America has spokenWed 05 November 2014 by Rick Gilmore
America has spoken, or at least the portion of those adults of voting age who exercised, or were allowed to exercise, their right to vote have spoken. As a Democrat, I worry about the Senate takeover, especially the likely ascension of one of the most vocal climate change deniers to the chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works committee. But, as the saying goes, truth will out. Whether Inhofe denies it or not, climate change is real, we are driving it, and no amount of prayer or wishful thinking will prevent us all from the consequences of our choices.
In my own small corner of the world, 169 voters participated out of 3,440 registered. That compares with 281 in 2010, 223 in 2006, 171 in 2002, and 153 in 1998, all comparable elections with a statewide governor's race. You can see the trends in this graph. Data, plots, and R code used to make them can be found here.
Note that the presidential years show clear spikes, both in the primary and general elections. Our precinct has a mix of permanent residents and students. Students tend not to vote during non-presidential election years. Curiously, the proportion of votes cast relative to registered voters appears to have peaked in the 2004 election, but that's overshadowed by the sharp increase in voter registrations beginning in 2006.
The challenge will be turning these occasional voters into regular ones.
One of the things I like most about being an election official is the chance to do concrete things that encourage voting. At our precinct I set up my laptop and connected it to the internet via my new iPhone 6's instant hotspot feature. We helped more than a dozen students and permanent residents find out where they were actually registered to vote by looking their names up on the web. I hope that these voters made their way to the right place and voted.
As a society, we have chosen to make voting difficult and inconvenient, more difficult and inconvenient than it needs to be. But, I'm pleased to say that in Precinct 26, State College East 3, our bipartisan sentiment is that encouraging people to vote and making it easier for them to participate in our democracy is a patriotic duty.