Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Mid-Term or Not: November You Have To Vote … by gimleteye

The New York Times OPED board just weighed in on the upcoming November elections. The stakes are so very high in this election cycle. In India, the world's largest democracy, voting is a civic responsibility, and on election day commerce is halted by government order. Nearly everyone who is qualified, votes. Why not here?

A Bigger Midterm Election Turnout

Staying home on Election Day carries a heavy cost.

In Ferguson, Mo., where only 12 percent of voters showed up in the last city election, the cost of nonparticipation was a City Council wholly unrepresentative of the town’s population. On the national level, Democrats and independents — most of whom did not vote in the 2010 midterm Congressional elections — were swamped by Republicans who voted in much larger proportions. The result was a Republican House dominated by the hard right, which over four years became the largest impediment to economic growth and equality. The same thing has happened in many statewide elections.

It’s now seven weeks from the midterms. Will voters realize that decisions made on Nov. 4 will reverberate in laws not passed, roads not built and jobs not created?

The biggest prize at stake in November is the Senate, where Democrats are in serious danger of losing control to a Republican Party determined to roll back much of the social progress of the last six years, and to block as many of President Obama’s judicial appointments as possible. There is little chance that Democrats will win back the House this year, in part because of Republican redistricting, but many statehouses and governorships that control districting and voting regulations are also in the balance.

All of that makes it imperative that the demographic groups that turned out in relatively large numbers during the last two presidential elections show up at the polls this year. According to Catalist, a data analysis company, the groups with the biggest declines in turnout between 2008 and 2010 were voters younger than 30, down nearly 35 percentage points; black and Hispanic voters, down 27 points each; and single women, down 26 points. Those groups have historically been the most resistant to the right’s message of lower taxes, sharply reduced spending on social programs and job creation, and tighter restrictions on women’s reproductive rights.

No one expects a midterm turnout to approach that of a presidential year, which generates more excitement and interest. For decades, turnout rates in midterms have been 10 or more percentage points below those of presidential elections. Democrats say their focus group interviews show that two-thirds of those not planning to vote this year don’t even know that an election is being held. And voters historically turn against the party of the president elected two years before.

But there are ways to increase voter participation this year, and some are being tested on a broad scale:

BETTER USE OF DATA Both parties are using sophisticated techniques to identify new voters or those who participated in 2008 and 2012 but are unlikely to vote this year. They are focusing not only on ethnic and socioeconomic groups but also on smaller subgroups like new students at politically active colleges or people from blue-collar neighborhoods who have lost their homes.

Research has found that broadcast ads and robocalls are far less effective at motivating people to vote than the personal touch: face-to-face, door-to-door reminders that there is an election coming up, in a direct conversation that discusses the high stakes. The Democrats’ turnout effort, known as the Bannock Street Project, is spending $60 million on both technology and carefully trained workers to mobilize individual voters. One technique — based on findings that social pressure is one of the best motivators — asks voters to fill out a reminder card about the election, which the party or a campaign mails back to them shortly before the vote.

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Single women (who have a poor midterm track record) are a particular target, and Democratic groups are making a special effort to remind them about Republican opposition to pay equity, abortion rights, education spending and a higher minimum wage.

BIG REGISTRATION DRIVES Georgia, where a highly competitive Senate race is taking place, has about 900,000 black, Hispanic and Asian residents who are eligible to vote but are unregistered. Getting even a fifth of them to the polls could make a major difference. (Mr. Obama lost the state by 205,000 votes in 2008.) The New Georgia Project, an effort to register hundreds of thousands of minorities, young people and single women, has already put 85,000 new names on the registration lists. This has infuriated Republicans, including the highly partisan secretary of state, Brian Kemp, who has accused the group of fraud and begun a trumped-up investigation.

REDUCING VOTING BARRIERS In state after state with competitive races, Republicans have scrambled to reduce turnout with voter ID requirements, cutbacks on early voting, insufficient polling places in dense urban areas and restrictions on registration. Many legal advocates, often joined by the Justice Department, have fought these measures in court and should continue to do so on every front. Voters who don’t participate in state legislative elections need constant reminders that cynical politicians want them to stay home.

Over time, the best way to build a stronger democracy is to make voting a habit instead of a difficult chore. This year could be the one when that habit begins.


Anonymous said...

Any idea when absentee ballots will be mailed out? I can't wait to vote!

Anonymous said...

But my vote doesn't matter /s/ (sarcasm font)

Anonymous said...

When you watch the world, how can anyone bypass the opportunity to vote? People are not able to live free and vote and we sit on our butts?

Anonymous said...

Yes, we take so much for granted. I was watching the attacks on Christianity and Christian churches in China on the news yesterday. So much to be thankful for, but we take so much for granted. Let's hope people will vote. If they don't vote, in reality, they don't count.

Anonymous said...

Any politician who supported Obama is now fighting for his or her political life. The only reason the Republicans will take the Senate is because compulsive liar Obama has failed so abysmally.

Anonymous said...

Are you looking at the polls from the same people who predicted Cantor was ahead in his congressional race by 42 percent?

Anonymous said...

There were no polls that predicted Cantor would win by 42%. Cantor paid for two internal polls that used heavily flawed methodology. The last one, a week before the election told Cantor he had an 11-point lead (down from 30 the week before) with 9% undecided. Internal polls are notoriously unreliable, and Cantor selected two particularly bad polling firms. The Huffington Post did a solid analysis of the issue after the election.

For my Senate predictions, I look at all the public polls, especially Nate Silver's FivethirtyEight Senate Model. Silver says Republicans have a 64% chance of taking the Senate in November.

cheap crap from china said...

Encourage friends and family to vote, too. We need a big turnout.

Anonymous said...

Well, the best thing to do is to wait and see! Based on polls the mighty Cantor also thought he was way ahead and would easily win. Let's talk again the day after election!