At UVa’s Miller Center, Charles Stewart III recently discussed a draft paper analyzing survey data from the 2012 elections. Instead of focusing on the horse race aspect, the survey looks at the experience of voters. Why is this important? Pundits and politicians advocate a variety of electoral reforms, but do these solutions relate to actual problems and opportunities for improving participation?
While I enjoyed and recommend the whole discussion, which is available via audio and video on-line, one point stuck out for me because it matched anecdotal data that I had personally collected. What is the #1 reason for not voting? Table 2, of the draft paper reports, that it is “I didn’t like the candidates or campaign issues.” This was also true in the 2008 election.
Given the low rate of voter turnout and close elections, this represents an opportunity for one of the two major parties to stop nominating candidates that are so dislikeable and stop advocating issues that alienate potential voters.
However, this was also a lost opportunity for those that did not vote, because they did not like one of the major party candidates. If you don’t vote, then the major parties appear just as happy to continue business as usual, see the continued inaction on fiscal problems since the election.
When no acceptable candidate is running, instead of tuning out, give thought to an actual person that you thing would do a good job in the office, and vote for that individual via write-in ballot. Does this solitary act change the electoral result? No, not yet, but it might change you as you opt-in to perform an independent act of integrity that focuses on reality and choice.