We have heard the pundits and read the bloggers discuss the reasons for continual low voter turnout. This problem received national attention during the special election held earlier this year in Florida. However, it is not a new phenomenon; especially here in the Binghamton area.
Historically, mid-year election voter turnout is low. However, the so-called mid year elections races are the ones that tend to have a more direct affect on our lives. A senatorial, congressional, gubernatorial, mayoral or village dog control officer race will ultimately touch on more personal topics than a presidential race. It is normally not until after all the votes are tallied that voters; especially those that did not go to the polls, begin to voice their disdain and criticism.
Many political scientists claim that it is based on “voter apathy”. I believe it goes far beyond that. It is more of the voter not being fully informed on the importance of voting during these off years. Voter education in this regard it extremely important.
Many past and current candidates will argue that they have engaged in voter education. They followed all the rules; sent out their mailers, handed out their palm cards, made the robo calls, even kissed a baby or two. They designated who the “prime voters” were and carried out a full blown Get Out the Vote assault. There’s the rub; the “prime voters”.
The buzzwords “prime voters” have morphed from being those most likely to vote to those most likely to donate. All too often, candidates and their staff are found to be cherry picking who to meet & greet. It is a problem across the board in every state and level of the election process. Financing a campaign is expensive and donors provide the necessary funding; however, the number of votes the donors bring directly to the polls is minuscule in the grand scheme of things.
We have quickly gone from calling for support in the form of votes to dialing for dollars. All too often the young voter, the low income voter, the woman voter and the minority voter become disconnected from the process. I cannot begin to tell you how many people locally don’t vote because they believe it wasn’t a big race. Every election is a big race.
Candidates need to make it a point to get out and meet those they have ignored in the past. They need educate these segments of the public on just how important their vote is.
Candidates need to stop ignoring those that live in what may be considered undesirable neighborhoods; embrace them and listen to their concerns. They want to know that the politicians do, in fact, care and have ideas to help make their lives better.
Candidates need to speak to the young voter in the language that they understand. That entails utilizing the tools that social media affords them. Incorporate Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram into your overall campaign strategy. Encourage young voters to become involved in the election process. Actively recruit young people as campaign volunteers. Most importantly, listen to their concerns since it is their future on the line.
Candidates must not ignore the woman voter. Women make up 51% of the population and garnering their support during the campaign should be a top priority. Women wield tremendous political clout that is so often overlooked and underestimated.
Finally, we need to do our part by providing education within our own social circles. We need to reach out to our family, friends, and neighbors. Encourage them to vote. Educate them on the importance of their vote and being involved in the political process.