Toledo Talk

Getting Voters To The Polls

This opinion, http://toledoblade.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071110/OPINION04/711100364/-1/OPINION, in the Toledo Blade had one comment that bothers me a little. The writer suggest that we make "election day" a holiday. Considering (as Maggie has written) what we have done to our other holidays (look at the similarity between "holi" and "holy") would this be wise. Some of us complain now about the lack of turn-out, and we would make it a "holiday"? Unless the polls were moved to the mezzanine at Wal-Mart's we'd see a really low turn-out.

I've often wondered why the voting occurs on just one day. Couldn't we have voting over two days, or three? Perhaps the logistics of it are too cumbersome (look at the trouble we have trying to get things to work for one day), but some people might have time on Wednesday that they don't have on Tuesday. Of course, we would be waiting with bated breath for the results (oh, we did that already in 2000, didn't we).

created by oldsendbrdy on Nov 11, 2007 at 12:27:30 pm     Comments: 32

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Comments ... #

Doesn't the entire issue boil down to time use and personal priorites? People enjoy the benefits of living in a democratic society. The main principle of the system is "choice"..... Some people choose to participate by voting, some do not....

If election day was given "holiday" status, it would impact participation very little in my opinion, in fact I would suspect that such a move would lower the turn-out because people would "choose" to do something other than to vote on their holiday..... Somewhat like people who do not recognize veterans on the designated Veterans Day..... few people visit and decorate family plots in cemeteries on Memorial Day..... and on and on.....

Bottom line for me..... have a little civic pride and make voting a personal priority and the lack of voter turn-out will improve.

posted by ryors on Nov 11, 2007 at 03:59:47 pm     #  

The change in absentee balloting (meaning you no longer have to have a reason for voting in this manner) was supposed to help...and it does when voters are motivated.

Just because you have a 'right' to something doesn't mean you must be forced or cajoled, in one way or another, to exercise said right.

For some, as ryors indicates, they did exercise their right to vote by choosing NOT to go to the polls. How can that be any worse than those who go and vote without knowing or understanding the candidates or issues?

posted by MaggieThurber on Nov 11, 2007 at 04:06:27 pm     #  

Maggie I think you give people way to much credit by suggesting that they choose NOT to go to the polls

I think it's more likely that they were too distracted by "other more important issues" in their daily lives. I have to wonder what voter turn out would be like if it was required in order to receive any sort of government funded activies.

I'm not saying you would be forced to vote, but if you "choose not to" you simply are not eligible for any sort of governement funded services.

posted by bassam on Nov 11, 2007 at 04:38:21 pm     #  

What's wrong with making election day a holiday? It's a pain in the ass as it is, to try to work it around a work schedule.

posted by Chris99 on Nov 11, 2007 at 05:03:00 pm     #  

Chris...with the polls open from 6:30 am to 7:30 pm? I don't know of many people who work 13-hour shifts. And if you can't get to the polls you can always request an absentee. And if you realize a day before the election that you won't be able to get to the polls for some unknown reason, you can go to the BOE and vote - in fact, you can vote at the BOE anytime prior to the election and after the absentee ballots are printed.

Bassam - no - even if they are too distracted, they chose that. I'm against withholding services that tax dollars pay for simply due to a choice not to vote. And if you're talking about welfare-type services, then I still say no. The last thing we need would be even more people voting to give themselves benefits (by electing people who make such promises) from the public treasury. Quote by Alexander Tytler comes to mind...

posted by MaggieThurber on Nov 11, 2007 at 05:41:46 pm     #  

I would make it easier if getting the forms to request an absentee vote were more readily available. Had I not gone to a highschool football game where they were offering them, I may not have been able to vote.
As for 13 available hours, make it so that non working folks dont go to the polls during peak hours. Who has time to get your family up and out, get to work yourself, work 8-9 hrs. get back home in time for the line to be out the door to vote. When I get off work I'm hungry and tired and want to eat and rest, not wait in line. I dont think having voting over 2 or 3 days would help if held during the week
Do they have the forms online? At the library? Where? If more know how to absentee vote, I believe more would do it.
Another problem with the polls is that I feel rushed. There is always something on the list I'm not sure of and feel bad taking so much time to read about it. When you absentee vote, its all right on the form for me to look over at my leasure and make a better informed decision.

posted by swantucky on Nov 11, 2007 at 06:03:46 pm     #  

Thanks Maggie, but it's still a pain in the ass to vote sometimes under the current system. What's wrong with a national holiday to vote? We should make it easy for citizens to vote, and not continue to suppress voters. Although I realize it benefits some politicians if less people vote

posted by Chris99 on Nov 11, 2007 at 06:28:19 pm     #  

The problem I see with a national holiday to vote is that we might two or three hundred people turning out for election day. The rest would be at the malls, and the theater.

posted by oldsendbrdy on Nov 11, 2007 at 06:31:59 pm     #  

What's interesting is that a "holiday" for voting I think would favor those who value cutting taxation (those who favor "benefits" would be at the movie theaters or the malls), and the idea of requiring those who receive public benefits to vote would ensure that the majority would vote their self-interest (increased taxation). Low turn-out favors "conservative" (who I think are more likely to vote), and high turn-out favors "liberals" (there are always more "poor"). So maybe a national voting idea might not be such a bad idea. But if I was a Democrat the idea would scare me shitless.

posted by oldsendbrdy on Nov 11, 2007 at 06:39:37 pm     #  

No, it shouldn't be a national holiday. Holidays aren't just something that we can hand out without negative consequences. Just ask some French economists who bemoan the fact that the number of holidays they have is retarding their economic growth. Holidays decrease productivity, and when we have as many options as we do now to vote it's not justified.

I'm sorry, but if someone finds it too "troublesome" to vote when we have early voting, absentee voting, and 13 hours of polling on election day then they don't deserve to have their vote counted. We don't need people like that making decisions for our city, state, or country. I've voted absentee numerous times, and I've voted early a couple times. This attitude that everything should be handed to us by the government with no effort at all on our part is killing me, and it's killing our country.

As it stands now absentee voting is about the easiest thing that government offers. Here's a form: http://www.co.lucas.oh.us/boe/Forms/11-a.pdf Or if you aren't the computer type just write the required information on a napkin and snail mail it in.

posted by HeyHey on Nov 11, 2007 at 06:49:11 pm     #  

Not everyone can wait in the lines.
Thanks for the link, I put it in my favorites. That will help us for next time. But there are a lot of Americans who dont know how to do it. Maybe the media could help with that. Or, perhaps the pollers dont want too many absentee voters.

posted by swantucky on Nov 11, 2007 at 07:05:45 pm     #  

This attitude that everything should be handed to us by the government with no effort at all on our part is killing me, and it's killing our country.

Oh I see...so a national holiday for elections would be part of a "Big Government/Welfare State"? That's hilarious! It's ok to have a federal holiday for some religious reason, but not to practice Democracy.

Btw, what percentage of absentee ballots actually get counted?

posted by Chris99 on Nov 11, 2007 at 07:32:04 pm     #  

The problem is mentioned in the title of this thread : "Getting Voters To The Polls".

Why do we need to get people to polling places?


Chris99 said :

What's wrong with making election day a holiday? It's a pain in the ass as it is, to try to work it around a work schedule. We should make it easy for citizens to vote.

No need for a holiday and no need to work around a schedule if Ohio eliminates election day polling places and switches to vote by mail like Oregon, which seems pretty easy for the citizens.

From our Oregon perch, we have looked on the controversies surrounding voting in Florida, Ohio and elsewhere with a mixture of bemusement and horror because we do things very differently here.

We vote entirely by mail. Polling places do not exist and Election Day is merely a deadline to turn in your ballot. It's been that way since 1998 when nearly 70 percent of Oregonians approved the Vote by Mail initiative.

Oregon's Vote by Mail system is simple and straightforward. Ballots are mailed 14 to 18 days before an election to the registered address of the voter; the voter has two weeks to return the ballot through the mail or by dropping it off at official drop-off sites. The voter must sign the outside of the envelope (the ballot is sealed in a separate envelope inside) and that signature is checked against the signature on file with the elections division.


According to Oregon, the advantages of conducting elections entirely by mail are :

  1. Voter participation: It increases turnout.
  2. Convenience: People can vote according to their schedule.
  3. Education: People have time to study issues and candidates before voting.
  4. Fraud protection: It has built-in safeguards that increase the integrity of the elections process.
  5. Built-in paper trail.
  6. Voter eligibility: Built-in time to resolve disputes.
  7. Actual results are released when polls close as opposed to unreliable "exit polls."
  8. Financial: It saves money.

posted by jr on Nov 11, 2007 at 08:02:38 pm     #  

Chris - 100% of absentee ballots sent in and received prior to the deadline get counted. The problem of absentees that don't get counted often falls under the realm of that government monopoly - the Postal Service.

As for lower turnout helping one party or one politician or the other - there is no proof of that. Having 13 hours in which to vote and no-fault absentee without a national holiday does not equate to voter suppression.

In the end, if people want to vote, they'll do so. And if they don't want to vote, I don't want to force them or coerce them or entice them or compensate them or anything else. If you need something more than your own self-satisfaction of participation in the process, I'm not sure I want you to vote...lol

Swantucky - you can also call the BOE at 213-4001 and request an absentee ballot. They'll mail you a form that you return (to verify it's you who actually asked) and then send you the absentee ballot. And despite some advertising campaigns, I do understand that many people don't realize how easy it can be to get an absentee.

posted by MaggieThurber on Nov 11, 2007 at 08:08:06 pm     #  

I wouldn't mind a more serious look at Oregon's balloting by mail.

posted by MaggieThurber on Nov 11, 2007 at 08:09:44 pm     #  

jr, nice idea. But imho voting by mail would seem to have the same potential pitfalls as absentee votes (i.e., not getting counted). Maggie, you must be a very trusting soul to believe all the absentee ballots get counted. But it's simply not true. And voter suppression certainly does favor certain politicians, depending on the demographics in certain areas. Just look up "voter caging".

Part of the idea of making a national holiday out of it would be the awareness that it would help create. However, if you are of the mindset that increasing voter turnout is not an issue...then, by all means the status quo is preferable.

posted by Chris99 on Nov 11, 2007 at 08:45:05 pm     #  

jr, nice idea. But imho voting by mail would seem to have the same potential pitfalls as absentee votes (i.e., not getting counted). Maggie, you must be a very trusting soul to believe all the absentee ballots get counted. But it's simply not true. And voter suppression certainly does favor certain politicians, depending on the demographics in certain areas. Just look up "voter caging".

Part of the idea of making a national holiday out of it would be the awareness that it would help create. However, if you are of the mindset that increasing voter turnout is not an issue...then, by all means the status quo is preferable.

posted by Chris99 on Nov 11, 2007 at 08:45:05 pm     #  

Voting In Oregon - Vote By Mail : commonly asked questions.

Oregon's secretary of state January 2005 guest column in the Washington Post.

posted by jr on Nov 11, 2007 at 09:23:16 pm     #  

Chris, why do you think some absentee votes are not being counted? What do you base that on?

posted by swantucky on Nov 11, 2007 at 11:47:20 pm     #  

What do you base that on?

Look at Greg Palast's work from the BBC

posted by Chris99 on Nov 12, 2007 at 12:35:29 am     #  

I think more people would vote if the state of Ohio made it more convenient to vote(I assume that this is controlled at the state level and not the county level).

I lived in Washington state for a number of years. After standing in huge lines to vote in the '92 presidential election, I decided to vote absentee the next time -- you did not need a 'reason' to get an absentee ballot out there. For every election after that, an absentee ballot was mailed to me. I did not have to apply for one at every election. The county also mailed out a voter's guide at every election listing all candidates, issues, etc. Each candidate received a half page that listed their basic background and then a candidate-written summary of their qualifications/'why you should vote for me' blurb. Issues each received a page and included a summary of the issue and then a pro and con viewpoint. It was so nice to sit in the quiet of your home with your voters guide and ballot and cast your votes. While out in Washington, I moved once (but stayed within the same county). My voter registration was automatically updated.

When I moved back to Ohio, I was going to sign up to vote absentee. But I looked at the application and it appears that you have to apply for one at every election which is a royal pain. And I moved last year within Lucas Cty and updated my driver's license with my new address. When I went to vote last Tues, I had to vote provisionally because my registration was not automatically updated.

I don't know why Ohio makes voting so difficult!

posted by surfer341 on Nov 12, 2007 at 09:44:16 am     #  

I guess I'm not clear on what people mean by saying that Election Day should be made a "National Holiday."

After all, just because a day is made a "National Holiday" doesn't mean that businesses end up giving their employees the day off. Even when you exclude entities that perform essential functions which must have at least some staff 24/7, 365 days a year (hospitals, plumbing/heating emergencies, etc.), there are still plenty of employers who only give the bare minimum basic holidays off...Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc.

Are you proposing that it be mandatory for employers to give the day off to all employees? I just don't see that being feasible - even if we did it, I'm not sure if it would significantly increase voter turnout. The people who don't care about voting would just use the day as a "freebie," and the people who already vote (plus maybe a few others) would show up to vote.

I think it would make more sense to encourage employers to make better accomodations for employees to vote (allow them to come in a little late/leave a little early, take an hour in the middle of the day, etc.) vs. trying to swing it so that most people have the entire day off work.

posted by mom2 on Nov 12, 2007 at 12:02:33 pm     #  

The reason we have a poor turnout on election day is due to the apathy of the voters. It's easier to sit around and do nothing.

If you really want to increase voter turnout, make voting illegal. People will turn out in droves.

posted by madjack on Nov 12, 2007 at 08:58:18 pm     #  

As for lower turnout helping one party or one politician or the other - there is no proof of that.

Sure there is. Just review local history in the deep South.

I agree that voters shouldn't be enticed or forced to vote, but I would like to point out the fundamental problem with our voting system: we can't vote against anything, and our choices are limited. For instance, if three politicos are running for the same office, I should be able to vote for my preferences, not just vote for a single person. I should also be able to vote against a person, meaning that in the next Presidential election, I should be able to vote against any or all of the candidates. With enough nay sayers, maybe the political parties will be forced to run someone who is actually qualified for the job, rather than just another pretty face - like Hillary, for instance.

OK, maybe not just another pretty face...

Speaking of which, I noted Ms. Thurber's mug shot on her blog, and I have to say that you're looking pretty hot there, Maggie. What say we get together and surround a little ice cold gin next time I hit town? If The Distillery will let me back in, that is.

posted by madjack on Nov 12, 2007 at 09:11:16 pm     #  

One way to increase voter turnout is to put a bogus issue on the ballot that would say if it passes, a user's cable TV bill, Internet access bill, and cell phone bill would all increase by 50% per month. The bogus issue would say the money would be used by local government to help fund schools, police, fire, and infrastructure. No one would be opposed to those things and would gladly accept a major increase in their technology-related services. A little money would be needed to fund bogus ads about the bogus issue.

Only problem is, the rockheads showing up to vote down this bogus issue would have no idea what was happening on the rest of the ballot. A higher turnout may not mean more informed voters.

Or how about a levy that if it passes would only be applied to those who did not vote. Take the COSI levy. If you voted NO, you could now vote YES, but if the levy passed, your property taxes would still not increase. Taxes would increase only on those who did not vote.

posted by jr on Nov 12, 2007 at 10:05:11 pm     #  

I've said for years Mag is hot. ;^) Good to see somebody else has finally noticed, though. She even SOUNDS hot on the radio.

I've suggested for YEARS now, why don't they have elections on SATURDAY?

posted by Darkseid on Nov 13, 2007 at 08:32:03 am     #  

Thank you MadJack and Darkseid - you've now got me blushing... And I'm happy to get together MadJack - so long as I can bring hubby along! LOL

One caller on my show suggested that levies could be handled much like the United Way campaign. You could sign up (via your vote) to pay for a levy. However, the entire cost of the levy would be divided only upon those who voted yes. So if you were the only one to vote yes, you'd get the whole cost assessed to you. Certainly, this is an extreme example as I doubt there would be only 1 yes vote, but the approach was interesting.

The problem is that some-to-many people who'd vote yes to splt the cost among all property owners might not be as interested in voting yes if only the yes-voters had to bear the entire cost.

Under this scenario, all non-voters would get assessed, so it might serve to increase the voter turnout.

One question I've been thinking about is this. I think voting is important and that everyone should do it, but I'm wondering WHY we think those who are not interested in voting should be given some incentive to do so? Other than the philosophical answer of 'our system of government is better served by participation,' why is the low voter turnout such an issue that ideas of a national holiday for voting are even brought up?

Your thoughts???

posted by MaggieThurber on Nov 13, 2007 at 09:05:47 am     #  

Why were Florida's public servants so gung ho about wiping honest citizen's from the voter rolls and why do polls in some precincts have 4 hour waits? Obviously a low turnout is beneficial to certain candidates.

The odds of voting in a current election is usually predicated on voting in the last election. And I would imagine voter morale goes the way of the shitter when people learn that change is usually a maintenance of the status quo or the taking away of things taken for granted.

If they wanted to increase voting significantly it could be held on a Sunday, where most people have a full day of free time to vote. volunteer to man the polls, cajole fellow citizens to vote, participate in the pageantry, etc. `

US participation is near the bottom internationally.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voter_turnout#International_differences

Why does this board look like a pervy swingers/singles board? Is it because at the core, that's all politics really are?

posted by charlatan on Nov 13, 2007 at 01:01:35 pm     #  

My favorite idea in this thread so far - madjack's request to vote preferences, or vote for nobody at all. These kind of ballots, sometimes called "instant run-off voting", exist in lots of countries, and voter turnout is often much higher in these countries. It eliminates the problem of "spoilers", which discourages third parties to run. For the school board elections, I had a tough time deciding who to vote for - do I vote for who I really want to win or the candidate who has a shot to win and is better than another candidate with a shot to win? Why should those type of decisions be a part of voting?

I think there is a simple reason why people don't vote - in reality, it isn't worth the time for any single person to vote. We can argue about how easy or hard it is to vote (it's a lot harder for some people, like people who don't have an id or a home address that doesn't frequently change) but there is definitely a cost to voting. And there is no benefit for an individual to vote. There may be a benefit if there is collective action, but basic economic theory explains the problems with collective action.

The fact that voting is an economically irrational decision is confirmed by our limited choice of candidates and the feeling that candidates are controlled by special interests. An individual feels that his vote is meaningless next to the corporations who "vote" with big contributions or union bosses or preachers who vote with blocs of their members. Political parties are intended for individuals to join like-minded people to pool their votes in order to make their votes meaningful. But I feel like neither political party is representative of me, because it seems like the intent of both political parties is to say that the other one is bad and to require litmus test answers on a number of issues that aren't necessarily an easy yes or no answer. I think lots of people are like me - dissatisfied with the two parties with nowhere else to turn.

On to Maggie's question - it's hard for me not to wax philosophic when answering why we should care when lots of people don't vote. Yeah, I believe that decisions in democracy should be made by a majority of people, not a minority that make it out to the polls. I'm bothered by assertions that people don't deserve a say if they don't or can't vote. I believe civic participation requires investment (just like a cooperative or other member-controlled institution requires continuous member training to be involved and run the cooperative.) But the main problem is that I believe that low voter turnout signals that there is some sort of problem with our democracy.

posted by ifXthenWhyNot on Nov 13, 2007 at 01:36:40 pm     #  

Sure, bring him.

basic economic theory explains the problems with collective action

Ok, how about a basic explanation of this assertion, because I passed Econ 101 and I never heard anything like this.

I'm wondering WHY we think those who are not interested in voting should be given some incentive to do so

I see the quality of life in the US degrading in many ways, and my hope is that if enough voters wake up and take notice, maybe our government will change for the better. Mind you, this is only hope and a forlorn hope at that. For instance, the Ohio State government hasn't been able to fix the educational system, including unconstitutional funding in more years than I can count without taking off my shoes.

posted by madjack on Nov 13, 2007 at 05:37:24 pm     #  

I'm an avid voter, but I even came close to missing it this year. They need to keep polls open longer, for some people who might get stuck working 12+ hours shifts it's hard to break away.

Sadly the only way I knew it was election day was because I came home and turned on the news and saw polling info. I called the number and rushed to the polls.

It would also be nice to have a single website that lists all of the candidates what they believe and what levys are on the ballet.

posted by jshriver on Nov 13, 2007 at 11:02:48 pm     #  

Maybe you were confused by my term - I could have referred to public goods, or the tragedy of the commons, or the free-rider problem.

Check out:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_goods

posted by ifXthenWhyNot on Nov 14, 2007 at 02:35:52 pm     #