Voter turn out tends to be lower in the United States than in many other developed countries, and tends to be lower in the United States today than it was in previous generations. For some, this is cause for concern, a sign that American democracy isn’t working as it should. Me, not so much. If you consider that one big motivator for voting is fear about what will happen if the wrong guy gets elected, the fact that voter turnout is lower in places like the United States and Switzerland than in other places may be a sign of the strength of our system of government, rather than a signal of its decay. It’s probably also the case that the idiosyncrasies of America’s system of government – we hold elections every two years, but only elect our President every four years – might tend to skew the result (As for why turnout might be lower now than it was prior to 1972, see here).
Until recently, I had thought that there might be another factor serving to drive voter turnout lower than what it otherwise would be: the electoral college. As Al Gore supporters know all too well, the winner in a presidential election is determined not by who wins the popular vote, but by who gets the most votes in the electoral college. In every Presidential races, there are only a small number of “swing states” that actually could be won by one candidate or the other. Most states, particularly in recent times, are “safe,” which is to say that the winner of the popular vote in that state is fairly certain. We might expect, therefore, that turnout would be higher in swing states (where people think that there votes might matter) than in safe states (where the outcome of the election is known in advance) and that this might serve to make total voter turnout lower than it otherwise would be. Continue reading
On the First Things blog, Archbishop Chaput has responded to the use of some of his prior statements by the group Roman Catholics for Obama. Chaput begins by detailing his support for the RFK and Carter campaigns, and then notes:
In the years after the Carter loss, I began to notice that very few of the people, including Catholics, who claimed to be “personally opposed” to abortion really did anything about it. Nor did they intend to. For most, their personal opposition was little more than pious hand-wringing and a convenient excuse—exactly as it is today. In fact, I can’t name any pro-choice Catholic politician who has been active, in a sustained public way, in trying to discourage abortion and to protect unborn human life—not one. Some talk about it, and some may mean well, but there’s very little action. In the United States in 2008, abortion is an acceptable form of homicide. And it will remain that way until Catholics force their political parties and elected officials to act differently.
Why do I mention this now? Earlier this spring, a group called “Roman Catholics for Obama ’08” quoted my own published words in the following way: Continue reading
One of the things they teach you in law school is the advantage of having a sympathetic plaintiff, a person and situation a judge is going to want to find in favor of apart from any of the legal particulars. It’s not the most important part of winning a case, certainly, but if you are going, say, to be challenging mandatory school attendance laws, you’re better off if you plaintiffs are Amish than if they are abusive deadbeats.
Well, it looks as if the folks behind the recent failed challenge to Indiana’s voter ID law may have found themselves some new clients:
About 12 Indiana nuns were turned away Tuesday from a polling place by a fellow sister because they didn’t have state or federal identification bearing a photograph.
Sister Julie McGuire said she was forced to turn away her fellow members of Saint Mary’s Convent in South Bend, across the street from the University of Notre Dame, because they had been told earlier that they would need such an ID to vote.
The nuns, all in their 80s or 90s, didn’t get one but came to the precinct anyway.
“One came down this morning, and she was 98, and she said, ‘I don’t want to go do that,'” Sister McGuire said. Some showed up with outdated passports. None of them drives.
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