Oregon politicians continue to strain at trying to improve voter participation in elections and all to no avail. They eased the process of registering to vote, including implementing the “motor voter” process which allows you to register to vote at the same time as you get your driver’s license. (Apparently, someone recognized that more people drive than vote.) And then, despite state law requiring one to be a citizen of the United States and a resident of Oregon, registration, requirements were relaxed to allow persons to register without proof of either. And still participation did not improve satisfactorily.
Having determined that ease of registration wasn’t good enough, they implemented “vote by mail” on the theory that, even though there are more drivers than voters, the voters can’t drive to the polls. (This follows the same thought pattern that people who drive in Oregon are institutionally incapable of filling their own gas tanks – it apparently requires more skill to pump gas than to drive.) Despite the obvious opportunity for voter fraud, including voting other people’s ballots in union halls, rest homes, drug and alcohol rehabilitation facilities, and migrant housing, the politicians proclaimed vote by mail to be the panacea for voter apathy.
Yet voter participation is not substantially different than it was prior to vote by mail. And so, the social engineers are at it again. The new Public Commission on the Oregon Legislature has made two recommendations to improve voter participation. A non-partisan election and open primaries – the two dumbest ideas since vote by mail.
But another study conducted recently by the Wilsonville based Northwest Resources Group (NRG) indicates that these approaches are dead wrong. In each instance, changes have been based on the erroneous assumption that voters feel inconvenienced by the processes of registering and voting. NRG has concluded that it isn’t the difficulty of voting but rather disappointment with politicians that is the cause for low turnouts. Voters are tired of watching resolution of real problems get buried by political posturing (e.g. social security reform, border security, immigration reform, school reform, etc.) Those same voters are tired of seeing a homogenous group of hand wringers spouting platitudes about the chil-l-l-dr-r-r-en (please moan when pronouncing this) and doing nothing to actually improve the situation.
As a result, NRG has concluded that instead of trying to force feed voter participation, a new system should be devised that is reflective of current voter participation. As of 2004, the estimated population of Oregon was 3,594,586. Slightly over seventy-five percent of the population, or 2,706,723 people, were eighteen years or older and therefore eligible to vote. Of that 2.7 million, 1,995,809, or 73.7% actually registered. And of those registered to vote, only 749,967 actually cast ballots in the primary election in 2006. That means a mere twenty percent of Oregon’s population made decisions effecting one hundred percent of its population. That participation appears to be satisfactory to Oregonians because it is a pattern that repeats itself routinely for primary elections.
NRG proposes using a surrogate selection for identifying that twenty percent who will vote. In Oregon today, eighty-three percent of the population is white. Of that, slightly less than half are male. That would suggest that forty-one percent of the population is white and male. Approximately thirty-nine percent of voters are registered Republicans. That would mean that sixteen percent of voters are white, male Republicans. That is slightly lower than the requisite twenty percent. To fill in the difference, NRG applied the same analysis to the fourteen percent identified as independent voters. In this instance, however, the qualifications of white and male, produced a number in excess of the additional four percent required. NRG solved that problem by recommending that independents from Multnomah County (independent because they think that the Democrats are not liberal enough) should be banned from the selection. So there it is. Future primary elections will be limited to white, male Republicans and white, male independents residing outside of Multnomah County. (Did you think I would exclude myself?)
To ensure full participation, vote by mail will be cancelled and the funds saved will be used to personally escort each authorized voter by limousine to a central location within each county where they can cast their votes.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I should note that the Northwest Resource Group is my consulting entity and that the research was conducted by simply asking my opinion. The point is that the result is just about as nutty as the recent recommendations of the new Public Commission on the Oregon Legislature.
One of the best things about a democracy is that the people get exactly the type of government they want – or deserve. That is said pointedly because much of Oregon is only getting the government they deserve, not the one they want. They deserve what they get because they resist participation. Voting is a privilege and a duty, let’s start treating it that way.