Non-Voters Count Just As Much As Voters

Vote! Because when you don't, you might get Trump

Updated 1 year ago David Stone
Are we?
Are we?
The affect of not voting has never been fully analyzed because, it's assumed, non-voters - nearly half the population - have preferences similar to voters. But that shaky argument's getting shakier. Research shows it's untrue and may have decided the last presidential election.

A couple of weeks ago, reading Stephen Pinker's Enlightenment Now, I found one statistic startling. The fastest growing religious preference in the United States is "None," not atheists, but people who say they're religious or spiritual yet don't identify with any religion. They've rocketed from 10% to more than 20% of the population since the early 1990s, according to Pew research.

Full Disclosure: I am a None and have been for decades, making the research fascinating for me.

But that's not what caught my attention. It was this:

Nones, like me, preferred Hillary Clinton for President by a ratio of 3 to 1, but they voted in far smaller numbers than other groups, according to Pinker. Had they voted more like Christians, Jews or Muslims, we might be debating the chances for reelection of the first woman President in two years.

Startling, but also disheartening. People with insight enough to buck the weight of religious affiliation lacked determination to get up and vote in the most consequential election of a lifetime.

Before that disappointment cleared my head, I learned something else while researching the locally interesting contest between newcomer Suraj Patel and incumbent Carolyn Maloney in the 12th Congressional District: In the last Democratic primary in 2016, well under 10% of those eligible to vote did so.

That's not a typo. Take the most crowded subway train, take all those frustrated riders, and you'll have a hard time finding the very few who voted in the primary election that gave Governor Cuomo, who runs the subway system, a second term.

Less than 60% vote in the most important and closely contested national elections, a fact considered disgraceful by many. But what we see in primaries tells us that ultimately we know very little about what the public wants or who they prefer to represent them, so little in fact that we've virtually thrown democracy out the window, leaving devils, angels and whatever lies between in charge with little interference from us.

No wonder respondents tell survey takers that they don't trust our elected officials. We haven't invested a couple of hours every two years to make choices. We turn off our televisions long enough to find out much of anything about the politicians running.

Our mistrust ought to be as much in each other.

The truth is that neither Donald Trump nor anyone else in office elected themselves. We did it.

Whether or not there was Russian influence, we still voted individually. Yes, even those who didn't. You can't avoid responsibility for participating in your own government, but you are free to act irresponsibly.

It matters, whether you take the trouble to vote or you don't. It counts.

On June 26th, we vote in primaries for national office in New York. (State and local primaries come later.) Look at it as a decision about democracy. Either we're proud to have political freedom, or we're not. And that choice matters more than any vote you make.

You can make a difference or you can leave the door open for the next Trump and his or her passionate followers.


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