did realize this wasn’t one of yours. :/

    Could you not have asked Bill the question without the body slam?

  44. Jon Green says:

    Sure, but that wasn’t my question. My question was what you think about the idea that disaffected voters have an obligation to show up and voice their disaffection by voting for a third party/writing someone in.

  45. mirth says:

    The internet is too vulnerable (although voting machines and their tabulations may be even more so), but you raise other very good points, especially ridding us of the Electoral College, deserving of an up-arrow click.

  46. Jon Green says:

    First off, I didn’t write this one. Second, my question was a serious one and Bill’s answer was, in my opinion, far more productive than his original comment.

  47. Bill_Perdue says:

    1) It’s probably about the 6th or 7th time and I posted it because it invalidates what Democrats and Republicans have to say and their illusions about reforming a system which cannot be reformed.

    2) When people vote for the Democrats and/or Republicans they vote for wars, union busting, border racism. Voting is an endorsement of policies.

    3) It absolutely does not matter which party wins. They’re the same. When almost a hundred thousand workers voted to kick out an Obot city couniclmember in Seattle and when labor union leader defeated 24 local candidates in Ohio they were punishing right wingers, Democrats. They’d do the same to Republicans.

    There is only one party in the United States, the Property Party … and it has two right wings: Republican and Democrat. Republicans are a bit stupider, more rigid, more doctrinaire in their laissez-faire capitalism than the Democrats, who are cuter, prettier, a bit more corrupt — until recently … and more willing than the Republicans to make small adjustments when the poor, the black, the anti-imperialists get out of hand. But, essentially, there is no difference between the two parties. Gore Vidal. (And yes, I posted that before too. It remains true and pertinent.)

  48. mirth says:

    Intending no disrespect, I really hate seeing post writers belittle their thread commenters. If what Bill wrote is important, and particularly since new people often read here and may not be familiar with his past comments, can it be said too much?

  49. mirth says:

    So in your scenario of mandatory voting, who do you suggest administer the punishment for non-participation? Another tax penalty by the IRS? They’re stretched pretty thin right now. Consider that it might be necessary to create a new federal government cabinet level agency. Of course, the legality of it all democracy-like will surely end up at The Supreme Court which means no help at all for the current theater-in-progress.

    Above all, do not in serious-mode and with equal post-writing passion address WHY voter turnout continues in decline.

  50. Jon Green says:

    Bill, rather than cutting and pasting the Princeton study for the 9807th time (it’s important, but we get it), I’d be curious to get your thoughts on this sentence from Josh’s article:

    “When dissatisfied voters abstain instead of voicing their dissatisfaction by voting for a third party or write-in candidate – or, if they live in Nevada, actually voting for “none of the above” – they inadvertently endorse the status quo by inflating the vote share of the eventual winner.”

  51. Bill_Perdue says:


    Voting has no effect.

    The rich run this country and own the Democrats and the Republicans, lock, stock and barrel. Voting for either of them (and their Libertarian cousins) is an excretive in downright futility.

    “A new scientific study from Princeton researcher Martin Gilens and Northwestern researcher Benjamin I. Page has finally put some science behind the recently popular argument that the United States isn’t a democracy any more. And they’ve found that in fact, America is basically an oligarchy.

    For their study, Gilens and Page compiled data from roughly 1,800 different policy initiatives in the years between 1981 and 2002. They then compared those policy changes with the expressed opinion of the United State public. Comparing the preferences of the average American at the 50th percentile of income to what those Americans at the 90th percentile preferred, as well as the opinions of major lobbying or business groups, the researchers found out that the government followed the directives set forth by the latter two much more often. It’s beyond alarming.

    As Gilens and Page write, ‘the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.’ In other words, their statistics say your opinion literally does not matter.”

  52. emjayay says:

    It’s silly to talk about mandatory voting in the US. Australia also agreed to strict gun control and turning in their guns. But the rest, sure.

    I pay bills online. Recurring bills just take money right out of my account without me doing anything. I mail in a rent check. I order something from Amazon from my laptop – heck, a phone or tablet while riding on a bus will work too. And then I have to go to someplace on one single work day and vote. Makes no sense in the modern world. Fortunately I’m motivated and it’s right across the street.

    I know, internet, hacking, fraud, etc. But it would make sense if we could vote online and would double participation. Think about it. You are a typical pretty much uninformed voter (not you specifically!) and you go to and click on the candidates or issues if you want to and come up with information on each, etc. If not, the Colorado drop off/mail in system makes a lot of sense as a halfway measure. How did that work out?

    Completely regulating the campaign process as done in other countries including ways of getting big money out of it would also increase voter participation. Anything to limit the effects of negative campaigning. Voters getting the idea that they and not corporations and rich guys have all the power would also increase voter participation. Not gonna happen here either.

    Getting rid of the absurd today Electoral College and replacing it with a simple national popular vote would end the ridiculous focus on Ohio or wherever and make people feel more like their vote counted, and not just a vote in Ohio.

    There’s a lot that could be done. Republicans of course don’t want to do anything about what put them in power or about anything else for that matter. A problem here and for the future of the nation as well.

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