On Election Day, newspapers all over the country write editorials urging readers to get out and vote. We talk about civic duty, the need for citizens to participate in the governing process, and how the right to vote is the bedrock of American democracy. But let’s face it — if you’re reading this editorial, you’re probably already planning to vote. Let’s talk instead about how we get people out to vote — and why what we’re doing isn’t working. Based on previous turnouts, about 1.4 million people statewide could cast ballots in Tuesday’s primary election, about 20% of the state’s more than 7 million registered voters. That’s unsurprising for a primary in a non-presidential year, with a noncompetitive gubernatorial primary (both Republican and Democratic nominees for the office have been chosen for more than a year).
In some places, generally places with more educated, affluent residents, turnout will be higher; in impoverished communities, it’ll be much lower. (In the 2010 gubernatorial primary, 39% of Grosse Pointe Farms voters cast ballots, compared with 10% in Pontiac.) Most voters, everywhere, will be older.
There’s a lot of analysis of why so few voters show up on Election Day — apathy, ineligibility, misconceptions about voting requirements or access, a general lack of interest, even though voter registration accompanies issuance of a driver’s license or state identification card.
Campaigns’ intense get-out-the-vote efforts in the days leading up to the primary center around reminding voters that there’s an election coming up, who’s running and what’s on the ballot, via door-knocking, mailers and social media outreach. Yet turnout remains persistently low.