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Saturday, June 6, 2015

Low Voter Turnout As A Good Thing

The accepted and common wisdom is that voter apathy, aka low voter turnout in elections, is really bad and bad for democracy and undermines our elections. Or whatever today's claim is.

These concerns are the stated reasons behind some "voting rights" litigation supposedly being funded by George Soros reported in today's New York Times. 

But here's where almost all of the commentary and "solutions" go wrong. And the party of the people talking doesn't matter; the Republicans are as equally clueless as the Democrats.

Right now, the most concerned citizens do vote. They vote regularly and consistently, in general elections but most particularly in primary elections. They are what is called in the business the "prime" voters or the "super primes." They're the ones campaigns concentrate fundraising and literature on. 

Who doesn't vote? The unconcerned, the uninformed (that being a function of being unconcerned), the indifferent and, often, the less intelligent.

There are few to no barriers to voting, beyond those of physical maladies where voters may be too sick to get out of their houses or medical facilities to vote. Here, increasing absentee or early voting is helping bring the ballots to the voters.

But all the effort on getting more voter turnout might either be a tired mantra by people who don't know what else to say -- having identified a problem but not a solution -- or an objective that is fraught with unintended consequences.

Do we as a society really want the uninformed, callously indifferent or malicious to be exercising their constitutional voting right as much, so they -- and not the informed, super prime voters of either party -- determine the outcome of elections? 

And before you think this is partisan, consider this: The same concerns hold true for so-called "closed" party primaries in states where you must register in advance of a party primary to "enroll" in that party. With primaries, do you want the weakest, least concerned voters outweighing the votes of the less numerous but much "more committed" party members?

These are among the questions to consider, on a policy basis, before accepting as an article of faith that declining voter turnout in elections is a "problem" and that increasing voter turnout is a desirable objective. 

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