Do the Democrats Want the Missing Voters?

Non voters

New Orleans        A nonpartisan research organization found that 37% of nonvoters in the midterms were 18 to 29 years old compared with just 12% of those who voted.  More than half of the nonvoters or 55% make less than $50,000 compared with 34% of voters, and only 20% of nonvoters have a college degree, less than half the 42% of voters who do.  These are people right in the heart of the classic ACORN constituency.  They also found that these voters were slightly inclined to vote more Democratic than they were Republican, but also were significantly undecided.  These missing, nonvoters were much less inclined to vote Democratic than the voters that actually came to the polls in the midterms.

Given this information, I have to wonder as Democratic strategists look at their work for the midterms and their coming prospects for the 2020 general election, whether the Democrats really want these missing voters to get to the polls and vote?  A classic organizing problem in community organizing, union elections, and political work is always, “How do you keep from turning out your opposition, rather than your supporters?”

In theory, in our democracy, we want everyone to vote, and sometimes we even say that’s the case.  Often the Republicans are painted as the king of voter suppressors, and no doubt they have earned the title, but I wonder when it comes to actually doing the hard GOTV work or investing in those “missing voters” actually showing up and participating, whether Democrats might be big talking and slow walking.

A surprising set of states stepped up against voter suppression.  Voters in Michigan chose to end partisan gerrymandering, as did citizens in Utah, Missouri, and Colorado.  Michigan and Maryland also approved same day registration for voters, and Nevada opted to register voters automatically when they become eighteen.  Utah and Missouri particularly have been “better red than dead” in many recent elections, but voters, regular citizens, seem to want to expand the franchise, rather than limit it.

When it comes to the so-called missing voters though, if we are going to really get them to saddle up and vote, we have to make sure they see voting as something that matters to them.  Suburban, college-educated women for example were low hanging fruit this election for the Democrats because Trump mattered to them, perhaps even more than whatever the Democratic candidate offered.  The Houston / Harris County blue tide miracle was made possible by a long ballot and the ability to do straight ticket voting along partisan lines with one pull of the lever, rather than working your way down 90 individual races.  Trump for bad, and Beto O’Rourke for good, and more than half of the voters there just pulled the lever.

The researchers found that most of the missing voters weren’t leaning either Republican or Democratic, but undecided or just clueless.  Talking to a woman on the phone in Detroit today, she described the problem succinctly:  people don’t think it matters and don’t see anything on the ballot or any candidate that is really talking to them.  As the Democrats refine their message and try to ride their wave, they may have decided not to put the time and money into moving these voters to the polls, when there were other constituencies that they felt were more reliable this election.

It’s those kinds of calculations that create the breeding ground for the Trumps of the future and more defeats to come.

We need automatic registration and mandatory and easily accessible voting that forces parties and candidates to do the work to meet the needs of all the people, not just the those of the donors and the latest focus groups and poll numbers.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Voter Registration Periods are Over, Now’s the Time for GOTV

New Orleans       Georgia is scaring the Republicans.  Barriers to voter registration dropped over the last two years as the result of lawsuits and legislative action that made registration and renewal more accessible through automatic procedures that allow a voter to opt out of registering, but otherwise enfranchise them.  The results have been significant.

Reporting in the Wall Street Journal indicated that the change “helped fuel a 15% increase in Georgia’s active voter rolls to about 6.3 million in September from about 5.5 million in November 2016.  Black registered voters rose 15%, Hispanic voters 40%, and Asian and Pacific Islander voters rose 36%.  The number of women who are registered to vote increased 13% in the period and white registered voters went up by about 10%.”  All of that seems like good news, except for one simple fact, which the Republicans have understood very well for years.  Once you reduce the barriers, more potential voters are enfranchised.  Given demographic changes in Georgia and the growth of minority populations that means that more of this enlarged pool tends to favor Democratic candidates.  Thirteen states and the District of Columbia have voter registration laws that roughly align with Georgia’s.  All of which is why Republicans in many states attempt to suppress the vote.

Leveling the playing field so that it balances evenly with democratic governance based on voter accountability is a good thing for everyone, regardless of the partisan politics that tries to tilt towards authoritarianism.  Registration alone just signs up all of the players.  It doesn’t put them into the game.  An Oregon political scientist found that despite the 5% increase in that state’s registration, the “turnout effects were relatively modest” with about 30% of the new registrants voting.  New registrants who enroll after aggressive outreach and registration campaigns tend to vote in higher percentages than the rest of the population, but the Oregon figures seem to indicate that default auto-registrants are less motivated, so their participation would more likely be triggered by the campaign.

Voter registration periods for the mid-terms in many states like Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana for example are now over, so the real push now has to be to get people out to vote.  Community radio stations are being encouraged to run GOTV public service announcements in regular rotation to keep the election date and the importance of voting in front of citizens.  For the next month this needs to be a constant push.

How could that be a bad thing?  Let’s get it done!

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail