The “Good Enough” Voter

It’s a political truism that Labor Day is when voters wake up and start paying attention to candidates and campaigns. But for the sizable portion of the citizenry that doesn’t vote, Labor Day–yesterday– just marks the beginning of fall.

In the run-up to this year’s municipal elections, I’ve participated in a number of conversations about these people who don’t vote–those who just skip local elections, turning out only in Presidential years and those who don’t participate at all.

As part of our upcoming “Electing the Future” project, NUVO and WFYI have focused on those non-voters. The whole committee of sponsors has searched for examples, in order to ask the obvious question: why?

The results have been interesting. Many of the people we found who admitted to never voting were unwilling to “come out” and be identified; they were obviously embarrassed, a response that suggests they know they are evading a civic responsibility. What was interesting is that they had the same excuse as those who were willing to participate in the effort we’ve dubbed “Make Me Care.” They explained that they “didn’t know enough” to feel confident about their votes.

Of course, it’s pretty obvious that many, many people who know very little nevertheless make it to the polls. (Just look at the open-ended responses to exit polls..) But using the excuse of civic ignorance raises a pretty important question, namely, what degree of information is necessary to make one a “good enough” voter?

The ideal voter, of course, would know a great deal about the candidates, the offices for which they are running, and the issues that are relevant to those offices, but very few of us meet that standard. One shortcut–used by a large number of voters–is party affiliation; if you know which political party stands for positions with which you generally agree, voting for members of that party is usually a safe way to express your general policy preferences.

In this internet era, a quick visit to the websites of the candidates will show what issues those candidates believe are important, and their approach to those issues and to the offices they seek.

Ultimately, of course, we all have to look at the candidates and judge whether they seem intent on improving the city (or state or nation), or whether they seem to be waging campaigns that are all about them. What does your gut tell you? Is this someone who wants to do something, or someone who wants to be someone?

Making that determination, and voting for the candidate who seems more interested in and capable of doing the job than in being important, probably makes you a “good enough” voter. And goodness knows, we need a lot more of those!


  1. Democracy requires us to earn our freedom, to renew and maintain it periodically. What people marginal in the ability to do that notice however is that elections come and go and after, everything is the same as before. Of course much of that is explained by the long turning radius of the ship of state. It takes years in office before any elected official has actually influenced anything noticeable so voters might be forgiven for thinking that having to get out and vote doesn’t change anything.

    But history has shown us that sometimes the changes are monumental. It doesn’t matter until it does and then it matters greatly. And living under the wrong or right President or Senator or Govrrnor or Mayor makes a huge difference. But by the time that takes hold it’s too late to change.

    So voting requires a long and responsible view. Many don’t qualify in those regards and are in reality just along for the ride.

    So turning out voters is one of those jobs motivated by slight incremental improvements. Nothing dramatic but more is better than fewer. Progress is measured in small steps.

    Let’s thank those that take it on.

  2. I spent 18 years living in California, a state that made it easy to be an informed voter. 8-12 weeks before an election, I would receive a booklet with information on every candidate, including endorsements. Every referendum would be spelled out in plain English with a supporting statement and rebuttal and an argument against with rebuttal.

    Imagine my surprise after moving back to Indiana that information on candidates in local elections is sparse. I still vote in the primaries, but often with doubt. I scour the internet for anything to get positions and often wait in vain to see if they answer a candidate questionnaire. Forget early voting or the convenience of voting absentee a month before the election since I know nothing about the candidates.

    We Hoosiers can care a great deal when we feel empowered. It is a disservice to us all that this information is not provided in a clear, non-partisan manner.

  3. Elections are held to make people believe they have a voice in government, which they do not…

  4. Politics and Politicians …

    If Plan “A” is unsuccessful

    The alphabet has an additional 25 letters

  5. “If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal.”

    Emma Goldman

    I’m suspicious about Sheila’s motives to get everyone to the polls. I suspect the government feels threatened in being increasingly seen as an aloof body installed by itself and acting solely for its own interests. People see the government as an external club that does nothing to benefit the people, with proceedings and records closed to the people, not terribly different from the machinations of a large corporation.

    The government wants to have more people participate in its installation to create the illusion in the people that the government is their government, but of course, this is ridiculous.

    Government, particularly Indiana government, is a private profit racket for whatever law firm or special interest has taken control of it. They don’t even want you to see what they’re doing. If you submit an open records request, places like Indiana will do everything possible to deny the request. Indiana has even created a Public Access Counselor whose job it is to give governmental divisions legal permission and a legal argument to deny supplying public records.

    Places like Indiana even structure so-called public meetings to avoid records retention. A person would have an easier time writing Bill Gates and getting the most recent minutes of a Microsoft board meeting.

    Places like Indiana even create large corporations which are given huge blocks of tax dollars and a large grant to exercise what used to be government functions. These corporations are completely hidden from public inspection because the government-created corporation is on the State’s books as a private company.

    This isn’t our government. In today’s America, government is what [i]they[/i] do. Let [i]them[/i] vote for it.

    By giving sports teams and other corporations billions of taxpayer dollars; by giving closed-door, no-bid contracts to political pals; by having cops where dash cams and body cams shut off whenever the cops wants and the films from which are hidden from the the public, these American governments merely rule by overwhelming force, not by the desire of any American to be governed by them. American governments, especially Indiana governments, have lost any moral authority to rule. Every law they pass is just something new to line someone’s pockets, and such “laws” do not deserve obedience.

    It’s easier to respect a paper from trusted and honest bodies such as the Family Research Council or the National Rifle Association as binding law than what comes out of the self-serving, dishonest “government.”

  6. Gopper, our government is defined by our Constitution as it always has been. That hasn’t changed. What has changed is big media and advertising. They push into living rooms political opinions like the one that you are expressing in order to get people to do crazy stuff like voting to install people in government to get rid of democracy in favor of oligarchy. Foolish.

    The solution is better stronger government run according to the Constitution.

    We recovered from Bush by voting in such people. We can continue to. We are only one generation removed from people who loved America and cherished our culture and loved our democracy. We can go back in that direction and we must if we’re to prosper again. It’s not rocket science.

    As Sheila points out first we must turn off the TV, start thinking for ourselves again and vote. We can go back to the working government that was almost stolen from us.

    Just do it!

  7. Pete:

    What’s best to put on fries?

    What color Vette looks best?

    Yankees or Red Sox?

    Tastes great or less filling?

    Who’s really got it where it counts, if you know what I mean?

    Do you ever use sentences, paragraphs or entire posts that are computer generated?

    Do you ever use sentences, paragraphs or entire posts that were authored prior to reading the article to which you’re responding?

  8. I will agree with most of what Gooper says (10:06) and will add a quote from Eugene Debs:
    “The Republican and Democratic parties, or, to be more exact, the Republican-Democratic party, represent the capitalist class in the class struggle. They are the political wings of the capitalist system and such differences as arise between them relate to spoils and not to principles.”

    We know here Indianapolis there is an interlocking defense of the Judicial, Legislative and Executive Branches. Add in our intellectually vacant McMega-Media and you have the perfect system for Crony-Capitalism. Brewer or Hogsett = Pepsi or Coke.

    Many people are up set with Ballard, but the one party system of the Republicrats makes certain the Democrats keep their mouths buttoned up. Both political parties in Marion County are parasites.

  9. As everyone here knows Gopper there’s little to be gained by addressing you personally. However you are such a great example of what has changed in America that I take advantage of that.

    You reinforce my points by your inability to address them. Ever.

    So we’re good Gopper. We’re making the same points but coming at it from different contexts.

    Louie, I understand how discouraging it can be and tempting to just stop caring. I have those same moments.

    But I just don’t think the battle is lost yet. As Sheila blogged the other day there are signs that the pendulum is on the way back. And progress throughout our history has ebbed and flowed.

    I don’t ever see in our past or future, perfection, but I do believe that human progress is irresistible. The need for it has been building throughout these dark ages.

    Our time is returning!

  10. I’m thinking that Gopper wants to make the point that who’s in government is a taste choice like hot dogs vs cotton candy. I suppose there are rare occasions when it is. Much more often though electing those experienced in government with well established track records of progress for the majority of their informed constituents and high ethical standards will lead to more effective government than electing those who don’t believe that government needs to even exist. Or those clearly selling to a small slice of their constituency what is good for them but at the expense of a large slice.

    Not taste at all. Informed estimates of the consequences of ideology and the impact of those consequences on a majority of citizens.

  11. Pete:

    What do you think of Alan Turing?

    Would you support his nomination for the office? Do you think he can win the election?

    Though he has ideas not supported by the establishment in his party, do you think he has the solutions to lead us forward?

  12. In Indiana I don’t think it makes a heckuva lot of difference. It takes a little effort to read the party platforms. Voting straight ticket is fast and easy. Makes thinking unnecessary. Get the sarcasm?

  13. Usta be you could get a beer and a free lunch for voting. Do we need some such incentive in the 21st Century?

  14. As one whose career and avocation were centered around computers I think than Alan Turing was a WWII hero and the first to show the world the digital computer model still in use.

    Brilliant guy and tireless scientist.

    Why are we talking about dead scientists and fair food when our country is at risk of failure from being over entertained and under educated?

  15. What’s going on with Gopper?
    The latest is Gopper’s exhumation of Alan Turing, the brilliant scientist who allegedly committed suicide in 1954. Is Gopper preoccupied with homosexual practices or is it simply about ballot or food choices? Wasn’t the royal pardon by Queen Elizabeth, the paragon of virtue, supposed to end posthumously the public speculation about Turing’s private life?

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