Right Now with Nick Smith (Linkedin/Twitter)
What I’m reading: The League of Women Voters guide to candidates
What I’m watching: Coverage of the House and Senate races across the country
What I’m listening to: Jimmy Eat World – Futures (a sneaky election album)
It’s Election Day! Praise be! And since Election Day is all about numbers, I wanted to share some very special numbers with you.
FIRST THINGS FIRST THOUGH: If you haven’t voted yet, stop what you’re doing and go vote, then read this later.
I think it’s pretty well-written, but I’m SURE it can wait.
When you vote, you’ll be joining the 36 million people have already voted in this election. That’s … actually pretty darn good, but it could be higher. And if you’ve already voted, kudos to you, but also kudos to your state for being one of only 37 states that allow early voting.* That’s another number that could be higher.
In the last 5 US midterm elections, on average less than 40% of voters have actually turned up, compared to 60% during presidential elections. That number could be a lot higher, too. Obviously, we can’t decide who’s running (author’s note: Wyatt/Wyatt 2020 does have a nice ring to it…) or how competitive a race is, which has a lot of impact, but we can certainly increase the number of votes cast by offering fair voting laws and practices when people do get to the polls.
Of course, before that, we can increase the number of registered voters, and not everything has to be some sort of huge policy change. A lot of it starts with fostering dialog between the people who register voters (in many states, the DMVs), and the people who administer elections.
And speaking of registering voters at the DMV, did you know that only 13 states have automatic voter registration for new drivers? Sure, asking helps, and a handful of other states have suggested it in their state houses in recent years, but it seems like, short of compulsory voting, this is likely to have the greatest impact. Somewhere else that there’s a lot of room for improvement is the fact that only 38 states offer online registration. That’s … crazy.
I know I’m a wide-eyed millennial with an IT degree, but y’all, it’s 2018. You have an internet-connected computer in your pocket. That’s Meeting People Where They Are 101. It can also save money when you don’t have to pay some civil servant to type in (and potentially screw up) things like “my name” and “my address.”
Finally, something else that I think is crazy is how in three states, including my home state of Kentucky felons are permanently disenfranchised. I mean it’s also kinda crazy that only two states allow people to vote from prison, especially when 1 in 9 of those people in the US is serving a life sentence (which … is also also crazy, but that’s another morning buzz for when we’ve all had more coffee), but one of the foundational principles of our criminal justice system when people are done paying their debt to society, they’re supposed to be free. Truly “freedom” means freedom to vote, no?
Of course, as cities and towns and villages and special districts, we love having the ability to tout our policymaking as being closest to the citizens it affects, but never is the fact that we’re hamstrung as the fourth tier of the democracy totem pole so readily on display.
When it comes to voting, we’re beholden to all the hierarchical forces above us, and often we’re unable to dictate anything regarding elections that don’t stay within our friendly confines, but we are able to band together through our state municipal leagues (except one state — what gives, Hawaii?) and collectivize our voices for positive change — and there are no shortage of ways that we could positively change the voting process for our people.
It’s time that we do that.
*I’m also assuming you lot of mostly settled-in local government professionals didn’t do much absentee voting, especially since only 27 states offer no-excuse absentee voting … yet another number that could be higher.