The Mystery Of Voter Turnout

Larry Price
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Wednesday - November 03, 2010
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Now that all the campaigning is over and the votes have been tabulated, the most popular analyses are centered on voter turnout. Traditionally, voter turnout rates are much lamented, specifically low-voter participation. A lot of this discussion is about why the turnout is high, average or low, and its impact on victory or defeat.

In the beginning, turnout rates were calculated by dividing the number of votes cast by eligible population, meaning everyone age 18 and over in the United States - this includes those ineligible to vote, namely non-citizens. The truth of the matter is this rate has not declined since 1992 and appears to have been restored to the high levels of 2008.

Voter turnout is a popular topic in Hawaii, because we are a noncontiguous state and voter turnout on the Neighbor Islands is significant to winning or losing state races, especially the governor’s seat. It’s probably why the Aiona gubernatorial campaign chose to tour the islands by bus during the last week before election day.

No one is really sure why some eligible voters decide not to cast a vote. Theories abound as to why someone would give up their right to vote voluntarily, especially when so many individuals have fought and died for the right to vote around the world.

Some of the popular excuses have to do with time. It takes a lot of time to get to your voting place. In fact, however, once you are there voting only takes a couple of minutes, if you are prepared.

Those who blame time as a reason for not voting are just lazy citizens. And the law gives citizens two hours away from work to vote. You’d think more people would vote just because of that.

Another popular excuse is that they don’t know any of the candidates. That may be true with the school board, but how could anyone not know the names of the candidates vying for an office at the Square Building on South Beretania Street or a free trip to Washington?

Absentee voting has become a blessing for handicapped voters. You can sit at home and ponder how to vote on propositions.

Which brings up the question about the confusing language used for the City Charter Amendments. And what’s up with a blank vote means a no vote on some of the state amendments, and means nothing on City Charter proposals? What ever happened to “no” meaning “no”?

At least one thing is sure now that the votes are all accounted for. Negative campaigning got just plain nasty the last couple of days of the campaign. I suppose that means negative advertising is here to stay, and that there is more recognition in criticizing than understanding.

Another thing for sure, it wasn’t as boring as it could have been.

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