Founder & CEO of Hacker Noon
- the state of US Presidential election voter turnout since 1972 -
Democracies should fairly and accurately maximize participation in order to elect a candidate of the people. The reality in America is at least 2 out of 5 eligible voters don't vote. If all the people who didn't vote, voted for one candidate, that candidate would win every year.
In recent conversation, photographer Mike Valigore said "I'd be a lot more likely to vote if i could vote against somebody I oppose." Got me thinking, would our elections be more closely aligned to the people's will if individuals had an option to spend their single vote against someone instead of for?
It takes energy to vote. It takes time to research. In going through the youtubes, the personal sites, the post office, the sign in yard index, the local news stories - it all comes down to the citizen choosing to exercise their limited brain supply in order to fulfill their civic duty. In that process, voters often learn what is not right before they learn what is perfect.
To endorse someone is to risk personal reputation. It's a lot easier to know you don't want something. If voters could choose to have their one vote be a downvote against Trump - instead of a vote for Biden - I believe not only would voter turnout be higher, but also, we'd have a more accurate count of the people's will. There is time, energy and opportunity cost in going to the polls, and registering to vote for that matter. Citizens don't generally get paid to leave work to participate in democracy. That opportunity cost means citizens have to believe in candidates more to sacrifice their time to vote. Looking back on the local government meetings I've been to, when attendees speak up, more often than not, it's to oppose something than it is to advocate for something.
Also consider John Bolton, he recently went on the Tonight Show to promote his book and said he'd be voting for neither Trump or Biden in 2020. Whatever your opinion on his foreign policy or decision not to testify in the impeachment hearings or his $2M book advance, here's a man that has dedicated his life to the government, worked in four presidential administrations, and is with a straight face reaching the conclusion that his 2020 vote is worthless.
Now you could argue that a lot of this could be solved by abolishing the two party system, but that's a whole other can of worms, and with this piece I'm simply arguing that the downvote could move voter turnout upwards. Our current level, 49-58% voter turnout in the last 50ish years, is not the level of a healthy democracy IMHO.
A healthy voter turnout rate in a pure two party system should be a minimum of two thirds. This ensures that if everyone who didn't vote, instead voted for a single third party candidate, the same candidate would still win because they'd have the majority of two thirds.
While only two parties have a realistic chance to win a general presidential nomination in America, this country is not a pure two party system as independents can make it on the general ballot. Third parties have never won a presidential election in US history, but From Ross Perot to Martin Van Buren to even Theodore Roosevelt, third party presidential candidates have historical swung states by garnering votes that could have gone to one of the two main candidates. Kanye West, who has sold 14.5 million albums in America, has announced his candidacy, and this fall, may be able to convince a significant portion of his fanbase to give them his vote instead.
There are millions of Americans who are against Trump and not for Biden. There are millions of Americans who are against Biden and not for Trump. These millions will have a very low voter turnout in 2020 because they cannot vote their opinions. Life long conservatives who are against Trump probably can't stomach voting for Biden, a life long democrat. And the Bernie supporters who think Biden represents all that's wrong with the Democratic party probably can't stomach voting for Trump.
If people want to be against someone instead of for someone, let their voice be heard instead of bucketing their voice into an inaccurate endorsement, or even worse, the ether.