Special Election Day!!

snowBAD WEATHER is not the reason that 80-90% of the eligible citizens will NOT show up!

Typical of mainstream MEDIA election coverage, this Washington post reporter uses the term “voters” to define the narrow slice of the electorate that will actually show up to vote. She also uses the term “trio” of candidates, as if all three of the candidates are the same. In observing years of political coverage, from coast to coast, we have found that most MEDIA outlets use the same artful terms in their election reporting.

This Post article goes on to blame BAD WEATHER for potential low turnout, despite the fact that 80-90% of the eligible electorate would be unlikely to show up even if the temperature were in the 60s! It is not apathy. People think the elections are rigged, or they don’t vote in local elections because (thanks to the MEDIA) they equate the act of voting with presidential elections and not local elections.

We must design a way to specifically target non-voters with the message that their non-vote does not send any message Washington (or their state capital). Non-voters vastly outnumber voters when it comes to local and congressional elections. We intend to continue to reach out directly to these tens of millions of non-voting citizens.

Original article:
Va. special election could determine balance of power
Follow-up article:
Turnout on pace to meet or exceed predictions in Va. Senate special election


who-votes-nowAs the director of GOV360, I am always thrilled to find newly published research by scholars in my field. Dan Balz’ Washington Post column, Monday, January 4th, identified a new book about the impact of low voter turnout on American elections. “Who Votes Now” (2014), by Jan E. Leighley and Jonathan Nagler is perhaps the most comprehensive work on the subject in 25 years. The broad premise of the book is that not voting in presidential elections does have consequences on our political system, and that the silence of non-voters can have an adverse impact on policy decisions affecting the direction of our country. The book defines gaps between voters and non-voters. However, what is missing is any mention of the fact that these demographic gaps become much more significant in non-presidential elections. For example, wealthier people may be somewhat more likely to vote in presidential elections than people with lower incomes, but the wealthy are far more likely to vote in congressional primaries, mid-terms and off-year or special elections.

When I started, GOV360 in 2010, the goal was to point out that the United States was designed to be a representative republic. According to the constitution, it would seem that founders intended for the make-up of the United States House of Representatives to be more significant to public policy than the person occupying the White House. In “Who Votes Now”, the authors attempt to show how income gaps and demographic disparity can adversely affect the outcome of presidential elections. But they omit the fact that other elections, where these gaps are much greater, could be much more important to the grand scheme of things in our democratic system. This issue is not directly addressed at all in the book. Yet, if non-voters have an impact on presidential elections, they certainly have an even greater impact on the outcome of congressional elections.

Leighley and Nagler do a great service in addressing the influence of presidential politics on voter turnout, and vice versa. They both seem to understand the importance of examining the motivations of non-voters. But, they fail to address the need for sustainable solutions to low turnout in elections that matter to our cities, states, and districts. GOV360 is fighting an uphill battle as long as scholars, experts, and people in the mainstream media continue to downplay important representative elections. Like any problem, if we are to ever find solutions to the voter turnout crisis, we must be bold in pointing out where and how the crisis really exists.