Love and Lies

I love my country, warts and all. One of the these warts is voting.

As I see it there are 3 fundamental lies about voting that pervade the mainstream:

  1. It doesn’t matter who you vote for because all politicians are bought by corporations.
  2. Everyone has equal access to vote.
  3. Vote percentages are honest.

Who you vote for is incredibly important!

Yesterday someone said that all politicians and political parties are corrupted by corporate masters, so it doesn’t matter what party you vote for. That is a terrible equivalent. He used fast food chains that all buy from the same distributor as a metaphor, what follows is my response:

If you imagine the political parties as restaurant chains that all get their food from the same distributor it is still true that they don’t buy exactly the same products, don’t charge the same prices, don’t keep the same hours, use their base ingredients in different proportions, and some only thrive in very specific geographic areas. All of them have to serve a central list of items considered the cuisine du jour, labeled mostly the same.

Outside the cuisine du jour you have acceptable deviations (Overton’s Window) and radical deviations. You can get cuisine du jour anywhere, but if you get it from the people who serve radical deviation away from your tastes you will wake up to find that no one serves anything you find acceptable.

Yes, all politician are corrupted by corporations, but by different corporations. Mobil Exxon lobbies to drill in national parks and maintain corporate loopholes, the ACLU lobbies on immigration and protection of civil rights. These corporate masters have different agendas for you as a person, they are not equivalent. Also, your state legislation is hugely important as those bodies have passed over 24,000 bills in the time that the Federal Congress passed 185.

You have a right to register, not a right to vote.

Because the Supreme Court gutted the Voters Rights Act (VRA) this year many states got away with ID laws that will likely get overturned on the basis of breaking the second article of the VRA by putting undue burden on minority voters. I will add to this that Florida has ongoing battles over unconstitutional disenfranchisement of people that serve prison sentences, and Texas has had over 200 pieces of legislation reversed for breaking the VRA. Below you will see a comprehensive table of state and US turnouts and voter ID laws. I add to this that Washington, Oregon, and Colorado all do mail in ballots to step around the issue entirely, and the requirement that we vote during work hours on a Tuesday that is not a national holiday is unduly burdensome to the poor.

We report our elections wrong.

To be fair we should report percentages in elections as the percentage of registered voters, not turnout, because the act of registration is empirical evidence that you wish your vote to be counted. So, if you are registered and you don’t cast a vote I think it should be seen as a vote of no confidence in all races. The reason for this is that the current model creates a false signifier about the support of politicians.

In Ohio it is reported that the Governor was elected with 63.85% of the vote. That makes it seem like he has a great deal of support, but that is a lie. The reality is that only counts 32.2% of the registered voters. The reality is that 20.56% of Ohio’s registered voters voted for him. We should report that number.

It should be made clear that 8-of-10 registered voters in the state of Ohio did not vote for the man who will be Governor next year. This is roughly true in every state in the US.

The way we report election results is part of why voter suppression is an effective political tactic. It creates a false indication of support. All politicians should look at the humbling fact that you serve people that have no confidence in your ability. We have so little confidence in you that 2-of-3 registered voters can’t be motivated to jump the hurdles just to tell you how little we believe in you. It isn’t that we are apathetic, it is that you are too pathetic to motivate us.

All of this said, don’t believe the lies. Who you vote into state legislature matters immensely (they become the federal nominees), be honest about the results, and for the love of god register and vote.

2 thoughts on “Love and Lies”

  1. The fact is that our elected officials are chosen by a small, self-selected percentage of adult citizens. The campaign and news discourse is skewed to the window of this small, elite minority… the folks who think we deserve to choose our officials, and, hence, our policies.

    Millions of dollars are spent to influence the votes of just a few. It would be interesting to do the math state by state. But I noticed from your chart that there was higher turnout in the states with senate and gubernatorial contests.

    i’m interested in statistics on the impact of voter registration restrictions. I wish i could trust the Supreme Court to protect voter registration rights. While the numbers suppressed sound relatively low, they need to be viewed in relation to the numbers who actually vote.

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