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Why aren’t Americans voting?

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We have a voting crisis in the United States and it is not the story we’re being told by Democrats, Republicans or the news media. It is a crisis of poor or inconsistent voter involvement and engagement. It is a crisis of finding compromise over voter integrity, which clearly does not exist by virtue of Russia’s ability to interfere with the 2016 presidential elections and subsequent attempt in 2020. The United States does have problems with voting, but it is not in the way many may think.  

During the 2020 presidential election, at least 158.4 million people voted for either Donald Trump or Joe Biden. This staggering number is 20 million more people than the 137.5 million who turned out to vote in 2016, and 25 million more than the 132.9 million who voted in 2012. 

Pew Research Center conducted an analysis of turnout rates in recent national elections of 35 member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a group of self-described democratic and “market-oriented economies.” The United States ranked 30th out of 35 nations for which data are available. This is surprising — and disappointing — considering the power and wealth of the United States. However, it showcases that our voter crisis is far more complex than what meets the eye.

One of the first problems we need to address is low voter turnout and participation. While the 158.4 million who voted in 2020 might seem impressive, the reality is that 80 million eligible Americans failed to cast votes. Too many Americans apparently think the process is rigged, that their vote will not count, so they do not bother to participate, which is both an embarrassment and catastrophe. The United States should represent the highest form of democratization, which also means having high and consistent voter participation, yet we find ourselves near the bottom of the barrel when compared to other industrialized nations.  

While our main focus should be mobilizing and empowering all eligible Americans to vote, it is also important to keep our attention on Russia’s Vladimir Putin, who continuously seeks to undermine the free and fair elections of the United States, which I consider to be a violation of U.S. sovereignty. A comprehensive look into Russian meddling by our intelligence agencies has made it clear that Russia is a consistent threat to the United States, not only by its continuous attempts to interfere, but also by spreading disinformation to divide Americans based on race and ideological differences.  

Russia perhaps has proven itself to be the greatest adversary in the history of the United States, and its ability to infiltrate the United States in a way that has turned the country on itself from the inside out is akin to a Third World War, even in the absence of any missiles being launched or troops being sent onto foreign soil. Our immediate attention should focus on how to thwart Russia’s continued push to create chaos within the United States as it attempts to reignite global Russian supremacy. However unlikely that may be, Putin’s Russia has been effective at one thing: weakening the United States by attacking our election process and sowing internal discord. 

I point out these things not because I do not believe that having fair elections is an essential part of democratic republic, but because I believe that they, too, warrant our immediate attention — though they have gone mostly ignored, when compared to voter ID laws. From my perspective,  having voter ID laws is not racist and requiring citizens to show proof of who they are should not be a partisan issue. But I do believe that we must make access to forms of identification easier, particularly for the poor and elderly. If we are able to accomplish this, I believe most people would have no problem showing proof of identity to vote. It is not a burden as long as people have the means to procure IDs. 

Additionally, I disagree with states that prohibit people giving out water or basic snacks at the polls; it just seems unnecessarily cruel, particularly in areas where people wait in lines for hours to cast their vote. So this is another thing we need to fix. It does not make sense that people have to wait in such long lines, which supports the argument for making Election Day a federal holiday when everyone could be off work and able to vote. Then we might see historic numbers and consistent participation. 

Whatever we ultimately decide, we must compromise and create a system that works for all Americans, regardless of race and socioeconomic status. 

A safe, but reasonably strong, system is beneficial to our country and to all Americans. Regardless of whether you vote for a Democrat or a Republican, each of us has something to gain by strengthening the electoral process. The country is better off when all voices can be heard. This is not a partisan issue, but an American issue, and the sooner we put partisanship to the side, the better off we’ll be. Combating Russia, improving voter turnout and engagement, and making an efficient, streamlined process for voters should be our focus. 

Armstrong Williams (@ARightSide) is the owner and manager of Howard Stirk Holdings I & II Broadcast Television Stations and the 2016 Multicultural Media Broadcast Owner of the Year. He is the author of “Reawakening Virtues.”

Tags Civic engagement Donald Trump Elections Joe Biden Vladimir Putin Voter ID laws Voter turnout Voting

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