While most people spent election night watching the outcome of SB5 Ohio, I watched the election happenings in Maine. 1980 was a big year for me personally. It was the first time I’d lived in the United States since I was a small child. I went to boarding school for my senior year of high school; my parents really thought I should know what it is like to be in America, to go to school in America and to learn to be an American. Boarding school… well that is a whole other story, but yes I ended up in Maine in boarding school and it was my first taste of living in the US for many years, I’d always been an expatriate, I was about to be something else.
I turned 18 in near the end of September in 1980. I’d wanted to exercise my vote since my dad handed me All the Presidents Men, in September of 1974, when we were flying back to the PI from the US at the end of our summer vacation. Reading that book on the plane trip over, back then it took much longer, with a layover in Guam. One time, and it could have been this particular trip our layover was on Wake Island because a large typhoon developed in the flight path and the pilots weren’t going to be in the air, so I remember I read the book in one flight, we had to layover on Wake Island for 8 hours in the tiny little airport and I finished the book before we landed in Manila.
I was taking the required class, American Government, which was not a required class in my school, but I was quite interested to take it, I’d taken World Governments as our required class. I was interested in learning about how the American form of government differed from where I had come, where I’d lived through Martial Law, a military dictatorship, curfews, suspended elections, and other things that seemed the opposite of everything I’d ever read about the United States, where the will of the people was decided through mostly fair elections.
I was kind of over the top thrilled, going from a place where I could never discuss politics to the US where I could even participate in an election, openly talk about candidates, argue about beliefs and ideologies, Anderson was all the rage among many of the politically active students on campus that fall, and have no fear of any kind of retribution. It was pretty freeing. I’d learned in our government class that if you were going to be 18, even the day of the election, in Maine you could register to vote the day of your birthday and vote in the election that year. Sept. 23, 1980, a friend in school took me down to the city offices and I registered to vote. I am so glad that Mainers voted to reinstate that law.
Unfortunately, in America more people don’t vote than do vote. The proof of course is in the numbers. The question has to be asked, why don’t more people vote? Is it because it is getting harder and harder to exercise that right? Currently legislative actions that will disenfranchise millions of voters are being proposed by multiple state legislatures. It is pretty obvious that legislatures are seeking to disenfranchise those voters with least protections, which are poor people everywhere, who by and large vote for Democrats.
I think you should look at the numbers, here is a link to the original spreadsheet I obtained at the US Census Bureau. This attachment includes the workbook I built out of the data from the department and I made a simple graphs of the downward trend in voting among all groups, socio-economic or otherwise, but in particular a steep downward trend among the poor and undereducated.
This is a very interesting graph. The Northeast steeply dropped in eligible voters exercising their right to vote, which is kind of interesting to me, and it makes me wonder exactly what happened, did people just give up and decided it isn’t a worthwhile activity any longer? No conclusions can be drawn from this data, all this data does is mark the downward trend in voting, what we do see it eligible voters in the Midwest are consistently voting in higher numbers than other regions.
This graph doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know, there is a very steep drop in those people voting who have no high school diploma. In earlier years that group voted with a much greater frequency, lower than the rest but certainly better than the under 10% today, in comparison to the 40% in 1968.
Graph 3: Voters by Labor Status
As a nation we really need to begin to understand why people aren’t voting with the frequency they once did.
Brennan Center for Justice, millions of voters could be disenfranchised.
If voting weren’t so important, why are so many Republicans tying to make sure fewer and fewer people will have the right to vote.
Thanks to MagicLoveHorse for the excellent graphic.
Crossposted @ DAGBlog