Archive for Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Constant campaigning creating apathetic voters

May 19, 2015

There has been a great deal of concern over what appears to be a growing nation-wide epidemic of voter apathy. To many, it seems that voters simply don’t care anymore and don’t show up at the polls. While many theories are out there I have one of my own: The public is burned out on politics.

There is simply no break between elections. Eighteen months before the 2016 election and we already are overrun with candidates — and the list continues to grow. Already we have seen the start of “attack” ads, and I believe that many Americans throw up their hands, close their minds and stay home from the polls.

I suspect the 2016 election will be the most expensive in history. In 2012, $7 billion was spent on the national elections, and if you add all election expenditures, the sum is mind boggling. I can’t help but think how much better off the country would be if a large portion of that money had been given to help charities.

Unfortunately, much of the advertising is character attacks built on half-truths, rumors and innuendoes. After a while people simply turn it off and hope for the end. It is sad, but the general public doesn’t take the time to be informed about the candidates.

The Australians have the only fool-proof way of guaranteeing a large voter turnout. If you fail to vote you are fined. No, I don’t think that is a particularly good idea, since what we need is informed and knowledgeable voters.

The concept of electing leaders dates back to ancient Rome and Greece. By the 17th century the idea that the common person should choose leadership spread to Europe and has always been a part of the concept of freedom in the USA.

The Founding Fathers had some concerns about voting and the intelligence and judgment of the common person. In the beginning only white males who owned property could vote. The U.S. Senate wasn’t directly elected. People voted for the members of the House of Representatives in each state, and they in turn selected the senators. It was less than 100 years ago that it was changed so that senators were directly elected. Women weren’t allowed to vote in many states until the 1920s, and African-American voters were prevented from voting by hate groups.

Actually there have been other periods of apathy in our history. James Madison was unopposed for re-election to a second term as President in the 1820 election. This caused James Randolph to say that Americans had a “unanimity of indifference.” It is a statement that might apply to 2015.

I have said this before, but city and school board elections are the purist form of balloting in Kansas. Sadly it appears that these elections will be moved to fall, which I doubt will increase turnout, only confuse voters.

I believe that we need to make some changes to our electoral system. We need to directly elect the president and scrap the antiquated Electoral College system. The person who gets the most votes wins – pure and simple. I would also suggest that we have a nationwide primary vote to select the Republican and Democratic candidates. If I had my way, the entire system would last 11 months, with candidates announcing after January 1 and the primary held in April. This would shorten the campaign season.

Finally, I would like to see a strict limit on spending and require disclosure of donors including the abolishing of “political action groups.” I believe all donors should be identified and on the public record.

No, I don’t see any changes happening because the system is too entrenched. However, I would like to see people get more interested in the issues, study the candidates and make their voices heard.


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