Monday, September 22, 2014

What the rate of voter participation indicates

Scots widely recognized that the referendum to separate Scotland from the United Kingdom was very important. Scottish friends invariably mentioned the issue in conversations with me; the British media, especially in the last few months before the referendum featured stories about the referendum.

Given the referendum's importance, I'm not terribly surprised that voter turnout was 84.5%, the highest in British history. Equally impressive, voter registration in Scotland is 97% of those eligible to register. Direct democracy, at least on this one occasion, worked well in Scotland, giving Scots their relationship of choice with the rest of the United Kingdom.

In the United States, we sadly take far less interest in governance and elections. Less than two-thirds of those eligible actually register. Of registered voters, only about 60% vote in federal elections in which we elect a president; participation plummets to about 40% in mid-term federal elections.

A friend recently lamented the US going to war against ISIL without Congress (the Constitution gives Congress alone the power to declare war) or the President eager to take responsibility for embarking on a potentially lengthy war with a poorly understood strategy and even a vaguer sense of what the US has to do win the war.

It would appear that US voters reap what they sow. Disinterest and lack of involvement result in elected officials more concerned about winning the next election that doing what is right. Americans (and the rest of the world) deserve better.

In a democracy, the only way in which God can influence the choice of a government is through the electorate. Failing to register, failing to stay informed about the issues, failing to vote in every election, and failing to communicate your views to your elected officials on a regular basis are all forms of sin, i.e., missing the mark on what God desires God's people to do.


Anonymous said...

An interesting piece. One of the things that has happened here and elsewhere, including the UK, is that the elected governments go on being partisan and exclusionary after election. This means that they feel free to ignore the minority among those who voted. This means that the people who voted get discouraged and feel disenfranchised. Even if they vote over and over for their chosen way, they will be defeated and their interests will not be served. So what is the point in voting? Scotland has only one MP that belongs to David Cameron’s Tory party. They have long voted differently from England. But their voices have been ignored.
If democracy is to survive, the governing party needs to recognize their responsibility to rule for all the people, not just those who voted for them. In recent elections this ability to rule for all, not for a privileged group, seems to have been lost.

George Clifford said...

Good point - you raise the problem known as the tyranny of the majority, which argues for constitutional democracy because the constitution sets limits on the ability of the majority to impose its will on the minority.