Anyone expect Congress to pay attention to folks who don’t vote?

…Americans who vote are different from those who don’t. Voters are older, richer, and whiter than nonvoters, in part because Americans lack a constitutional right to vote and the various restrictions on voting tend to disproportionately impact the less privileged. In 2014, turnout among those ages 18 to 24 with family incomes below $30,000 was 13 percent. Turnout among those older than 65 and making more than $150,000 was 73 percent. The result is policy that is biased in favor of the affluent. As I argue in a new report, “Why Voting Matters,” higher turnout would transform American politics by giving poor, young, and nonwhite citizens more sway…

But would boosting turnout actually change policy? We have reason to think so. Research suggests that voters are indeed better represented than nonvoters, but the historical and international record lend support to the thesis as well…

The expansion of the franchise to women is…instructive. As women gained access to the franchise within the United States, state government spending increased dramatically… Indeed, the enfranchisement of women boosted spending on public health so significantly that it saved an estimated 20,000 children each year.

Later, the civil rights movement mobilized the Southern black electorate, which led to more liberal voting patterns among Southern Democrats and a boost in government spending going to black communities. The elimination of poll taxes and the subsequent mobilization of poor voters also lead to an increase in welfare spending.

There are many reasons the United States doesn’t have an expansive welfare state, like nearly every other high-income country. However, one important part is low voter turnout…There is a dramatic divergence between the United States and other countries in terms of both voter turnout and government spending…

But deep differences in turnout based on income, age, and race only serve to further reduce the poor’s say. In the status quo, politicians don’t have incentives to listen to ordinary Americans, because it won’t cost them anything. That won’t change until turnout among nonwhite and poor voters increases. There are a number of ways that government can encourage voting: by fixing the Voting Rights Act, by enacting automatic voter registration, by repealing voter ID laws. All would give the poor more voice, and give policies they support a better chance of passage.

Of course, the changes advocated by McElwee don’t stand much chance of enactment without replacing most of the conservative Republicans and Democrats in Congress. Who needs to be convinced of the usefulness of that?

5 thoughts on “Anyone expect Congress to pay attention to folks who don’t vote?

  1. List of X says:

    If I remember correctly, up to 10%-15% of people within certain minority groups lack valid ID that some states require – and not all even require any ID to vote. Now, if turnout in these groups is near 15% as well, that’s at least 70% who can’t be bothered to vote and there isn’t anything stopping them. That lack of interest is, frankly, appalling. We can fix all the laws we want, but when no law was stopping these people from voting, no law change will. This change has to come from ourselves, not Washington.
    The only law that might be helpful would be to designate election date to be a federal holiday, with holiday only granted to those who do vote. Or we can make voting mandatory like some countries already do.

  2. Doc says:

    Last week the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency announced it was closing 31 driver’s license offices throughout the state, leaving 29 counties without a place where citizens can get a driver’s license. Since government-issued photo IDs are required to vote in Alabama many residents of those counties will find it more difficult to vote, particularly those who live in the 8 out of the 10 Alabama counties with the highest number of non-white registered voters that will be impacted by this closure. http://www.al.com/opinion/index.ssf/2015/09/alabama_sends_message_we_are_t.html

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