Postal service should replace polling places
Low voter turnout exacerbated by exasperation with Election Day inconveniences
Elections are always divisive but as the results of this year’s midterm pour in, there’s one issue no one’s debating.
Low voter turnout is an unshakable and – thus far – irreconcilable issue.
Only 36.6 percent of eligible voters made it to the polls this year, a number so low it rivals voter turnout from the 1940s, when many Americans failed to vote because they were overseas, fighting in World War II.
There’s no simple, singular cause of voter apathy, and likewise, no easy solution.
The midterm elections are especially emblematic of this problem. Without the thrill of determining who will be, arguably, the most powerful individual in the world, the political apathy of the American populace cannot be disguised, illuminated by an uncomfortably harsh spotlight that casts its light every four years.
But considering today’s political climate, apathy is understandable – if not justifiable.
Voting often feels like a practice in futility, in an era of government shutdown, partisan bickering and general political malaise.
And so a catch-22 is born – if more people voted, perhaps the United States would have a more representative government, but without a productive political system, Americans don’t feel motivated to vote.
Improving voter turnout is, perhaps, more about changing the process of Election Day, so it requires less motivation – voting should necessitate less time and less energy for a population that is, it seems, always in a rush and chronically exhausted and overworked.
Sure, polls are open early and don’t close until late. In New York, where midterm turnout dropped 36.3 to 30.2 percent, from voters had from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. to cast their vote.
And though that helps 9-to-5ers, for people who work odd schedules, parents who have children to drop off, pick up and chauffeur for all hours and students whose days are jampacked with hours spent in class, at work and on the Stampede.
And because every voter must go to his or her assigned polling place, the inconvenience is heightened further.
It’s no wonder only 13 percent of voters in this election were under 30.
It might sound like catering to the lazy, or a lowering of national expectations, but it’s clear the inconvenience of voting – no matter how slight – is enough to dissuade people from getting to the polls.
Making the voting process feel meaningful may be too tall a task for now, but making the process easy is within reach.
All it takes is a mailbox.
Already instituted by Washington and Oregon, vote-by-mail is an ideal simplification of the voting process. Residents receive their ballots via mail, in advance of Election Day, and can drop off their ballots – at no cost for postage – in any mailbox, at any point prior to the polls’ closure.
There’s no struggle to decipher polling place locations, no rush to fit in voting after class but before work, no need to get up early or arrive home late.
Even if Americans should be willing to power through these annoyances, they’re clearly not, so it’s time to eliminate the irritation and clear a path for convenience – and democracy.