tmccarthy0's picture


    While most people spent election night watching the outcome of SB5 Ohio, I watched the election happenings in Maine. 1980 was a big year for me personally. It was the first time I’d lived in the United States since I was a small child.  I went to boarding school for my senior year of high school; my parents really thought I should know what it is like to be in America, to go to school in America and to learn to be an American. Boarding school… well that is a whole other story, but yes I ended up in Maine in boarding school and it was my first taste of living in the US for many years, I’d always been an expatriate, I was about to be something else.

    I turned 18 in near the end of September in 1980. I’d wanted to exercise my vote since my dad handed me All the Presidents Men, in September of 1974, when we were flying back to the PI from the US at the end of our summer vacation. Reading that book on the plane trip over, back then it took much longer, with a layover in Guam. One time, and it could have been this particular trip our layover was on Wake Island because a large typhoon developed in the flight path and the pilots weren’t going to be in the air, so I remember I read the book in one flight, we had to layover on Wake Island for 8 hours in the tiny little airport and I finished the book before we landed in Manila.

    I was taking the required class, American Government, which was not a required class in my school,  but I was quite interested to take it, I’d taken World Governments as our required class. I was interested in learning about how the American form of government differed from where I had come, where I’d lived through Martial Law, a military dictatorship, curfews, suspended elections, and other things that seemed the opposite of everything I’d ever read about the United States, where the will of the people was decided through mostly fair elections.

    I was kind of over the top thrilled, going from a place where I could never discuss politics to the US where I could even participate in an election, openly talk about candidates, argue about beliefs and ideologies, Anderson was all the rage among many of the politically active students on campus that fall, and have no fear of any kind of retribution. It was pretty freeing.  I’d learned in our government class that if you were going to be 18, even the day of the election, in Maine you could register to vote the day of your birthday and vote in the election that year.  Sept. 23, 1980, a friend in school took me down to the city offices and I registered to vote.  I am so glad that Mainers voted to reinstate that law.

    Unfortunately, in America more people don’t vote than do vote. The proof of course is in the numbers. The question has to be asked, why don’t more people vote? Is it because it is getting harder and harder to exercise that right? Currently legislative actions that will disenfranchise millions of voters are being proposed by multiple state legislatures. It is pretty obvious that legislatures are seeking to disenfranchise those voters with least protections, which are poor people everywhere, who by and large vote for Democrats.  

    I think you should look at the numbers, here is a link to the original spreadsheet I obtained at the US Census Bureau.  This attachment includes the workbook I built out of the data from the department and I made a simple graphs of the downward trend in voting among all groups, socio-economic or otherwise, but in particular a steep downward trend among the poor and undereducated.

    Graph 1: This link will give you a larger version of this graph so it is easier to see.

    This is a very interesting graph.  The Northeast steeply dropped in eligible voters exercising their right to vote, which is kind of interesting to me, and it makes me wonder exactly what happened, did people just give up and decided it isn’t a worthwhile activity any longer?  No conclusions can be drawn from this data, all this data does is mark the downward trend in voting, what we do see it eligible voters in the Midwest are consistently voting in higher numbers than other regions.

    Graph 2: Voters by Educational Status:

    This graph doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know, there is a very steep drop in those people voting who have no high school diploma. In earlier years that group voted with a much greater frequency, lower than the rest but certainly better than the under 10% today, in comparison to the 40% in 1968.

    Graph 3: Voters by Labor Status

    As a nation we really need to begin to understand why people aren’t voting with the frequency they once did.

    Restrictive Voter Registration Laws

    Current Restrictive Voter Registration Laws

    Brennan Center for Justice, millions of voters could be disenfranchised.

    If voting weren’t so important, why are so many Republicans tying to make sure fewer and fewer people will have the right to vote.

    Crossposted @ TheAngriestLiberal

    It's only 25 degrees here

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    Office spreadsheet icon VotingbyEdAttainment.xls99 KB


    The GOP wastes government money chasing non-existent fraudulent voters. They focus their suppression efforts in minority communities and then feign ignorance of why Republican candidates are not trusted in those communities.

    They do, but across all groups the percentage of eligible voters who actually vote has decreased, it's actually been on the decrease since 1920 according to the abstracts from the census office.

    Certainly the targeting of minority communities doesn't help, and does suppress the raw numbers of people voting in minority communities, but damn, it seems as though voting across all groups is continuing in a downward trend and that doesn't bode well for getting congress to pass better legislation, or even to get better people  elected.

    The real mystery is why those graphs are chronologically right-to-left...

    Hah... cause I didn't bother to resort the data.

    could it be that you are part of the conspiracy that is preparing us to accept our Asian overlords?



    truth is revealed to those who know where to look.

    Thank you for this post, Tmac.  I wonder about this a lot.  Can democracy survive the perils of a disinterested population?  I suspect that many powerful forces have actively pushed for this disinterest.  There are many technocrats out there who would love to push the people out of the conversation entirely.

    I also understand the disinterest, especially after a career writing about business and personal finance.  The big mantra of such writing is that people MUST take an interest in mutual funds, stocks and bonds.  But real life tells us that most will not, and that they should not.  A jazz saxophonist better serves society by practicing the sax, not reading  Similarly, we need that musician to practice music far more than we need them to read Time or The New Republic.

    Most people think that politics is silly and that people like us are no better than Trekkies for following it so closely.  I both lament that, because it means smart people are giving up their voices, and understand it and even support it.

    This is and excellent observation Des:

    "Can democracy survive the perils of a disinterested population?"

    Democracy can't survive disinterest.  How can it survive if people don't participate  as they are the driving force in democracy, philosophically, ideologically and of course in the real working democracy.  "We the People" requires participation without mandating participation, but we are increasingly becoming a nation that is represented by ideologically inflexible elected officials. It is a vicious catch-22, because to escape our rigidity we need more voters, but that rigidity in itself is probably one of the factors contributing to apathy on the part of voters.

    In short, I agree with you.

    Very good post, tmc. I like the mix of personal experience.

    Like Genghis, I get confused (since I was actually diagnosed with dyslexia in the first grad anyway) with right to left graffs.

    I am never confused by right to left graft. hahahahahaha

    Send in the militia.

    I don't know, sometimes a song clears things up for me:


    I felt like this when Obama won. I had no beef against Hillary who has become one of the greatest Secretaries of State I have ever seen.

    But I felt, something is happening here and I am not sure what it is; but I am really really hopeful.

    This new 'movement' tells me something.

    I am not sure what it is.

    But I know it aint some teaparty assault on humanity!

    We are...the Jamaican Bobsled Team!

    I have probs with right to left also but you set it up so nicely since I could click and get a big graph whenever I desired.

    Nicely done!

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