Monday, October 10, 2016

If you don’t vote, you have only yourself to blame

Originally published in
Reader Weekly
October 28, 2004

The U.S. is still considered a democracy.  The word comes from the Greek demos for people and kratein for rule.  It means the people rule.  If you don’t vote, how can you rule?

Democracy has been interpreted as majority rule.  But no president has ever been elected by a majority of the adult population.  Before the 1860’s few blacks could vote.  Before 1920 few women could vote (Wyoming territory being the exception in 1869).  Since 1932 the voter turnouts have never been greater than sixty-three percent (1).

That high was in 1960 when John F. Kennedy won with 34,227,096 votes to Richard M. Nixon’s 34,108,546, a difference of 118,550.  However, over 40 million people did not vote!  More people stayed away than voted for either candidate. (2)

Ronald Reagan supposedly had a landslide victory in 1980 over Jimmy Carter.  The voter turnout was less than 53 percent.  If you consider that less than 28 percent of the eligible voters voted for Ronald Reagan, he did not have a mandate.  Almost twice as many people stayed away as voted for Jimmy Carter.

Bill Clinton had five million votes more than Bob Dole in 1992 but the turnout was 55 percent.  Fewer voters might have shown up if Ross Perot hadn’t run and won almost 20 million votes, more than half of those that went to Bob Dole.  Even then 84 million people stayed away, giving Bill Clinton a plurality of 27 percent, a lower plurality than Ronald Reagan who also had a three-way race.

Even if you don’t like any of the presidential candidates, vote.  You don’t have to mark a vote for every office.  A lot of people skip voting for judges or conservation district commissioners, why not skip voting for president?  Leaving a blank presidential ballot shows you care enough to show up, and you get counted in the vote totals.

Many people blame Ralph Nader for Bush winning in Florida in 2000.  Nader got 97,588 votes and the difference between Bush’s and Gore’s totals was 537 votes (3).  However, over three million of Florida’s eligible voters did not even show up at the polls (4).  That is, more people stayed away than voted for either Bush or Gore.

In no midterm election since 1974 have more than forty percent of the adult population voted (2).  Midterm congresses aren’t the best money can buy; they are the result of extreme voter apathy.

You can vote strategically, you can vote tactically, but vote.  You can vote because of an overall result you want; say you want one party to dominate in Congress.  Therefore you wouldn’t vote for a third party candidate you respect.  Or, you can vote because you want a specific person in Congress.  Therefore you would vote for a third party candidate or a “major” party candidate in a party different than the party you want to dominate in Congress.  Either way, vote

You think Bush should be punished for the mess he made and that Kerry shouldn’t get the blame when he tries to fix it.  So vote for Bush, but vote.

You think that Bush has done a marvelous job, then especially in Minnesota you should vote.

You think Bush should not be rewarded for the mess he made and that Kerry can clean it up.  So vote for Kerry, but vote.

You think Hilary Rodham Clinton should be president in 2008.  If so, Kerry should not be president.  But don’t stay away, vote.

You think Hilary Rodham Clinton should not be president in 2008.  So vote for Kerry, but vote.

Do you think the make up of the Supreme Court is important?

Do you consider yourself patriotic?

Do you think the country is on the right track?

Do you think the country is on the wrong track?

For any of these reasons, vote.

You can’t get time off from work to vote?  Wrong, by law (in Minnesota) your employer must allow you paid time off to vote.  It’s your future, vote.

You can’t get a ride to the polls to vote?  Call for a ride.  (Sorry, I have no current phone numbers for these, but you can probably find some party info on facebook.  Look for your party of choice at the municipal or Congressional district level.)

OK Northlanders!  Let’s show we care about our country.  Let’s have over 90% turnout of the voting age population on November 2, 2004 (as of this re-posting, November 8, 2016).


(1) World Almanac 1998
(2) "National Voter Turnout in Federal Elections: 1960-1996", Federal Election Commission (
(3) “Nader Has Impact on Presidency”, Associated Press, posted at (The connection to the server was reset while the page was loading.)
(4) “Who took votes from whom?”

©2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2016 Melvyn D. Magree