Facebook has a feature dubbed “your memories.” A couple of days ago, it reminded me of a blog I posted a year ago about voter turnout. I have never repeated a post before, but as we count down to critically important May and November elections, I think this one is worth re-running. (It was titled, “It’s The Turnout, Stupid!”)


Do references to “President” Trump make you wonder how we ended up with a Congress and an Administration so wildly at odds with what survey research tells us the majority of Americans want?

This paragraph from a recent Vox article really says it all:

A general poll doesn’t reflect voters very much anymore. A general poll would have had Donald Trump losing substantially and the Democrats winning the House. About 45 percent of people in general polls don’t vote at all. What you saw in the election was that Republican voters came out at a very high rate. They got high turnout from non-minority people from small towns.

There are multiple reasons people fail to vote. There is, of course, deliberate suppression via “Voter ID” laws , restrictions of early voting periods and purposely inconvenient placement of polling places.

Gerrymandering, as I have pointed out numerous times before, is a major disincentive; why go to the polls when the overwhelming  number of contests aren’t really contested?

And of course, there are the holdover mechanisms from days when transportation and communication technologies were very different–state, rather than national control of everything from registration to the hours the polls are open, voting on a Tuesday, when most of us have to work, rather than on a weekend or a day designated as a national holiday, etc.

The Vox paragraph illustrates the repeated and frustrating phenomenon of widespread public antagonism to proposed legislation that nevertheless passes easily, or support for measures that repeatedly fail. If vote totals equaled poll results–that is, if everyone who responded to an opinion survey voted–our political environment would be dramatically different.

Americans being who we are, we are extremely unlikely to require voting, as they do in Australia. (Those who fail to cast a ballot pay a fine.) We can’t even pass measures to make voting easier. I personally favor “vote by mail” systems like the ones in Oregon and Washington State; thay save taxpayer dollars, deter (already minuscule) voter fraud, and increase turnout. They also give voters time to research ballot issues in order to cast informed votes. (Informed votes! What a thought….)

If the millions of Americans who have been energized (okay, enraged) by Trump’s election want to really turn things around, the single most important thing they can do is register people who have not previously voted, and follow up by doing whatever it takes to get them to cast ballots.

Voter ID laws a problem? Be sure everyone you register has ID. Polls and times inconvenient? Help them vote early or drive them to their polling place.

Gerrymandering a disincentive? First make sure that someone is opposing every incumbent, no matter how lopsided the district, and then help people who haven’t previously voted get to the polls. Those gerrymandered district lines are based upon prior turnout statistics; on how people who voted in that district previously cast their ballots. If even half of those who have been non-voters started going to the polls, a lot of so-called “safe” districts wouldn’t be so safe.

Not voting, it turns out, is a vote for the status quo. There are a lot of Americans who are cynical and dissatisfied with the status quo who don’t realize that the plutocrats and autocrats they criticize are enabled by–and counting on– their continued lack of involvement.

If everyone who has found his or her inner activist would pledge to find and register three to five people who haven’t previously voted, and do what it takes to get them to the polls, it would change America.


  1. I’ve never been politically active — just “aware.” But now…..I’ve been energized by Trump, and I love Sheila Kennedy’s suggestion that people like me find 3 to 5 people who have not previously voted. I plan to start with the Joe Donnelly HQ kickoff this Sunday (March 11) from 2-5 PM. 30 minutes welcome and 2 hours canvassing. It’s at 2466 E. 116th Street, Carmel, Merchant Square shopping center, near Wendy’s and Einstein Bagels at 116th and Keystone. And if the Democrats can find someone to run against Susan Brooks and Todd Young, then I’ll work on that as well. I have relatives in Alabama who were very active in assisting to register voters who hadn’t voted, needed rides, etc., in the recent upset. Every single vote counted. Every single vote.

  2. How many times would you mow a yard with a bladeless lawnmower?

    Once, twice,…twenty times?

    At some point, you’d realize it’s pointless. Some people would push that lawnmower dozens of times cursing at the grass for growing and the lawnmower for not making any improvement.

    But they currently only make bladeless lawnmowers so you can push it or wait until a new lawnmower is available with a blade.

    I expect young people are working several new lawmowers with blades. I’ll buy one of those when available because I know it will get the job done. No sense wasting time and energy…

  3. I have been encouraging people to register and to vote since 2008 when I learned the appalling number of people I know who have never registered or voted. Some were surprises; others were to be expected and no surprise when they couldn’t be convinced.

    I hold very strong views on everyone of age have some form of ID; if not drivers license, then a state ID card which should be made easily available to all by all states. Teenagers are required to have a state Work Permit to be hired but adults not required to provide ID is a questionable situation. Proper ID is not only used to vote in elections; even having ID for many years, my entire economic situation regarding bank accounts, check writing, credit cards, medical appointments, general shopping, et al, as well as my credit rating in three credit reporting bureaus was totally screwed for months after being attacked and robbed. Simply because ID was not required by merchants who allowed a 27 year old junkie to sign my name to run up many hundreds of dollars in purchases at eight locations using my two credit cards within a few hours. Enough about that issue.

    On every election day there are countless candidates running in every state; you may not have a member of your party running in your district (district 88 with Brian Bosma sitting in his 32nd year in office is an example) but…what about the other candidates you can help to elect with your one vote? There is no rule, law, ordinance or obligation requiring any American to vote for presidential candidates simply because they are running. Some of the Republicans I spoke with in 2016 did NOT want to vote for Trump and Pence but voted the straight Republican ticket, thereby helping to give the election to them via the Electoral College. They could have voted only for the other candidates they did support and the final would could have been fewer votes for the “deconstruction ” party now in control.

    Front page headline in the Star today; “Donnelly eyes easing of banking regulations”. Please do not think this means easing of bank regulations costing customers in fees or requiring them to return a decent interest rate on those investing in banks; “Indiana’s own Sen. Joe Donnelly recently helped craft a bill that would provide significant relief for local credit unions and banks…” This is but one of Joe Donnelly’s failures to represent those of us who elected him and all other residents of this state; but he is our only option at this time. One of those options where we must chose between the “lesser of two evils”; he appears to continue to ignore the demands of his constituents and moves closer to the opposition party. Is he pleasing (sucking up to) Pence in case he soon sits in the Oval Office…or is he simply a right-wing Democrat? I learned when notified my Public Employee Retirement Fund (PERF) would be administered by a private company that it had been privatized a few years earlier. Contacting my Democrataic state Rep. Dan Forestal I learned he knew nothing about the change and his Chief Legislature Officer informed me the fund was not privatized; they merely changed the private company administering the funds. These are Democrats who appear to be ignorant of the term “privatization” or “outsourcing” of their own retirement funds. Forestal is another of the “lesser of two evils” I will vote for in upcoming elections.

    The “Rerun” of this blog is quite timely and vital to the 2018 elections. Will we begin seeking out better candidates to run in the future or simply accept the current options to “Rerun” after this years elections are history? It is up to us to drain our own swamp as a beginning.

  4. I must add to my views on requiring ID the fact that; after months of hassle and problems using new credit cards and writing checks, the banks eventually “absorbed the loss” and cleared my credit rating . But…the banks only “absorbed the loss” temporarily on paper; it “trickled down” to all customers by raising our fees and lowering our earned interest rates which Joe Donnelly is now working with Republicans to aid banks and credit unions to further charge those of us using those banks and credit unions. Think about it!

  5. Those who wait for the pure of heart to run for office may never vote again. Vote for the best available candidate and stay in his or her ear to get the results you want in legislation.

  6. As we now see in the most dramatic and horrifying way, not voting is almost seditious if we allow creatures from the night and the swamp to be in our governments.

    Voting, hopefully, will motivate people to become INFORMED too. Trump was all too obvious in his ridiculous and disgusting campaign, yet the blocs who vote, ended up giving him just enough to become President…along with VP Pinhead, Pence.

    God help those non-voters, because saving their country doesn’t seem to.

  7. I live in Idaho Falls, ID one of the last bastions of a truly patriarchal society. Although the mail in ballot works for Oregon, here in ID, I fear voting becoming a “family” activity with everyone sitting at the kitchen table getting “guidance”. The voting booth is the only place where your vote is truly private.

  8. Peggy – You are right. Something is better than nothing, and there is always hope that something can be shown the light. Sheila’s blog is worth repeating once a month, because, as I often write, when all the soapbox and blather is over, elections are decided by arithmetic. None of the high-sounding political calls to arms mean much if anything without turnout.

    Registration and turnout are vital components to success at the polls, and as old Governor Cuomo famously stated: “You gotta get a seat at the table.” You get a seat at the table with turnout, and on the more optimistic side of the situation today (if such optimism can be sustained), there is a great deal of energy and enthusiasm in Democratic ranks that could (if Putin allows it) overcome both gerrymandering and Koch money in the upset of the century. Turnout wins; Big Money loses – an unfamiliar but very welcome boost to retention of our democracy. Yes!

  9. Here’s another way to look at our situation.

    For 8 years Republicans propagandized their base in every negative way possible about President Obama, VP Biden, Nancy Pelosi, Sec State Clinton, and all Democratic Senators. I remember thinking nobody is uninformed enough to fall for any of that much less all of it.

    It peaked with Trump defeating the Republicans in their primary by doubling down on the lies. Of course Putin got his lies in too.

    Look at the turnout they got.

    It has to be very tempting, but ultimately destructive for Democrats to follow what worked so successfully.

    I’d also like to believe that the Democrat base is not as gullible so I don’t believe it would “work” for them as well.

    The good news is that they can achieve the same negativity by telling the truth about this administration.

  10. Most people probably do not believe in binary choices, or a black and white world. There are shades of gray and colors. When it comes to voting at best we are presented with two viable candidates. Viable, in this case means both have accumulated enough campaign contributions, from individuals, Pacs, and Super Pacs. Do these candidates represent the people that vote for them or the campaign contributors that allow them to be viable???

    Not long ago I read an article that not voting may not indicate laziness. Not voting the article stated could be the choice of – None of the Above. There are many polls conducted, but I would be keenly interested if there ever was a poll of people who did not vote and why.

  11. Connie Latas: there are at least 5 candidates in the Democratic primary May 8: Dion Douglas, Sean Dugdale, Eshel Farragi, Kyle Brendan Moore and Dee Thornton. See’s_5th_congressiona election,2018

  12. Not voting to me means I don’t care enough to express an opinion.

    That’s actually fine with me. I don’t think that there’s any value in trying to make those who don’t care have opinions.

    Voter turnout to me is more about if you do care assume that your vote is essential.

  13. Connie Latas – Check out Joe Donnelly. Is there anything that can be done about his voting “GOP-Lite” (voting with the GOP) on critical issues? Why does Donnelly choose to oppose some issues supported by the Democrat National Party Platform? For example, what do you think should inform him as a Senator on issues of women’s health?

  14. Unless people have choices at the voting booth, what difference does it make if they go or not? I have mentioned on this blog before that I have almost no choices in primaries and very few choices in general elections in my district.

    We need to continue to fight gerrymandering so that more candidates would run for office if they thought there might be a chance to win.

    As several of you know, I was strongly considering running for my district’s state senate office. However, in the end I decided that it was too large of a committment to make to run for an office that I knew I would ultimately lose in the general election due to my district being one of the top three in the entire state for voting Red.

  15. I didn’t start voting until 2008 and I haven’t missed an election since. But I fear that hackers will overturn any voter turnout. Look what happened in 2016. If you think 45 won that election fairly and without hacking, I have ocean front property to sell you in Arizona. I will always say that 2016 was an invalid election and I will never ever believe it was legitimate. Never. And 2018, here we come for round two.

  16. Peggy and Bev, good points! The answer is vote, vote, vote…now and in 2020 and beyond. None of us is as strong as ALL of us!

  17. Since the election board isn’t going to allow early voting until 2019, I wonder if there are any patriotic employers out there who, for 2018 only, would allow paid time off to vote.

  18. Will Joe Donnelly save his seat because: The Senate confirmed Neil Gorsuch as the 113th justice of the Supreme Court with the support of only three Democrats, including Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly???

    Interesting does Joe Donnelly think he is going to save his seat by voting with mainly Republicans concerning a new banking bill he is a co-sponsor on??? Joe is lining up with all the Republicans in the Senate.

    “A major feature of the bill is exempting about two dozen financial companies with assets between $50 billion and $250 billion from the highest levels of regulatory scrutiny from the Federal Reserve,” notes the Washington Post’s Jeff Stein, who first reported on the CBO’s findings.

    According to the CBO, such exemptions would give large institutions—including so-called “too big to fail” banks—more freedom to engage in the kind of risky behavior that led to the 2008 financial crash, thus making them more likely to collapse again.

    “This banking bill is a disaster,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said in a statement responding to the CBO’s findings.

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