Midterm elections are coming up in November, but you probably won’t vote. Statistically, I have more than a 50 percent chance of being right about that.
Voter turnout always falls far short of the entire US electorate, with Presidential Elections generally attracting somewhere between 50 and 60 percent of eligible voters. Midterms, though, barely even reach 40 percent, despite being arguably more important than Presidential elections (midterms do after all elect the entire House of Representatives, a third of the Senate and Governors in 34 states).
Why is turnout so low? There are certainly cases of socioeconomic disenfranchisement, which accounts for part of it. But why do citizens who are very much enfranchised not even bother?
A few guesses:
- They’re uninformed: A lot of people simply don’t pay attention to the political system, and only hear big news that makes waves in the 24 hours news cycle. The national media is partially complicit in this, as they only seem to think in terms of Presidential Elections, and the angle for every news story is how it will affect the public officials involved if they run for President. Most national coverage of the midterms has focused more on what it could mean about the 2016 Election than who’s running for 2014. Local media is slightly better, but often gets drowned out in the conversation.
- A Governor isn’t running: This only goes for 16 states, but Senate and House elections don’t exactly drum up the excitement of a Presidential or Governor race. In Indiana, we’re not electing a Senator or a Governor, just Representatives. That’s even less exciting because…
- Systematic advantages: Congressional districts are so gerrymandered along political lines that few of them are competitive. In addition, the system favors those who have money, and the winner is almost always the one with the most campaign funds, not necessarily the one with the best ideas. Generally, this favors incumbents who have ties to many donors and lobbies.
I realize none of these definitively answer why turnout is low, but they point out some flaws in our system. Maybe in searching for solutions for these problems, turnout will increase.
And by the way, Midterms are on November 4. The deadline to register to vote for them in Indiana is October 6.