1. No.2. N/A3. No.You can lead a citizen to a polling place but you can't make him/her vote. People don't vote because it's difficult they don't vote because they don't care. So, I guess, you could try to make people care, but that's tough too.
In Australia they fine you if you don't vote and push in public service announcements that it's not just your right, it's your duty. I don't think that would go over here, but I like the idea.One thing that could be done to increase registration if not actual voting would be to eliminate the use of Voter Reg cards to locate people for Jury Duty assignments.The budget crunch has really hurt voter turnout. Up until 1972 State and County officials used to spend a lot of money to encourage people to vote and that has gone by the wayside. In fact, it used to be that the County Registrar would pay anyone 50 cents a card if you registered someone else to vote. For a lot of retired senior citizens, that was a neat part time job and it carried over to an interest in the election itself.
If a person is too dumb to figure out how to vote, do we really want them weighing in on the serious issues of the state anyway?
Parties have taken over bounty programs for registering voters (with some recent BCRA issues affecting those programs, of course).As for ending the use of voter reg cards in jury duty summons: if you like the idea of PSA's touting the duty to vote - why not the duty to serve on a jury. We require very little to be a citizen here and the whole "i don't wannnnna register because then they'll summon me for jury DUTY" - duty - is the lamest reason ever.
I don't think that the jury duty argument holds water. Jurors are also chosen from the DMV database and I would imagine that most registered voters have a CA DL or ID. I think that the only way to significantly increase voter registration is to eliminate the voter reg card entirely. The State would simply keep a database of people who qualify to be voters (18+, not in jail for felony, etc). However, that will not address the issue of voter turnout. I truly think that the way to get more people to the polls is to stop requiring people to vote on issues that the legislature should be deciding. For people who aren't politically involved what is the motivation to go to the polls to vote on redistricting, energy regulation, budget spending caps, etc. These are issues should be addressed by our representatives. This is likely a huge over-simplification, but I think that turnout will increase as the ballot becomes more "average joe" friendly.
ruby, your statement is just obnoxious. There are a variety of reasons for the voting process confusing some folks. Heck, if pollworkers can't even get it right sometimes, it's perfectly understandable that those with limited English proficiency or lack of education -- but who still want to engage in the process -- can find it overwhelming and confusing.lets have same day registration like a few other states (it's increased turnout there).
CSE - I agree with your jurty duty assessment.But I don't think registering to vote is too burdensome. It takes about 2 minutes, assuming you've committed your address to memory and can hold the pen long enough to sign your name.And you aren't required to take the card with you to vote - thought it might make things easier for you.It takes longer to sign up for a free email account, a blogger account, netflix, a credit card, buy a tank of gas, or pay a bill than it does to register to vote.But you're right that easier registration likely has no bearing on turnout.I also think there should be fewer/no propositions on the ballot, but for different reasons. I don't see them as a barrier to participation. Laziness is a barrier to participation and it is 100% self-inflicted.The legislature should be deciding the issues. Somethings might need to go to the voters (indeed, something must under the Constitution), but as evidenced by this past folly of a Special Election, the ballot should not be a way to fudge the lines between the first 2 branches of government.But if poor, tired voters just can't be bothered to punch a few extra holes, I'm not going to base ballot reform around that laze.Also - a broader question: is low turnout really an indication of a civilization in trouble? If people exercise their right to vote by not voting, should we be mad at them? Are they less intelligent? Foolish?I used to get really angry with non-voters. I don't anymore. Not most of them anyway.
But if poor, tired voters just can't be bothered to punch a few extra holes, I'm not going to base ballot reform around that laze.I used to get really angry with non-voters. I don't anymore. Not most of them anyway. This seems to be one issue Christiana where you and I have some kind of convergence. I'd like more people to vote, but if the just don't have the energy to vote after permanent absentee balloting, than whatever, I'm not going to cry over it.Incidentally, I've read a few economics papers that suggest that statistically higher turnout very rarely actually changes anything. See e.g. 2004. Mobilization begats counter-mobilization I guess.Also - a broader question: is low turnout really an indication of a civilization in trouble? If people exercise their right to vote by not voting, should we be mad at them? Are they less intelligent? Foolish?An interesting question, low turnout is an indication I think more of civic apathy than the civilization itself being in trouble. That being said, civic apathy is one of the steps downward into the descent into "Monarcy," at least as I interpret Machiavelli, and I tend to agree. Overall, I think the descent into monarcy (loosely defined as one individual controlling most of the governmental authority) would be highly negative. I just don't know if as Benjamin Franklin warned we'll be able to keep this republic if voter involvement declines even further. Of course the question becomes is the civilization in trouble? Or merely is form of government? I suppose if they are seperable, that is what I would say. The republican form of government is in trouble, but the civilization itself is probably not.
Anon - re your reaction to Ruby's statement about voter intelligence - it is true that there are a variety of things that could confuse folks, even without language barriers.But there is a limit to how much we can - and how much we should - dumb down the process. It is pretty simple. The instructions are pretty clear. And there are plenty of people to ask if one needs guidance.While Ruby's comment may seem harsh, there's an element of truth in it, though "dumb" is in the eye of the beholder. I don't think it's a matter of constructing a system to exclude those who lack the brain power - or more likely the case - the motivation to get into the issues, that would be wrong. But there's a limit to how much we can open the system without oversimplifying the presented issues AND creating a system so basic it fails on multiple levels.Which gets us back to my original question - how do we make it easier and should we make it easier?As far as same day registration goes - from a political angle - it would greatly change the profession of consulting and marketing campaigns - which, of course, shouldn't figure into the calculation, but does. Actually, come to think of it, maybe it should figure into it because at the end of the day, elections depend on the dissemination of information. If that information can't be presented efficiently and effectively to voters, how can we have intelligent elections and an educated electorate.So what if we had no idea who was going to vote on election day, meaning we had to send out ten-fold more mail than before to anyone who might vote. That mail would need to be shorter, smaller, and lighter because you'd have to send so much more.A lot of it would be tossed out by the same people who didn't care to register or vote before hand.People could be more easily swayed to go to the polls on election day with any kind of chum or chicken dinners. Or false statements that only have to hold their attention long enough to get them inside the booth.The possibility of intentionally misleading large numbers of potential voters is high.Now what about the current system? Fewer people to convince, more and better information. Perhaps. It's more likely anyway.Which brings us back to Ruby's comment about "dumb" voters. Voting should be a deliberative process. Registration is hardly a monumental barrier to participation. You just have to register by - what - 30 days before the election. And most people know there's an election coming more than 30 days in advance.If we got more high school seniors on their 18th birthday, it would be easier to cultivate voters or at least decrease the number of those who "didn't know" to register in advance.Same-day registration is a good idea from a purely self-interested, partisan view. If you can get your voters to the polls the same day, great. But is it worth it if the other guy can hoodwink other voters to go his way?
"Laziness is a barrier to participation and it is 100% self-inflicted."Don't you think that is a little too oversimplified? Even you mention at the end of your post that people have the right to not vote. What about those who feel a general disconnect from government and politics?As to your question about low turnout as an indication of a civilization in trouble...I think that depends on why the turnout is low. For example, if a country (state, territory, or any other jurisdiction holding an election) has low turnout due to voter intimidation, limited franchise, fear of safety, etc, then yes, that democracy would be in trouble. However, if people don't vote for reasons of their own chosing, then I don't think that alone is the sign of the end of civilization. People who don't vote are expressing an opinion (I'm too busy, I don't care, it's all part of the machine, etc) and I'm fine with that. I express my opinion by not watching FOXNEWS, some people express their's by not voting. So be it.The question that I would turn around to you CD, is do you think that those that aren't voting belong to a particular group? Does the current SYSTEM of elections (not CONTENT of elections) lead to disenfranchisement of particular groups?
Put pictures on the ballot. Like those airplane emergency directions - those are easily-understandable. For prop 74, you could have had a bunch of bad teachers, like Mark Harmon from Summer School, getting "The Viper" (the "You're Fired" hand motion) from Trump.And maybe they could jazz up those "I Voted" stickers a little bit. I mean, they're fancy, but they could be a lot cooler. Maybe a t-shirt, like when you give blood. At least a cookie and a glass of juice.
(Sometimes I wish I had comments threads where distinct conversations/threads could stay more together because my trigger finger is slower than all of yours today - so reax get split up. Great discussion, though, which is always fun)Joel - you know you and I agree on lots of stuff. And way to get Machiavelli into the thread - that rocks. And you make an even better, big picture point: civilization will survive, but perhaps our republic will change. But is that someone's fault? We currently still consent to be governed and as people step out of the process and let a smaller number of people speak for them (and remember, those that abstain are presumed to side with the prevailing party), eventually, won't that shrunken percentage just take over and become a different form of government entirely? So is it so bad? This is the kind of talk that McCarthy would've hauled me in for - we're big believers that our form of government is best - but what if it changes. If people consent to what is going on - which they are by their silence - then what's the problem?CSE - yes, my statement was simple, but perhaps not overly so. People have the right to vote. If they feel a disconnect, they are only ever a ballot away from reconnecting. Or a voter reg form. If people "feel" a certain way or another, again, there is a limit to how far government itself can go to solve the problem. A lot of it must be self-directed. And we ARE the government after all.As for your question: I don't think non-voters could be statistically reduced to a single, or several, groups. I think voter apathy and non-participation are widespread. Some groups will vote more because they do have the time to commit to educating themselves, etc (retirees, etc). There are about a million factors that can affect any number of other subgroups and their participation rate.Implied in your question is, I'm guessing, one about racial and ethnic groups and whether they are effectively barred from participation. If they are, I would argue that the barriers are no longer erected by government, but by outside forces and some forces internal to the specific group (ie: belief that there are too many institutional barriers, that votes don't matter, that voting isn't cool, that they're "too busy," etc).Speaking solely about California - the system I know best - I cannot think of an aspect of our election process - from registration to the voting booth - that disenfranchises any particular group. I suppose district boundaries might effect one's sense of power and one's actual power, but even that is not a barrier to participating.We have ballot pamphlets available in a wide array of languages and county registrars kill themselves every cycle to staff polling places with polyglots to serve all our language needs.So blaming government isn't the answer. And I'd still maintain a majority of the barriers are self-constructed.
On a more serious, and, perhaps, sophisticated note than my previous comment, Politics is a serious business. Maintaining a free and prosperous society is no easy task. People who are going to participate - those who will determine the outcomes of elections and the future of our society - really should be informed about the issues, candidates, etc. If you are incapable of figuring out how to register to vote, or how to get yourself to the voting location, or unable to form reasoned opinions about issues on the ballot, perhaps you shouldn't impose your passions on the masses. That said, this IS America and we believe that everyone by nature, because he/she is possessed of inalienable natural rights and all are therefore equal in *this* fundamental sense, should have the right to vote and participate in the governmental process. So be it. That being said, I won't loose any sleep over low voter turn out. I won't support any of the MTV "mobilize the youth voter" rallies, etc. I'm ok with the uninterested and uninformed not voting. Moreover, in a state like CA where so many really serious and complex issues are put directly before the very lazy electorate, I'm even more hesitant to encourage high voter turn out. Both sides of each initiative intentionally obfuscate the issues and make gathering real information to make informed decisions incredibly difficult. The media state loves to play upon the electorate's passions.Do you really want to make voting easier? Then let's re-establish strong parties who can send clear messages to their constituents and who will mobilize voters for elections.BTW, low-voter turn out/ low participation is no new phenomena. Americans are notoriously bad at participating in the electoral/governmental process. This is part of our heritage because we believe, at some level, that government should be limited. It shouldn't be that involved in our daily lives so we shouldn't have to pay too close attention to what is going on. We want to live our lives, without interference by government. So long as we are able to support our families and pursue our happiness, we don't care much about what gov't does. It's not until gov'ts overreaching arms enter our private realm that we really get motivated.
The more I think about it, the more the disenfranchisement argument fails (again, I'm focusing on California and requesting upfront that anecdotal evidence be used sparingly).What do you have to do to vote? Go to the post office. Fill out the form. The form is available in several language and someone can help you fill it out. Mail in the form. Does it require postage? I can't remember - so at most it costs 37 cents.On election day, go to the polls. Give them your name. Cast your ballot. If you aren't on the rolls, ask for a provisional ballot. Get and cast provisional ballot. Done.There is very little between you and casting a vote aside from your own beliefs that the process is hard, time-consuming, confusing, etc. There are provisions protecting every aspect of the process and providing for help at all stages - including in the voting booth when you're punching/inking/touching/whatever.Now this is an oversimplification and there are numerous points at which someone can screw up the administrative side of things. But overall, the barriers have been knocked down. This is the easiest thing you can do. I think setting up your ATM card and using it is more confusing. And people do that all the time.
problem is its never always that simple. yesterday i had to guide my pollworker through the provisional ballot process because she didn't have a clue. she wasn't going to fill out her portion of the envelope or have me do anything..pretty scary and i only caught it b/c i know what's going on..... who knows who else's PB was f'd up. that happens alllllll the time... last minute precinct consolidations, poor quality control of dmv/post office registrations, little pollworker training, and not enough $$$, all conspire to create probs on election day for people. so will for the majority, its usually a pretty simple affair, its hardly the case that it is that way for all people.the administrative barriers usually have a domino effect on election day and show themselves at the polling place.i agree with ruby's later comment in most cases, I'm also losing no sleep over the lazy not voting.
That being said, I won't loose any sleep over low voter turn out. I won't support any of the MTV "mobilize the youth voter" rallies, etc. I'm ok with the uninterested and uninformed not voting. - RubyI think you're missing a step there. At least part of the MTV-type efforts are to educate youth/potential voters. If they go to the rally but don't stay interested, they won't vote. The rallies don't mean the uninterested and uninformed flock to the polls. They are supposed to create interested, informed voters. Now you might disagree with the information given at those rallies, but anyone is free to try to sell a message.I do, however, tend to agree with the strong-party viewpoint. I think the parties need to do that for themselves, though. And we're failing at that.
Interesting topic. The most common reason cited through history for allowing a wider electorate generally seemed to come down to ideas along the lines of "No Taxation without Representation".Everyone pays taxes, so everyone should have a say in how their money is spent. As far as the all too common belief that the less intelligent can be manipulated, that is true, however, it also begs the question that if you think they are being manipulated against their best interests, what are you doing to reach out to them and convince them to vote differently. Voting is not just about dropping a piece of paper in a box, it is about engaging with your neighbors in the campaign process and playing your part in the community coming to a collective decision. The idea of someone not participating is a bad one and the idea of not reaching out to someone (say a homeless person) because they are not intelligent enough to know what is going on is also wrong in my opinion. If someone can motivate a homeless person to vote, they can motivate them in other ways also and encouraging them to take an interest in community decisionmaking almost has to be a good thing in my estimation.As to the comments on jury duty, if you work on a voter reg drive, you will find that is one of the most common reasons people give for not registering. Some of it is just an excuse, but there are people who don't want to be called for jury duty and look at registering as a negative equivilent of buying a lottery ticket. As someone else pointed out, there are many other ways to get a pool of jurors (everyone is required to have at least an ID card and these are used for Jury service, so I don't see why that isn't enough) and even though I always serve jury duty, some people hate it and do anything they can to avoid it, so to tie voting up with that is a mistake in my opinion.Of course as I said above, I believe in the Australia system and would prefer trying that to raising taxes as a way to solve our budget problems in the state.
Required voting, like Australia, would be fun, but I think it's largely rejected here because, well, Americans tend to think that not voting is an active choice and their right (which, for some it is, others just don't bother = laziness). In terms of getting more people involved, what ever happened to that bill that would have had high school juniors and seniors work as pollworkers? That seems like a good idea to me. Also, schools should build in more election stuff as part of the curriculum to de-mystify the process (not that it's all mysterious really). And it should be more than something silly like "Constitution day."CD - you suggested that there weren't really any more state-sponsored racial barriers to voting, or at least in California. I think that's generally probably true. The one question I have in that regard (and I really don't know the answer) has to do with movement/consolidation of precincts/polling places. It seems like this is happening more frequently (or at least it seems to be discussed a lot, even if it's not really happening). On the one hand, I wouldn't be surprised if this happens in low-income or minority or low voter-registration areas frequently. On the other hand, my polling place hasn't changed in years, but then I live in a very established, old, stable neighborhood.
Good point about the consolidation of precincts, especially in low income areas. It didn't get much publicity, but in the special several precincts had to be consolidated in the last week because of a lack of poll workers. Signs were put up notifying voters where to go, but it was a big mess that could have affected the results. This is not the first time this has happened and I think a part of the problem is that no one is doing an active enough job getting low income area poll workers.
I don't know the process by which county registrars consolidate polling places. I believe it's likely a local issue (so there are potentially 58 different consolidation methods). Perhaps it is done based on prior turnout (as in: places A and B usually have only 20% turnout, C has 89% turnout, so combine A and B since C is going to be busy anyway). Or perhaps they do it based on which locations they know they can staff. I don't know if that correlates with income or not.Anecdotally, however, I think the assumption that lower income areas suffer from a lack of poll volunteers or less talented poll workers is false. In 2002, I participated in the "Promote and Protect The Vote" project (which I'll never do again, but that's a topic for another post). I was assigned to monitor a poll in Hunter's Point - one of the most economically depressed areas in Northern California.The poll workers there had been staffing the location for going on 30 years. They knew what they were doing, knew the community, knew everything. They certainly didn't need me around to protect anything.Consolidations were necessary because we're bleeding counties dry with constant elections (and of course stealing from local funds to bail out the state). Sucks, yes, but what do we want counties to do?I think having highschoolers staff the polls is a great idea. But then they'd view it like jury duty and god forbid we link up civic duties and impress their importance upon the busy, busy masses.Consolidation can sway even otherwise smart people. I had to manage my panty-bunching reaction as my friend told me she didn't have time to vote because she went to where she's been voting since she moved to San Francisco and stood in-line with a bunch of Cantonese neighbors for what turned out to be flu shots instead of her polling place which had moved. I can't really get too righteously indignatious on behalf of her rights - she's smart, she could've voted, she just missed some details. It sucked, she felt really dumb she said, and I would've been mad - but I still think even THAT story doesn't signal the need for investigations and reform.I'll poke around for policies on poll consolidating, however - anyone else who finds anything - dump it in the comments here.
I'll admit to making assumptions. I suggested that precinct consolidation happens in low income areas because it seems to me that low income areas get screwed over a lot. So maybe that's wrong of me. I just wouldn't be surprised if they get screwed this way too. I think you're right that consolidation decisions are made at the county level (a quick google search appears to confirm that, cf. http://www.election.co.riverside.ca.us/ppchange.htm).Consolidation is a barrier to voting. Making polling places stable and reliable would be a good thing and it would make elections easier for people (getting back to the original questions). However, lacking funding (state bleeding the counties, etc.) and poll workers (really, isn't this probably a pretty boring job? even for a day?) probably prevents any meaningful reform and stability in this area.
One thing that counties could do is simply raise appropriate taxes to pay for the real needs of the election system. Of course that would mean crossing some special interests.As an example, both Disneyland and Universal Studio's have virtually no admission tax (I don't think it has been increased in either place since 1970)even though the people that use those parks require large expenses in a lot of different ways. Government agencies are always complaining about a lack of money and they do things like close down hospitals in the inner city, but then they won't ask giant megacorporations to pay their fair share. Florida may have led to some overreaction, but the system did need upgrading and that can't happen without spending money. The problem is that everyone wants someone else to spend it.
For clarification, EC 12302 governs student precinct workers. http://leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/waisgate?WAISdocID=6555095947+0+0+0&WAISaction=retrieveAlso, voter registration closes 15 days before Election Day.
It seems odd that people on this thread sort of assume people want to go to the polls. I know I'm not the only one who has walked precincts, and there are plenty of people who just don't care about voting or politics, hard as that may be for us to consider.There is even a decent economics argument that you shouldn't vote. Basically, the expected value of your vote is so small (because it is only relevant if you are the deciding vote), there isn't a economic reason for you to waste the time voting. There are other reasons to vote - civic participation, having your voice heard, etc., but those aren't enough for everyone. If people don't want to be troubled to vote, then let them make that choice. Voting shouldn't be hard to do, but it also shouldn't be something we force our citizens to do, either.
On the subject of the uninformed and uneducated not voting and whether or not that's ok...Am I alone in thinking that maybe the problem isn't how do we make it easier to vote, but how do we educate and inform folks so that they're motivated to vote on their own. I have no data, but I would assume that the more education you have, the more likely you are to vote regularly. (anyone know if that's true?) Democracy depends on having an INFORMED electorate, not just an active electorate. Not voting isn't the sin. The sin is letting our educational system become so disjointed and disfunctional that people feel disconnected enough that they don't care enough to vote.PS - Ruby's statement regarding stupid people voting makes me ill. Everyone is equal (rich/poor, stupid/smart, educated/uneducated, male/female, gay/straight, black/white, etc.). At least I thought that was the idea, but it's hard to be clear about what we stand for around here anymore...
Although your first reaction will probably be to think I am being ridiculous, I really don't think it is necessarily as important to have an informed electorate as an active one.Of course I am not talking about completely ignorant voters, but even those misled are the ones who have to live with the choices made and I still think the best thing for the long term health of our country is for average people to understand that they still have the ultimate power. If they vote and they are fooled, then I think at some level they realize that they have to learn more. If they just give up and don't vote, I think it delegitimizes the outcome in a lot of minds. Read any conservative website on Tuesday's election and there are nothing but complaints about how Orange County didn't turn out and how that could have changed things. Democrats talk the same about minority areas when they lose and there is some truth in both statements. But in reality, that becomes an excuse not to consider the opposing point of view. People say to themselves, "well, if everyone voted we would have won." or "We don't need to compromise with them, we just need to turn out our base." The higher percentage of voters that turn out, the less of that there is and I think that is good for society. At some point we have to be willing to consider the complaints of others and consider if there is common ground to solve them. That is a big part of what happens in a campaign and as I said, I think the effect is lost when the turnout is too low.
I won't call you ridiculous, but I will say that I think you've been really inconsistent in this discussion - or at least I can't keep up with your thinking on these issues.I think turnout is an indication of how informed an electorate is. With the current system (as in, without same day reg), at least we know the voters know there's an election and know enough to vote.Your statement "even those misled are the ones who have to live with the choices made" is, however, ridiculous. They do have to live with, as do those not misled, those who didn't vote, and everyone else. An "active" electorate is just one indication of information - but putting a premium on activity without substance is bad form - and while Ruby was KIDDING with her bluntly stated item to which everyone takes offense - she's also not really that wrong, is she?I'm not saying administer intelligence tests or information quizzes at the door, but I would much rather have fewer informed people vote than thousands of people dragged in under false pretenses who vote based on ballot placement or the need to make patterns in the dots.
And I think I would prefer the masses dragged to the polls although again there is a question of degrees (similar to what you said about intelligence tests). Right now I believe that most non participants excuse themselves by saying things like "they're all crooks" and "It doesn't matter anyway". Then they sit with their friends and say that if there was ever an honest candidate who stood up for the people, then all of their problems would be solved. They don't talk to their neighbors to hear or understand their issues and concerns or anything else that is normally associated with being a good citizen.I think when too many people get that way, it is dangerous for the country because you lose consent of the governed by abstention.What I also believe is that people's natural competitiveness will kick in and they will not be satisfied with having voted for the wrong candidate and will take the time to read up if they start voting regularly. I still favor the Australia system for that reason. I could be wrong, but that is my most basic belief in a way to improve things. Also I will admit that the sadistic side of me likes the idea that since everyone has to pay taxes the nonvoters pay more. But that's not a nice way to look at things.
I think most nonvoters don't vote because they think they lack the time first and think their vote doesn't count second.And more importantly:Those who abstain are consenting to their governance.Otherwise, they'd have spoken up.
I hear you, but I still think they are using it as a copout and the whole attitude is becoming a disease which is infecting this country. Again, the problem is not just with whether or not they consent to their governance but whether elections come after a process that the campaign is supposed to provide where the community gives their input and candidates try and offer their suggestions for how they would deal with the problems. My concern is with so many people dropping out of the system, that input is only coming from a few elitist with narrow agenda's and our society cannot survive like that.
No, the copout is the absent voters claiming they either didn't have a say in it or that they disagreed and something was done without their consent.
I don't think it's a matter either a smaller number of infomred voters voting or a large number of uninformed voters being misled and dragged to the polls. Why are those the choices? In our system, campaigning and electeing folks are a part of hte governing porcess. If you believe in good government, it shouldn't start at the swearing in ceremony. It should start in platform development, candiate recruitment and in that very first stump speech. If we as candidates, campaingers and conultants made a pledge to run campaigns that educate and enlighten voters, I believe, and maybe I'm just being naive, but I really think they'd listen more, they'd learn more, and they'd vote more, and we'd win more. Just my two cents. Happy Veteran's Day.
You are touching on a point that comes up a lot in many different areas, particularly in economics. As a society we believe in setting up our elections as competitions where the candidates are supposed to try and convince the voting public to support them and get out and vote. That often leads to excess, sometimes borne out of desperation. But no one has yet come up with a fair way to limit the excesses while still allowing all sides to get a fair hearing in the process. I think election day is a benchmark where every so often society stops and makes it's decisions on the future and what you talked about in terms of involvement with other people on societies issues is what you hope everyone does as part of a responsibility we all have to our fellow human beings. Pollsters, Consultants and what not, are merely creations of people trying to figure out where voters stand and how to convince them to support a set of ideas. If someone shows they can reach voters without using these types of people, they will go the way of the dinosaur. But elected officials are not supposed to be chosen as some sort of honor for being wise and just. They are supposed to convince the voters they will best represent them. To get the power to make the decisions that go with elective office, you have to go through the process just like you do with any other job and your boss (the people) get to decide who to hire.In fairness to the voters, I think they do have a pretty high BS radar, much higher than they are often given credit for. When a candidate crosses a line (Did anyone really believe John Kerry was an avid hunter) they tend to turn on them. They are not fools.But most elections are won and lost based on positioning and a lot of what some voters call nonsense is very important to other voters and that fact doesn't get the respect it deserves.For example in 1988 George Bush made a big deal about Michael Dukakis vetoing a bill that required the Pledge of Allegiance to be recited every morning in Massachussetts classrooms. Liberals thought the whole issue was ridiculous and criticized his stand throughout the campaign. But if you look at polling, the so called "Reagan Democrats" still regard the public promoting of patriotism as one of the most crucial issues facing this country and will tend to make their decisions on elections in part based on which candidate will most support that belief. I don't agree with them, but those voters believe that the country is worse off when kids don't recite the pledge and sing the "Star Spangled Banner" every morning. They are also among the biggest number of that slight majority of Democratic voters that still favors prayer in the public schools. Again, not my cup of tea, but Bush both agreed with that point of view and knew it would be very important to those undecided swing voters and so he made it a major feature of his campaign. He didn't lose any significant number of other supporters, but he won over a lot of those undecideds with one simple move and Democrats didn't understand its effectiveness until it was too late. To often people in politics are like Liza Minelli after the 1980 election when she said she was stunned that Reagan won because everyone she knew was for Mondale.Concerned activists tend to talk to a lot of similar people and because they are bright and well intentioned also don't always listen as well as they should. Elections are won by people who are in touch with voters beliefs, not by the smartest people who think they have the answers.If you look at the intellectual underpinnings of any dictatorship, whether of the right or the left, one of the most important arguments they make to justify themselves is that voters make too many mistakes because they don't have the time to concentrate on choosing wisely and that the decisions of government should be made by some type of elite. Our country has generally disagreed witht that notion. Although we often limited the franchise because of popular prejudice, it was always understood that our representatives were put in office to move things in the direction we want them to go and overall I think we have done pretty well based on the results.
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