Issues rather than candidates might entice voters to the polls
Rose Ann Miele’s April 21 column asked “How do we convince … people to register and then vote?” in response to the fact that 695,000 eligible Nevada citizens have not registered to vote. Add the approximate 400,000 registered voters who did not vote in the 2012 presidential election and you have about 1.1 million nonvoters out of 2.2 million eligible.
Voter turnout is much less in midterm elections. Approximately 15 percent of registered Clark County voters cast ballots in the last midterm election. Very few vote despite being inundated with pleas to vote: such as, it our patriotic duty, only those who vote have the right to complain, Americans have fought and died to preserve the right to vote, etc.
How to increase participation? Miele’s suggestion is apparently conversation, convincing people to vote. President Barack Obama’s solution is compulsory voting. Hillary Clinton would automatically register everyone on their 18th birthday. Many commentators have proposed changing the date of local midterm elections to coincide with the presidential election cycle.
So why don’t people vote?
Perhaps because our elections have become popularity contests between two candidates who typically are (1) career politicians, (2) super wealthy, (3) almost always selected by those with wealth and connections and (4) will govern exactly the same. Candidates spend millions of dollars pointing out how great they are and how bad their opponent is.
So after being inundated with countless TV commercials, voters get to choose between two candidates who portray their opponent as incompetent at the very least or as downright evil while both will govern exactly the same. One can easily see why most citizens don’t bother to vote. In fact, for those of us who actually vote, it is a leap of faith that the candidates we vote for will actually do what they say they will do as elected officials. In almost every case we are disappointed.
Perhaps if we were given the opportunity to vote on national issues, like most other western nations, more citizens would register and vote. For example, Greek voters were given the opportunity to vote whether or not to accept European Union conditions for a loan (63 percent turnout), 84 percent of Scottish voters turned out and voted to stay in the United Kingdom and this summer British voters will decide whether or not England will remain in the EU.
History indicates more citizens vote when given the opportunity to determine policy.