What, me vote?


I Voted...The 2014 Massachusetts State Primary Election was Tuesday, September 9 and if you are one of the 20 percent of registered voters who cast a ballot, congratulations. You are in an elite group.

One week before the Primary, on Sept. 2, the Boston Globe surveyed 605 voters to see how many were paying attention.

The results were not good.

Charlie Baker & Mary Ellen“From Brookline to Braintree to Boston,” the Globe reported, “voters just don’t seem to know the Democrats and Republicans who are running for statewide office a week from today, sans one – governor.”

It’s common political wisdom that voters aren’t tuned in to politics during the summer. I would argue that most aren’t tuned in during the fall, winter and spring either.

Apologists for voter apathy often cite people’s busy schedules in defense of their lack of engagement.

From September through June they’re too busy working and shuttling little Liam and young Zoey between school and karate lessons. And in July and August, when people presumably have the time, everyone is semi-officially absolved from paying attention. It’s summertime, and nobody wants to think about politics in the summer.

Based on the Globe’s findings, aren’t you glad the state legislature passed election reform earlier this year to make it easier for these low-information types to vote? The legislation signed by the governor last May includes early voting, online voter registration and pre-registration for 16 and 17-year-olds. The new “reforms” will go into effect in 2016.

town_hall-entranceAnd let’s be honest. The target demographic of these “reforms” isn’t the civically engaged, informed voter. Those interested enough to pay attention are already motivated to find the three minutes it takes to vote during the 13 hours that the polls are open. If that’s too much, they can get an absentee ballot and vote at their convenience. There isn’t a town or city clerk in the state who will interrogate a voter about why they need to vote absentee.

The election reform advocates were indignant that the bill’s final version did not include their pet provision for Election Day registration whereby someone could show up at the polls on Election Day, register and vote the same day. And of course the reformers are adamantly against requiring anyone to produce identification to prove who they are.

Because if there’s any task more onerous than voting, it’s showing an ID.

“Honestly,” said a Brookline woman interviewed by the Globe, “I don’t feel like I know enough about the position of auditor or treasurer to feel like I should have an opinion.”

Smart woman. Maybe she should run for something.

[This column originally appeared in the September 11, 2014 Wakefield Daily Item.]

2 Responses to “What, me vote?”

  1. Excellent column, Mark. I fail to see why the public isn’t more concerned (if not outraged) over both the Stat & Federal Legislatures staggering LACK of concern about the sanctity of the Franchise. I should be able to SUE somebody when I see a sign at the voting are that reads, “VOTE AQUI”. Really? AQUI?? For self-evident reasons, If you can’t read English you shouldn’t be allowed to vote!

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