Start a slow, quiet campaign to identify your friends who didn’t vote for president last November, and cultivate them with an eye toward getting them to the polls in 2018 and 2020.
One of the more shocking facts from the 2016 election was how few people voted. According to numbers from the United States Election Project, 59.3 percent of eligible voters turned out and cast a ballot for the president. (60 percent showed up and voted for something; the 0.7 percent gap represents people who voted but did not vote for president.)
That’s stupid-crazy low for an advanced democracy like America’s. Pitiable, in fact. Yet it’s actually a better turnout than 2012, which tallied 58.6 percent of eligible voters, and it might be the best electoral turnout recorded between 1972 and 2000.
Voter turnout needs to improve. Two out of five eligible voters stayed home. If more of those abstainers had come out, we might not be in the mess we’re in today. If you’re mad at Clinton’s narrow loss to Trump, don’t vent your rage on people who voted for Jill Stein and Gary Johnson–at least they went to the polls. Point your ire at the 40 percent of voters who never made it.
Ok, we’re joking about that–don’t actually get mad at them. At least some wanted to cast a ballot, but could not. That said, we’re on watch for articles that explain why people who can vote don’t vote, and why they say they chose to stay home in 2016. When we find them, we’ll post about them.
Here’s what we know right now. According to 538, voters who stayed home in 2016 probably cost Clinton the election:
In particular, turnout was low among young people (aged 18-29) and non-whites.
The silver lining to this? We know that Democratic-leaning and left-leaning people were less likely to go to the polls. You, personally, can help fix that.
Think about your friends. Do you know who among them did not vote? The math says that you probably have at least some non-voters in your midst. Maybe more than 60 percent of your friends voted, but not all of them.
If you know which of your friends did not vote, look for opportunities to discuss it with them. Don’t do this in a punitive way! Simply ask if they voted, and if they say no, ask why. Keep your tone of voice neutral.
If it’s something as simple as not being registered, or not having a ride to the polls, do what you can to remove those obstacles. The web site below will tell your friend if they’re registered to vote in their state:
If they are not registered, do what you can to help them register. If they would have voted if they had had transportation to the polls, make plans for 2018–see if you can give them a ride personally, or arrange for a cab.
If they had other reasons for not voting–they don’t think their vote matters, they didn’t like the candidates, they don’t trust the system, etc.–just keep talking to them. Don’t always talk politics–see to it that about 80 percent of the time, you talk about something else. And when you do talk politics, only occasionally talk about voting.
Build and strengthen your relationship with your non-voting friends with an eye on the coming 2018 race, and with the hopes of enticing those people to come with you to vote in the midterms.
See the full 2016 election numbers, compiled by the United States Election Project. It includes grand totals and state-by-state breakdowns:
Bookmark this page from the ElectProject site, which lists links to the boards of elections for all 50 states and the District of Columbia (scroll down a bit):
See a 2012 piece on 538 that gives numbers on the 2012 turnout:
Follow professor Michael P McDonald, the polysci guy behind the United States Election Project, on Twitter: