A few days ago I was listening to NPR’s All Things Considered and they had an interesting piece on the upcoming mid-term elections and rallying minority voters to come out and vote again like they did for the presidential election in 2008. I missed the beginning of the story, but quickly became intrigued with the topic.
Since there is a possibility of the Democratic party losing their majority, and shifting political focus onto the Republicans, both sides are out in full force trying to get as many votes for their party’s candidates. And to get the votes needed, they are hitting up the minorities, the 15 million people who voted for the first time in 2008; a body of voters that is 35 percent African-American, is more than 20 percent Latino, and is significantly under age 35.
In an effort to get these voters to come out to their polling stations for the midterm election, the DNC is spending more than ever to target these minority audiences. According to NPR, in 2006, the party spent approximately $300,000 on media. This year, they have already spent $2 million on an urban ad campaign, and more will likely be spent.
The message that the DNC is trying to convey to American voters is that this election is just as important as the 2008 presidential election. “Here is an important election in November and it is called the midterm,” one radio pitch says. “Republicans are trying to take over and we have to stop them.”
But despite ads like this and the millions of dollars spent on campaigning for DNC candidates, the message isn’t getting through.
Over the past few weeks I have heard NPR stories, read articles and watched network news segments all mentioning the high percentage of people that most likely will not be voting come this November. What is even worse, many of these also mention that there are quite a few people that simply do not realize that an important midterm election is coming up. They just don’t know.
“To be honest, I didn’t even know it was midterm elections,” said Amanda Oden, a 20-year-old student at Xavier University in New Orleans, a traditionally black school. Amanda, who voted for the first time in 2008 was excited about finally being old enough and able to vote for an African-American president. But now, “now I just don’t care. Not that I don’t care, but it’s not as exciting as it was before.”
Another student from Xavier University who was interviewed for the NPR story, Kiera McKee, 19, said before during the 2008 elections, she connected to the celebrities, like rapper P. Diddy, and others who participated in “Rock the Vote.” But when it comes to who will control Congress, she just doesn’t relate.
Hearing this made me think about what is happening in America. Many people are quick to pass judgment on elected officials, complaining about bills that are passed – especially the new health care reform. But what I find is that the same people complaining about the state of our government, are the same apathetic people who are not out on election day.
I am by far not a political pundit, but I do think that it is our responsibility as citizens of this country to make an effort to vote for our leaders. We are given the opportunity to make a small difference in the way this country is run and we should take advantage of it.
Yesterday, Sunday, October 3rd, Peru held elections for more than 12,000 seats all across the country. Almost every seat from the local and regional branches of government were up for grabs (national seats will be voted for this April, 2011). In Peru, voting is compulsory. In fact, starting the Thursday night before, no alcohol was sold, movie theaters were closed on Saturday, and church services were canceled on Sunday. After voting, each person receives a sticker to be placed on the back of their identification card. If you are caught without that sticker showing you voted, there are some hefty fines.
I don’t know statistics on how compulsory affects the turn out of elections, but it is just shameful for people not to know that in less than 1 month, we in the United States will have the opportunity to change legislative leadership in both the federal and state branches. I can’t watch the news or a television program without multiple stories or commercials about candidates for both federal and state seats, let alone the lawn signs, radio ads, and newspaper articles.
Maybe compulsory voting is something to think about for the future.
Want to listen to the original NPR story? Click here to listen to an mp3 version.