During my lifetime, for the even years when we are not voting for president but voting for such important officials like Governor, Attorney General, Comptroller, US Senate, Congress, State Senate and State Assembly, New York State’s voter turnout of registered voters has been cut in half. Yes, when I was a little 3-year-old back in 1966, the voter turnout for those that chose a Governor in an exciting four-way race between Nelson Rockefeller (Republican), Frank O’Connor (Democrat), Paul Adams (Conservative) and Franklin Deleno Roosevelt Jr. (Liberal) was over 60%. Our recent race between Andrew Cuomo (Democrat), Rob Astorino (Republican) and Howie Hawkins (Green) had the lowest turnout election watchers can remember – about 31% of registered voters. See chart above for voter turnout in Governor election years since 1966. (Note: it’s possible turnout from 1966 to 1990 was a bit higher as it was difficult to track down the exact data, but I believe my percents are good estimates).
It’s shocking that so many New Yorkers are failing to respect their civic duty to let their voices be heard on Election Day. We can all speculate about the reasons for this massive drop in voting: negative campaigns, people turned off by modern day politics or working too hard/no time to vote, so many uncontested races, or New York’s embarrassing political corruption. But frankly, as a very busy person who always finds time to study the candidates and make it to the polls, there is just no excuse for failing to vote. Less than one-third of New York’s registered voters just picked our federal and state elected representatives. As a comparison, North Carolina, which did have massive amounts of money spent on one of the featured US Senate races, had a 44% turnout. I worked on Governor George Pataki’s exciting victory in 1994 and that campaign had a much more respectable turnout of 53%. Election Day 2014 was not a victory for democracy in New York State.
The quadrennial midterm election is upon us. Oh the passion, the pageantry of it all. If only the electorate was as engaged as the talking heads (but then again, it is their livelihood). One party seems to benefit from and encourages low turnout. To the point where they continually try to put up obstacles to potential voters. Instead of trying to limit voters, isn’t it more sensible to have a platform that engages more people?
Yes, I’m talking about the Republican Party. There are many aspects of their platform that are outdated and will never garner enough support from the general public.
First, the platform should be devoid of any social issues. Not because I think government should not be in the business of affecting social change (suffrage and civil rights movements are two good examples), but the party purports to not want government in our bedrooms while trying to define what marriage should be. They are flatly against abortion rights in the name of protecting family values but what sense does it make to bring an unwanted child into the world? Against gambling over the Internet, but in person okay? It appears the party is schizophrenic when it comes to social issues.
Second, while I’m in favor of the Second Amendment, that doesn’t mean every Tom, Dick, and Harry should have the right to bear arms. The party supports a database for sex offenders, why not one for those with a criminal background or a history of mental health so they cannot purchase a gun? It’s reported that 70% of gun related deaths are self-inflicted. Wouldn’t that indicate a need for a position in the platform for mental health funding?
These are just two of the changes needed to make the Republican Party more appealing to a wider audience. Then it should make the last change: eliminating the defense of the electoral college. It’s an concept that has outlived its time. Yes we are a federalist form of government but national elections are no longer national. They are waged in very narrow battlegrounds that leave large portions of the United States uninvolved. With a platform that is more inclusive, less contradictory, and more engaging, a national popular vote would be less scary.