Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Why you need to vote

I should have posted this yesterday, but Angie mentioned that she felt guilty for having voted when she wasn't as informed as she thought she should have been. Here's the thing: if you're unsure, you still should vote. And I'll expalin why.

I don't have the statistics at hand, but campaign managers and consultants spend hours crunching the numbers--it's what they get paid for. And I've heard this from a variety of sources to know that this strategy DOES have an effect. For the most part, it relates to measures, bonds, taxes, and propositions, but there's a mild effect on individual candidates too. For Yes vs. No ballot measures, which need a certain percentage to pass, campaigns often try to influence voters who are unsure on any measure not to cast a vote at all. Let me explain why that helps a measure pass, and then explain why it trickles over to candidates.

Assume you are campaigning for a measure, one which needs a simple majority to pass (50% of the vote plus one vote). Assume that you've got a good group of volunteers who are going to vote yes for it. Assume though that it looks as if the measure might not quite make it to the simple majority. One very slimy tactic is to get your Get Out the Vote callers to push the Yes voters to get to the polls, to essentially hang up on any vociferous No voters, and then, for the undecideds who really don't seem as if they are going to vote for the measure, you ask them simply not to vote at all on the measure.

"Please, Mr. Smith. Please go to the polls and vote. However, if you feel as if you still do not have enough information on any item, it may be better if you would simply withold your vote. I'm not calling you to change your mind on any item. I'm simply encouraging you to vote."

Here's the theory: If 100 people vote NO on a measure, then the pro-side needs to get 101 people to vote YES. Most people who do not understand the implications of any ballot mesure will default to voting against it. So if you can knock out a few "I'm undecided so I'm going to vote NO" votes, then your 101 dedicated YES voters have a greater chance of swinging the election in a smaller pool of voters.

Personally, I don't like this tactic, and whenever I've set up GOTV banks, I've specifically requested that callers don't do this. There's a former friend in town who disagrees with me. I found out last year that he had called the GOTV volunteers the night before I was to train them to ask them to encourage people not to vote.

OK, so this also trickles over into indivdual candidate races. You can't really vote against a single candidate, especially when there are four others on the ballot. However, a YES vote is an active decision. People who take action are generally decided. So if you vote for a candidate, generally, but not always, you were ready to go to the polls and support your guy.

If undecideds stay away, then the races default to which ever campaign is better organized to get their voters to the polls. It has nothing, absolutely NOTHING, to do with platforms, ideas, or priorities. The entire race simply comes down to who has more money and who has better organized volutneers. I've worked with campaign managers, I've run a campaign, and I respect these individuals. However, I don't think that who sits in the lawmaker's chair should be decided entirely by them. Because a lot of them are stubborn pricks as well.

So. To sum up. If you vote YES on an item, in general you are an active, decided voter. People who feel less informed on any topic generally vote against it. (I do that on the School Board too--it's the safer route in the long run.) Since the voting majority in most minor elections are undecided, the people who would like to get any particular measure passed hope and pray that the undecideds stay away.

If you stay away from the polls, then there's a much, much smaller group of people actually voting. The smaller the group, the easier it is to influence, and the more likely it is that they are either rabid "pinko commie lefties" or rabid "redstate wignuts". The extremes should not decide who gets into office. Just go vote. It will be OK.


Kristie (J) said...

Well - smack my head and call me stupid. I didn't see that little bit you had further down until tonight. I didn't reload the page on your blog and it didn't update for a number of days. I left a wee little message there for you *huge grin*. Let's pick a night and we can watch The Scarlet Pimpernell together. Well, you at your place and me at mine ;)

And as for voting, although it's not election day here, my parents drummed into me and my sisters the importance of voting and I've voted in each and every election since I was eligible. It's a right and a duty that we have and I always get distressed when I see the huge number of people who don't vote. Plus - practically speaking, if you don't vote, you have absolutely no right to critize any of the policitcians and I do dearly love to critize politicians that have been in power too long.

Suisan said...

Oh Nooooo!!

Kristie found the entry.

"Be my friend, be my friend, be my friend," she grovelled.

Ahem. On what day would you care to watch My Dear Percy triumph over that Mon-Sewer Chauvelin with the limp cravat? Eh, what? Sink me, Woman! Why, we'll call it a pic-a-nic! With a rahtha large basket. Hmmmm?

I do so love Percy. I have this ongoing fear that one day I'm going to be delerious with fever and start hallucinating that he's watching over me, waving his scented lace handkerchief in the general area above my head. And when I start conversing with him in my delerium, no one who's the least bit rational will have a clue as to what's going on. Lud! Odd's Fish! Sink Me!

Of course, since I'll be delerious at the time, I'm not so sure why I'm worried about this scenario, since I'm guaranteed not to make much sense. But I remember worrying about the eventuality even when I was only a teenager. Ah, young love.

They seek him he-ah
They seek him the-ah
Those Frenchies seek him ev'ry whe-ah

Is he in Heaven?
Or is he in Hell?
That demmed elusive Pimpernel.


Anonymous said...

I'm trying to figure out if we (Ontario) have these measures or whatever you call them. Mostly we vote for school trustees, mayor, premier and then the big kahoona.

I always try to do a quick education thing before I hit the polls because I refuse to *not* vote. My ancestors died for my right and I will friggin' get to the polls come rain, snow, sleet whatever.

We have an election on the 13th I think so it's time I did some searching! I like to go in knowing what my options are and with the internet, I have no reason not to know!


Suisan said...

By measures I mean a Bond on the ballot for raising money to improve schools, or to renovate city property. Then we have voter initiatives, which we are throughly addicted to in California. Those are the ones where the electorate can change the laws by defining marriage, for example. But most of the voter initiatives are things such as the "Three Strikes Law": commit two felonies and if you commit any other crime, it's "three strikes and you're out" and you go to jail for the maximun sentence.

Any of those fall under the heading of ballot measures--you have to vote yes or not on each. It's separate than voting for only a candidate.

And may I just say here that I abject t ovoting for superior court judges. Talk about an uninformed vote. It's really important to have a fair and intelligent judiciary. How in the hell am I supposed to research those candidates?