Still wondering what happened with our presidential election? Perplexed by all the numbers political pundits are throwing around? Here’s one for you: 46.9%. Almost half. That’s the percentage of American adults who were eligible to vote on November 8th and made the conscious decision not to cast a ballot.
This was the most important election in many years, and yet roughly 231,556,600 Americans ignored thousands of pleas on the web, television and every other form of media to get out and vote.
Why? What were these people doing that prevented them from taking 30 minutes to visit a voting booth? Were they chained to their desks or laptops making deals? Were they busy with carpools? Making cookies for the bake sale?
Perhaps the haircut and color appointment took longer than they had planned. Or the dog got off the leash during their morning walk.
The direction of our country for the next four years – and how things play out for many more thereafter – is largely in the hands of a new President. Yet, apparently, almost half of us don’t really care.
The United Kingdom is painfully familiar with this scenario. Half of their citizens did not vote on what is now referred to as Brexit; an abbreviation for “British Exit,” referring to the June 2016 referendum whereby British citizens voted to exit the European Union. Its passage roiled global markets – including currencies – and caused the British pound to fall to its lowest level in decades. That’s when the other (non-voting) half of citizens suddenly took notice.
It’s been a week since the general election and people are still marching and protesting in major cities and in small towns across our country; most peacefully, some violently. These people are frustrated with the loss of their candidate and fearful about the future of the United States. I completely understand and feel the same.
But here’s another number for you: It’s just been reported that 70% of the protestors arrested in Portland didn’t even to vote. They didn’t care enough to walk down to their neighborhood polls on Election Day, but somehow cared enough to march down (and vandalize) someone else’s neighborhood the day after. That hardly seems like the kind of democracy our founders had in mind.
So, I have a couple of ideas that might encourage every eligible citizen to register and vote responsibly at every national and local election.
For starters, if you’re not registered to vote, you shouldn’t receive a driver’s license, and if you miss an election you would receive a warning from the Department of Motor Vehicles. The second election in which you choose not to vote, you would receive another notice and monetary fine. After you fail to vote in a third election, your license would be revoked for one year.
For those who don’t have a driver’s license or choose not to drive, I have another idea. If you miss voting in an election, you would be unable to apply for a U.S. passport. If you already have a passport and choose not to vote, you would receive a warning from the State Department that if you fail to vote in three eligible elections, you’ll have your passport revoked for one year.
Of course, these are just ideas and could be difficult to enforce – but what do you think? How can we compel more citizens to participate in the democratic process? Should we even try? Or do we ultimately get what we deserve? I’m anxious to hear your thoughts in the Comments section.
At the very least, I hope when you hear friends or relatives admit they didn’t vote you’ll speak up loud and clear and let them know you’re disappointed in their decision.
Let them know they passed on their opportunity to act on the 15th Amendment to the United States Constitution – their right to vote – and forfeited their right to complain about the outcome.
“Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves, and the only way they could do this is by not voting.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt