Nineteen percent of Michigan’s registered voters turned out to the polls last Tuesday.
For you fellow math-phobes, that’s roughly one in five. (Ratio courtesy of my teen-age son.)
Think about that. If you called a meeting in your office and only one of the five people you invited attended, you’d try to figure out ways to boost attendance, yes?
That thought apparently never occurs to state or national leaders because they keep right on doing what they’ve always done because, well, that’s how they’ve always done it.
Then, of course, they tsk-tsk about low voter turnouts.
Nuts, right? Maybe the problem is the people in charge of our elections simply don’t know what to do. (That’s not true, of course – many lawmakers, in fact, spend a lot of time figuring out new ways to discourage people, particularly minorities, from voting – but let’s pretend.)
Fortunately for them, I have a few suggestions:
1) Don’t hold elections in August, for crying out loud. How stupid is that? Everyone is on vacation in August. Or dreaming about vacation. Or just getting over a vacation. The last thing on anyone’s mind in August is the local township trustee race, which is why we end up with some pretty bizarre trustees.
2) Stop holding votes on Tuesday. Why Tuesday? What’s so magic about Tuesday? A lot of voters I know are tired and cranky by Tuesday because Tuesday comes after Monday and Monday sucks. Why not hold weekend elections? Why not have an election period of, say, three days instead of one? Why not try Internet voting? We file taxes over the Internet, why not vote?
3) Automatically register everyone to vote when they turn 18. According to FairVote.org, the U.S. is one of the few democracies in the world that doesn’t. As Fair Vote puts it: “Instead, our government leaves the construction of voter rolls up to partisan and non-partisan voter registration organizations, political parties (and) election officials. Sadly, this hands-off approach invites voter registration fraud.”
4) Require government to send a nonpartisan voter guide to every single home and every single cell phone. Many people don’t vote because they don’t know anything about the issues or the candidates. Mass media used to fill this void, but no longer. People need simple, handy information.
5) Take politics out of elections by banning the redrawing of voting boundaries (gerrymandering) to favor one side. Nothing sucks the democracy out of an election – and thus depresses voter interest – faster than taking all mystery out of which side will win.
6) For presidential elections, dump the Electoral College. No one understands it, and it doesn’t protect us from the “tyranny of the majority” like it was supposed to. Get rid of it. Go popular vote. So sayeth President Gore.
7) Eleven nations, including Australia, make voting mandatory. Why not us? In those countries, non-voters are fined or do community service. For maximum impact here, I’d recommend taking away TV, cell phone and computer privileges for a year.
That’s probably impossible and un-American. But I say we vote on it anyway.
Say, on a Tuesday. Next August.