Until the 2016 election, the turnout of qualified, registered voters in the United States as a whole for quite a long time in recent years ran normally at about 50 +/- %. That is a VERY low percentage by global democracy standards. Then in 2016 it dropped down to 37%.
No doubt a basic reason was a widespread belief that neither candidate was right for the job, for very different reasons. And, thus the overall result was ‘a pox on both of you.’ Of course, that conclusion amounts to kicking the can down the road for another four years, and leaves the whole country – including the 63% who did not vote – at the mercy of whichever candidate managed to get elected. In this case the winner was elected by about only 1/5 of ALL voters, but also by about 3,000,000 fewer voters altogether.
No matter what you may think about our Constitution and electoral process, that was surely not the way the Founding Fathers ever imagined an election should be concluded. So we are now stuck with another three years of a minority elected President who seems to be doing his best to alienate ever more fellow citizens.
This situation leads to the question of what can we do NOW to help insure a much bigger and more representative turn out in 2020.
That may partly happen because citizen concern has seemingly increased enough to at least get us back to the overall 50% level of voting turnout. In many red or blue States that are one-sided there are plenty of voters [of both parties] who do not vote because they somehow think ‘their’ vote does not matter.
One – hopefully non-controversial — idea could address one basic problem of low turnout.
Voting – and getting there—is not as easy in the US as in many countries because many parts of this country are less densely populated. As a result, it is in fact a pretty big deal to get to the polls on Election Day –transportation, health, conflicting job requirements, long lines and waits for people with disabilities—are all legitimate problems that conflict with people’s desire and ability to vote.
Indeed, an option does exist for absentee ballots but that too has its own discouraging challenges. Paperwork, hassle, too premature to decide, and nearly impossible to change your vote on Election Day. To many such people such voting is not worth the bother particularly in one-sided States.
If there were a way a person who could NOT get out to vote could relatively easily delegate to an immediate family member the right to cast her or his relative’s vote by producing the relative’s Social Security card, driver’s license, health insurance card and/or birth certificate—as well as a statement why they are voting in the relative’s place.
The delegator must say he/she has been promised by the voting relative to cast the vote the way the delegator wants and that no money or any other thing of value was exchanged for the right to cast that relative’s vote.
Another thing that should be included would be a photo of the delegator and the delegatee exchanging the paperwork.
This process could be close to foolproof and would likely increase turn out by something. It is at least worth a try.
Perhaps there are enough flexible and confident jurisdictions to give such a plan a try soon enough to work out the kinks in time for a more general use in 2020!