Why Don’t They Vote?
The Perpetual Conundrum of U.S. Voter Apathy

Arash Norouzi
The Mossadegh Project | November 4, 2018                    


Why Don't They Vote? | The Perpetual Conundrum of U.S. Voter Apathy

“Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting.” — Pres. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Oct. 5, 1944


“So long as I do not firmly and irrevocably possess the right to vote I do not possess myself. I cannot make up my mind — it is made up for me. I cannot live as a democratic citizen, observing the laws I have helped to enact — I can only submit to the edict of others.”
Martin Luther King, Jr., March 19, 1957


“...it’s disquieting to note that in all other free nations, the turnout is better than in America. Such apathy doesn’t augur well for our way of life.” — The Globe-Gazette (Mason City, Iowa), Dec. 4, 1958


“The problem...is not the people who voted, [it’s] the people who didn’t vote. I can’t believe the numbers of Americans who don’t take the time to go out and vote.” John Kerry, Sept. 2018 1


“For one of the world’s leading champions of democracy” wrote famed pollster George Gallup in a 1946 report, “the United States has a surprisingly poor record of turnout on election days. The voter turnout in America is lower than in any large democracy which has held an election recently. We rank far behind Australia, France, England, and Canada, and even behind Italy, where the first democratic election after two decades of Fascist control was held last month.”2

Today, the most consequential political faction in the U.S. remains, as usual, the non-voter. The 2016 Presidential race, after all, was determined by only 55.7% of eligible voters3, an abysmally low turnout by global standards, mirroring the 1940’s and 1950’s when the figures were only slightly different.

Political apathy in America has persisted for so long that any discussion of the topic just feels like a rehash. From one generation to the next, it’s essentially the same conversation, with the same questions, the same excuses, the same theories....yet little, if any, change.

By way of demonstration, presented below are three separate newspaper editorials titled “Why Don’t They Vote?”: the first from Aug. 1952, followed by another less than two weeks later, and the third from 1963, 11 years after. Lamenting the unfortunate, befuddling situation, all three took a crack at diagnosing the problem, much like the media does today.

Sprinkled chronologically among these are samples of plain folks pleading with their fellow citizens to do their civic duty and vote in the Nov. 1952 presidential primaries — a familiar refrain to most Americans.

As the Nov. 6th midterm elections nears, it never hurts to have yet another reminder of the importance of political engagement, because you can’t complain if you... (look, even I’m doing it now).

As Gallup concluded in 1946, “The low voter turnout in the United States not only shows lack of public interest in government, but also has far-reaching political repercussions....[the] whole political picture might be changed if they turned out and voted in full strength.”






The Corpus Christi Caller-Times (Corpus Christi, Texas)
July 26, 1946 (lead editorial)

Every Qualified Citizen Should Exercise
His Right To Cast a Vote

On the eve of the primary at which voters will make their selections of office holders from senator to constable there seems to be still some apathy on the part of the electorate.

Even in the governor’s race, where the hottest controversies have developed and most speeches made, you find a large percentage of people still uncertain about their choice. They all seem to know just whom to scratch, since it is easier to decide against than for somebody, but they are leaving the final decision up to the moment they mark their ballot.

Tens of thousands won’t bother to vote at all. They will either be too busy to vote—it takes only a few minutes—or they are “disgusted” with politics and don’t want to have anything to do with it. They say “No matter whether I vote or not; I’ll get gypped anyhow.”

This is a curious and indefensible attitude. With large numbers of people refusing to discharge this prime obligation of citizenship it is small wonder there are so many complaints about incompetent and undesirable officeholders. For every citizen who stays away from the polls from deliberate choice, there are ten others who go to the polls to reward a friend or punish an enemy. The question of merit of the candidate has little to do in making up their minds.

A very large percentage of voters will make the acquaintance of some of the candidates only when they start to mark their ballot. They never heard of them before. That is why a man with a good “political name” sometimes gets elected, without other qualification. People vote their prejudices, a circumstance that the very form of that Texas ballot invites. Instead of making a check mark against the name of the candidate they favor, they must scratch out the name of the one they oppose. This gives them a chance to express their feelings in a purely physical way, but it denies them the opportunity to consider half a dozen candidates in a given race on their merits, and then make a choice among them by putting down an “x” in a square opposite his name. This, however, would deny them the sadistic pleasure of blacking out the other five names.

We Americans should be proud of the fact that we are privileged to elect men of our choice to office. Very few peoples of the world have enjoyed this act of citizenship in recent years. It took a world war to regain it for Germany and Italy and the countries they dominated. The fact that these people appreciate the right to vote is shown by the heavy percentage of eligible persons who go to the polls when opportunity offers. If they had not lost that privilege in the first place, there could not have been a Hitler or a Mussolini.

If Americans have so low an esteem for the rights of citizenship as to stay away from the polls they have only themselves to blame if unworthy and dangerous men get into office. They should make their choice. On the basis that the will of the majority is supreme, and that the bigger the vote the less chance there is for demagogues to attain office, every qualified citizen should go to the polls Saturday.



The Kokomo Tribune (Kokomo, Indiana)
May 3, 1951 (lead editorial)

Do Your Duty Tuesday

Every voter in Kokomo will have a chance next Tuesday to help select good material for this city’s government. If, on Wednesday, May 9, voters are not satisfied with the candidates who have been nominated for mayor, city clerk, city judge and councilmen, they may find themselves partly responsible.

Indifference by voters can, and often does, result in the nomination of candidates who are not as well qualified as some of their opponents. Voters should look over the list of candidates in both parties and select those whom they believe will make the best public officials. Then they should urge their friends to support the candidates they have singled out.

Good citizenship is a matter of working for good government, and you work for good government by asking other people to vote for candidates whose qualifications you have found to be high. Voters of either party who may be undecided about which candidates to support should ask the advice of their friends who are acquainted with the candidates. Ask someone who knows the merits of the candidates.

Voters also will have an opportunity to study the pictures and brief biographical sketches of the candidates from both parties when The Tribune prints a roundup of this information in its Friday edition. They may consult that layout in seeking to make up their minds on how to vote.

Everyone should vote. The best way to make sure that Kokomo will have a good city government during the four years starting next January is for all citizens who are eligible voters to take part in nominating their party tickets in the primary.

There are 21,124 persons registered to vote here next Tuesday, but most observers will be surprised if half of them take the trouble to go to the polls. In a free nation such as ours, the privilege of voting should be so greatly appreciated that 75 or 80 percent of the voters should exercise their voting privilege in every election that is held.

In the last 12 years, city primary elections have drawn fewer than 9,000 voters to the polls in Kokomo, with one exception. The exception was 1938, when an intensely interesting primary race on the Democratic ticket sent the total vote by both parties up to 12,127. A vote of 9,000 or fewer in the primary next Tuesday would be a poor showing for Kokomo, for it would mean less than 50 percent of the people who should be exercising that right were exercising it.

Make up your mind to do your duty next Tuesday and vote. Try to vote intelligently by finding out who the best qualified candidates are and supporting them.



The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Thursday, June 7, 1951
“The People Speak” letters section

Use the Vote

Editor, the Post-Gazette:
Fifty years ago Americans were religious, patriotic, honest and neighborly.

Get this straight good people, American citizens voted in those times and never missed! We used to hear our father say, voting is just as much a religious duty as going to church. They also went to church every Sunday! I should know, for it was one of those “musts,” and I never said no to Papa.

You people don’t realize how easy life is for you today. Housework is made easy today with electric washers, ironers and dish washers. You have electric carpet sweepers and even an electric heating pad for headaches from overeating. Your children do not even have to walk to school.

Oh, women and men today can hardly believe what people had to put up with 50 years ago, yet they went to church religiously and never missed voting. Suckers would be the name for it today! But you would not want to call your mothers, fathers and even your grandparents “suckers,” would you?

Now, fellow Americans, let’s get serious about this matter of voting on election day. Do you know there are enough non-voters in this land we call America to counteract the danger of the number of Communists in our America who do vote under the guise of being Americans?

Give this some thought, my American friends. Stop and think if you are one of the over 50 per cent of Americans who do not vote. If you are, you are the only one who can do anything about it.

Why not do something about it at the 1951 primary for selecting your party candidates? Also at the presidential election in 1952?

You will be surprised when you do vote how happy it will make you to be back again among American voters—taking advantage of the franchise or right to vote given you for being citizens of the United States of America.


HARRY B. BUNTING.

Pittsburgh

READ ... THINK ... VOTE


The Oil City Derrick (Oil City, Pennsylvania)
July 23, 1951 (lead editorial)

THE AMERICAN WAY

Tomorrow is primary election day in Pennsylvania -- a real testing day of the Americanism of citizens of this country. To vote is both a privilege and a duty of citizenship -- failure to vote is to cast aside one of the basic obligations of the American way and to bypass one of the pillars of freedom itself.

In recent years the number of countries in which citizens have retained the privilege of going to the polls to vote for candidates of their choice, without fear of reprisals, has narrowed down to a very few. How fortunate are we Americans that our country is one of that handful!

In view of this it is almost beyond comprehension that millions of citizens in past elections have been so unappreciative of their American heritage that they did not take the trouble to vote. But statistics cannot be denied and the records prove that approximately half the Americans of voting age failed to exercise their right of franchise.

It is paradoxical that much of the clamor against the actions of those in government positions comes from the very people who at election time show absolutely no concern as to who will represent them in official posts. They who bestir themselves the least are the loudest in their condemnations. Yet they have absolutely no right to criticize or find fault, for they have neglected their duty and their obligation in helping to select those who govern them.

Many citizens of voting age are guided by a sense of futility when it comes to exercising their right of franchise. “What good would my one vote do,” is the foolish [illegible]. This is a defeatist attitude which fails to take into account that this government was built on the opinion of all the people. Every vote is important and throughout the pages of American history there is instance after instance of where a single vote changed a whole course of events.

There is a tendency, too, on the part of many eligible voters to view a primary election lightly. This is a serious error for it is the primary which gives the individual voter the opportunity to pick the candidates whom he believes best qualified to serve the public interest. It is his opportunity to help select the slate that will carry his party’s banner in the general election.

Remember these things tomorrow. And remember, too, that bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote. Don’t put yourself in that category. Vote as you please, but in any event -- VOTE.



“The indifference of the American people to their own government is demonstrated by the failure of a good half of the citizens to vote.”

Path To Dictatorship, The Reading Eagle (Reading, Pennsylvania), May 8, 1952



The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Washington)
May 23, 1952

That One Vote Could Mean Much This Year

In the Spokane valley, as in many other places these days, there is being organized a “get out the vote” campaign. This is the time for effective work to be done toward improving the United States citizen’s woeful record of nonvoting. It is useless to urge a person who is not registered to go to the polls on election day; the first task is to see that every potential voter registers in time to qualify.

The opposition that must be overcome is that oft-repeated phrase: “What difference will my one vote make in the final result?”

Such modesty is not becoming to any self-respecting citizen. Every qualified adult is entitled to express his opinion in each election, and no one vote counts more than another; the resulting total decides how we shall be governed. There is no excuse for anyone feeling that he, or she, is entitled to have less to say about our government than does any other voter.

In fact, history records many cases where every last vote cast was quite essential to the final decision. President Truman, in 1948, profited when an average of just one more Dewey vote to a precinct would have lost him both Ohio and California; that would have deprived either candidate of a majority in the electoral college. [Thomas Dewey]

Grover Cleveland defeated James G. Blaine in 1884 by carrying New York state by a margin of only 1149 votes out of 1,125,159. Many today recall Wilson’s victory over Chief Justice Hughes by virtue of carrying California on 3306 votes in 5000 precincts. [Woodrow Wilson vs. Charles Evans Hughes]

Spokane voters can recall several instances in local elections when one or a mere squad of voters could have changed the result.

Not only in the presidential balloting this year, but in the races for many senate and house seats and for state offices, the prospect is that the result may be close enough so that the “what’s the difference” citizens can make all the difference there is in the outcome.

As never before, it is important this year for every American to assert his right and privilege to have his say on how and by whom he wants to be governed.



The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Washington)
August 2, 1952 — Letter to the Editor

An Appeal to Vote

Every citizen of the United States, men and women, 21 years of age and older, should register and vote at the primary and at the November election.

Let each public official be elected by a majority of all of the voters. Do not let a President slip into office by default in 1952 as happened in 1948. About 50 per cent of the potential voters of this nation failed to cast a ballot in the 1948 election. Harry S. Truman received 51 per cent of those votes or about 26 per cent of the potential voters.

Remember that this is a republic and if you want to be represented in the congress and other public offices, you must vote at each election.


O. S. MASON.

Box 294, Selah, Wash.

Vote as you please...but VOTE!


U.S. Editorial
July 26, 1952

A Right and a Duty

The Non-Partisan Retailers’ Nationwide Get-Out-The-Vote Committee has come up with a catchy and excellent slogan this year. It is “Vote As You Please—But Please Vote.”

The coming election is of tremendous importance — it will determine the fateful courses that this nation will take in domestic and foreign policy. On both sides, the candidates, their managers, and their partisans have promised driving, fighting campaigns. Far-reaching and opposed philosophies of government are the real stake in this election.

It will be a tragedy if the decision is made, as in the past, by a minority of our people. Over the centuries, rivers of blood have been shed in the fight for the right of franchise — the right to a secret ballot. For this is the first and the last defense against tyranny. Without the right to vote as conscience and mind dictates, men are slaves — the servants of ruthless masters whose powers know no limit.

We have that right — yet it is common in this country for but half or less of the eligible voters to go to the polling booth on election day. One vote doesn’t matter, they say. Yet a bare handful of votes can determine crucial contests — as recently as 1940 a U.S. Senator was elected by a margin of just 20 votes in the huge state of Texas. And when the “my vote doesn’t matter” attitude is held by millions of people, we have government by the minority, and no one can say that the will of the people is dominant.

Vote As You Please—But Please Vote.





The Oil City Derrick (Oil City, Pennsylvania), July 29, 1952 added:

“If we are to have a real will of the majority in this country, if we are to have government by the people, then citizens must vote, in far greater numbers than they have in the past. But remember, you can’t vote unless you are registered. Next November 4 will mean nothing to you unless you have seen fit to enroll as a voter. September 13 is the closing date for registration. Don’t wait--visit the office of the County Registration Commission in the Court House in Franklin at your earliest convenience and register. Then you can have your say in this all-important election year. Be sure to register, then—“Vote as you please, but please vote.”



The Santa Cruz Sentinel (Santa Cruz, California)
August 8, 1952 (lead editorial)

Open Season On Squawk Birds

Have you seen the squawk bird? It’s a unique animal. All it can do is squawk, squawk, squawk. It never votes, just squawks.

It’s a species of animal which is all too prevalent on the American scene, and right now, there is open season for squawk bird hunting. Your citizenship is your hunting license. The squawk bird is the humorous symbol chosen by the ballot battalions to remind citizens to register, and registrants to vote.

Right now, the greatest election campaign in decades is in its opening phases. All your partisan fervor won’t do you any good unless you are a registered voter, and the deadline is just four weeks away. Starting this week, the county clerk’s office will be open Saturday mornings to serve citizens wishing to check their registrations or become properly registered voters. If you can’t spare the time during the week, Saturday morning affords a convenient opportunity. It only takes a couple of minutes, costs no money, and is guaranteed painless.

No matter who you are, you can’t vote on election day unless you are properly registered. If your own brother is the precinct poll inspector, he wouldn’t know you unless he could find your name in the Great Register.

If you think, as we do, that it is up to the people to choose their government, don’t pitch your rightful vote over the cliff by not registering. Don’t be a squawk bird, the kind who squawks but never votes.


U.S. Editorial
August 21, 1952

Why Don’t They Vote?

Why don’t Americans vote? President Truman calls attention to the fact that in 1948 only 51 per cent of those eligible went to the polls, as against 75 per cent in Canada and France, 89 per cent in Italy and 90 per cent in Belgium. The situation is getting worse. In 1900, the second McKinley-Bryan contest, 73 per cent of the electors voted, and in 1880, when Garfield beat Hancock, 78 per cent. At this rate in another 20 years only one out of every three Americans will trouble to cast a ballot.

Various reasons might be alleged. The adoption of woman suffrage made eligible a new class of voters who had not been accustomed to the use of the ballot. After 30 years, however, this consideration must be less important. The automobile, the radio, and television have complicated life, leaving less time for such duties of citizenship as following public affairs and voting intelligently.

Another cause may be the decline of partisanship. In the last century party was a holy cause to most persons, making it a sacred duty to vote. Now citizens have have trained themselves to see good and evil in both sides, and too many may conclude that it makes little difference who wins.

Regardless of cause, the growing failure to vote is alarming.


The Sunday Star (Washington Evening Star) (DC)
August 24, 1952

Apathetic Electorate

If the results of a political survey in Richmond, Virginia, are indicative of conditions generally, the voting public will need a lot of education on the presidential tickets of both parties between now and November 4. A sampling of citizens by the Richmond News Leader revealed an amazing amount of vagueness about the Democratic and Republican nominees, especially those running for the vice presidency.

Only 23 of 50 men and women interviewed in downtown Richmond could name all four nominees. Only 39 could name both the presidential nominees. Only 29 could identify both of the vice presidential nominees. Four of the 50 could not name any of the candidates. One man offered to bet that Kefauver would beat Eisenhower. [Sen. Estes Kefauver] One thought Stevenson was Eisenhower’s running mate. [Richard Nixon was Dwight D. Eisenhower’s running mate] A clerk said “some Georgia man” was on the Republican ticket with Eisenhower and that “a young fellow—not Dirksen” was on the Democratic ticket with Stevenson. [Sen. Everett Dirksen] A woman proprietor of a dry goods store brushed aside the vice presidency question with the comment that she didn’t pay any attention to Vice Presidents. A draughtsman suggested that Sparkman was the G.O.P. vice presidential selection and that Harriman was the Democratic nominee for President. [Sen. John Sparkman was the running mate of the Democrats’ nominee, Adlai Stevenson. Averell Harriman ran but was not nominated]

The News Leader presented the findings without comment under the head “Interest in Campaign Varies Here.” The third of a series of articles in yesterday’s Star on lagging registration in the counties near Washington gave striking evidence that present interest in the campaign is anything but high in this area, too. Obviously, there is a fertile field still open for political propagandizing and get-out-the-vote campaigning in the short time remaining before election day.


The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
September 2, 1952 — Letter to the Editor

A Citizen’s Duty

Editor, the Post-Gazette:

Human freedom is at its lowest ebb in countries where the secret ballot is unknown. Human slavery is at its lowest ebb in freedom-loving countries. Politics are the concern of all citizens in a democracy, and they should not neglect their civic duties with impunity.

To preserve liberty and self-government—good government—citizens of this glorious republic must exercise eternal vigilance and constant watchfulness.

Proud indeed is the real American who marches forth on election day, into the voting booth and marks his preference for the candidate he believes will best serve his interests. Now is the time for you loyal citizens to prepare to exercise your right and civic duty on November 4, and vote as your conscience dictates—and urge your neighbor to go and do likewise.


M. J. MOLANS

Pittsburgh.


The Newport Daily News (Newport, Rhode Island)
October 21, 1952

Why Don’t They Vote?

It is expected that only about 56 per cent of those Americans who could vote will cast their ballots two weeks hence. And this despite the fact that this is the most exciting Presidential campaign we have had in many years.

Why are so many Americans not interested in voting? Other democracies put us to shame in this matter. In both Canada and France about 70 per cent of those who could vote go to the polls. Sweden and Great Britain do even better. There the turnout is almost always 80 per cent. And in Italy, in the last national election, 92 per cent of the potential vote was cast.

We Americans like to believe we are tops in democratic procedures. Yet we are shamefully behind all other democratic countries when it comes to voting. Why this should be so is a great puzzle to everyone.



The Wilmington Morning-Star (Wilmington, North Carolina)
November 3, 1952

Don’t Let ‘George’ Do It

What are you going to do about the election tomorrow? Will you go to the polls and cast your ballot? Or will you leave it for “George” to pick a president?

That’s happened before. “George” has elected too many presidents. He did it four years ago. The country had ninety-three million voters enrolled then. Only 48,680,000 of them voted. [Harry Truman’s 1948 election victory, his second term]

Maybe we’ll do better now, considering the rousing campaigns both presidential candidates and their supporters have been waging. But if previous national elections are a true gauge we’ll have to turn out tomorrow in force to break the precedent.

Note the record. In 1880, when Garfield was elected president, [James A. Garfield] 79 per cent of eligible voters went to the polls, and in 1900 when Theodore Roosevelt, succeeding President McKinley, [William McKinley] was elected in his own right, 73.5 per cent of the voting strength of the country cast ballots. By 1920 something similar to the recent indifference of so many Americans to the privilege of participating in our free election system, had sent the that down to 49 3 per cent. Twenty years later, in 1940, the percentage was 53.4. In 1914 the total was six-tenths of one per cent greater, or 55 per cent. Then, in 1918, when President Truman was elected in his own right the total dropped to 51 per cent.

While we pride ourselves on our free ballot, our record at the polls is none too creditable when compared with the voting in several other countries. The following figures have frequently appeared In newspaper and magazine columns during this campaign, but lose nothing by their repetition here. Rather they should be the more impressive in light of our own poor showing. Belgium has a voting record of 90 per cent; Italy 89 per cent; England 83 per cent; Canada 85 per cent; Sweden 80 per cent; France 75 per cent; Israel 72 per cent, and Japan 71 per cent.

The United States has long outstripped all these countries in economic development. Are we to be content to lag behind them at the polls? The answer can be given only by every individual eligible to vote.


Jesse Cargill cartoon | November 4, 1952


The Wilmington Morning-Star (Wilmington, North Carolina)
November 4, 1952 (lead editorial)

Don’t Fail To Vote

The campaign tumult and shouting is ended. The party captains and kings have departed — whether with humble and contrite hearts they alone know.

Not in the memory of living man has there been a national political contest of such bitterness. Charges and countercharges have been hurled from both camps. Now the battle is over. Sometime tonight we'll know who is to be inaugurated President of the United States next January — General Eisenhower or Governor Stevenson. [Dwight D. Eisenhower and Adlai Stevenson]

The choice is not “in the lap of the gods” but in the hands of the voters. That the decision should represent the will of the actual majority it will be necessary for a much larger-than-usual turnout at the polls.

Voters in New Hanover county, with a record registration, have an opportunity to set an enviable precedent for the guidance of voters in later elections, as well as put the county at the top in North Carolina, prorated by voting strength.

All precinct polls will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. We thus have twelve hours in which to cast our ballots. With 25,000 eligible voters there would seem to be no reasonable excuse for failure to roll up a total at least twice as heavy as in 1948, when 11,193 ballots were counted

Illness will keep some at home or in hospital. For all others it ought to be possible to go to the polls before starting or after finishing the day’s work. To voluntarily abstain from voting cannot be condoned.

How you vote is your own business. Let your conscience be your guide. But vote.



“May every good citizen study the candidates critically, be grateful for the privilege of having a voice in local government, and then go to the polls and make the most of it.”


Every Vote Will Count | The Deseret News and Telegram (Salt Lake City, Utah), Oct. 22, 1953


The Detroit Free Press (Detroit, Michigan)
October 25, 1953

Everyone Yawns As Election Nears

James Ransom



The Weirton Daily Times (Weirton, West Virginia)
September 20, 1958 (lead editorial)

October 4 Deadline

On the standard calendar October 4 is not a red-letter day. To many people it will be just another Saturday with the usual preparations for the week end. To others the day will hold sentimental values as it will no doubt mark many birthdays, anniversaries, important football games and the like. But to countless others, October 4 is a date to circle as one of extreme urgency. It is the absolute deadline to register so that you will be assured of a vote in this year’s important off-year elections. It is also the final deadline for making corrections if you are already on the registration books. This means that if you have moved to a new voting precinct since you last voted, you should notify the Hancock County Clerk of your new address. Such notifications will take only a few minutes of your time yet it could guarantee your vote next November 4.

This nation’s voting record has been deteriorating at an alarming rate over the past several decades. On the nation’s eligible voters we find that in presidential years the trend was: in 1896 about 85 per cent voted; in 1916 only 70 per cent voted; in 1936 the vote dropped to 60 per cent; and just 12 years later, in 1948, only 50 per cent cast their ballots. The voting record in off-year elections is much worse.

Over the centuries, rivers of blood have been shed in the fight for the right of franchise -- the right of a secret ballot. For this is the first and last defense against tyranny. Without the right to vote as conscience and mind dictate, men are slaves -- the servants of ruthless masters whose powers know no limit. We have the right -- yet it is common in this country for but half or less of the eligible voters to go to the polling booth on election day. One vote doesn’t matter, you say. Yet a bare handful of votes can determine a crucial contest -- as recently as 1940 a U.S. Senator was elected by a margin of just 20 votes in the huge state of Texas. And when the “my vote doesn’t matter” attitude is held by millions of people, we have government by the minority, and no one can say that the will of the people is dominant.

So let’s keep this a “government of the people” by voting in every election. To accomplish this goal it is necessary that you are first properly registered. Remember Saturday October 4 is the final deadline. If you haven’t registered or if you are in doubt about your registration, check with the Hancock County Clerk in the Court House before October 4. Don’t delay another day.



U.S. Editorial
July 1, 1963

‘Why Don’t They Vote?’

Why did more than a third of eligible Americans fail to register and vote in the 1960 presidential election? And how can they be moved to vote in 1964? The President’s Commission on Registration and Voting Participation is trying to find the answers to such questions.

Rep. William E. Miller, the Republican National Chairman, invited to testify, raised some questions of his own he said the commission could study with profit to the Country.

There is California, where a million persons who registered did not vote; two states in which only 14 per cent of the eligible voters cast; ballots in the 1962 congressional elections; the gap between registration and voting participation and the drop-off, wherein voters cast ballots for a major office but not for lesser ones—in 1962, 246,000 persons who voted for governor in New York did not vote for congressmen.

Miller pointed to single party domination in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina to account for voter apathy in these states. He urged the removal of obstacles to the development of the two-party system in these states.

Most of what ails the American political system can be cured by education and, even more, by candidates who will command public interest and support. The voters will not bestir themselves for political hacks. The cure is in the hands of the major parties, though the voters cannot be excused for their apathy.


Notes:

1 WYNC Radio Interview with former Sec. of State John Kerry (The Brian Lehrer Show, Sept. 6, 2018) [link]

2 THE GALLUP POLL: Voter Turnout in America Lower Than in Other Large Democracies by George Gallup, Director, American Institute of Public Opinion, July 26, 1946

“In the United States...only just a little more than half of the adult citizens (55 per cent) took the trouble to vote in the 1944 presidential election. Worse still is the record of the 1942 Congressional elections. Those elections, held less than a year after Pearl Harbor, determined the membership of a House of Representatives faced with probably the most pressing problems in all our history. Yet only one-third of the country’s adult citizen voters went to the polls.”

3 Pew Research Center: U.S. trails most developed countries in voter turnout by Drew Desilver, May 21, 2018 [link]


Florida State University (FSU) student newspaper ad, Nov. 1978

Sen. Margaret Chase Smith on the Importance of Voting

Search MohammadMossadegh.com



Related links:

Why Do We Call It Electoral ‘College’? (Aug. 1952 editorial)

An Object Lesson For All Americans | The Spokesman-Review, June 20, 1952

Will History Repeat? | The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Sept. 1952 letter)



MOSSADEGH t-shirts — “If I sit silently, I have sinned”

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